Bottled Milds 1: Norfolk

Batch 1 of milds, from Norfolk, in their bottles.

It’s odd that we should end up with enough bottled milds from Norfolk to justify giving them their own post in this series.

As peo­ple keep telling us in com­ments, draught mild has a lin­ger­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty in the Cam­bridge area and there were lots of peo­ple hap­pi­ly drink­ing Adnams Old Ale (a mild, to all intents and pur­pos­es) when we vis­it­ed South­wold last year. So per­haps the East Coun­try is mild ter­ri­to­ry after all?

Or per­haps it’s just because Beers of Europe, the online retail­er with the largest selec­tion of bot­tled milds, from which we bought most of the beers for this project, is based in Nor­folk?

The three beers we tast­ed, in ascend­ing order of alco­holic strength, were:

  • Pan­ther Brew­ery Mild Pan­ther (3.3%, £2.95, 500ml)
  • Nor­folk Brew­house Moon Gaz­er Dark Mild (4.9%, £2.79, 500ml)
  • Elmtree Night­light Mild (5.7%, £3.19, 500ml)

Bottle of Mild Panther gushing.Mild Pan­ther made a bad first impres­sion by emit­ting a nev­er-end­ing string of foamy ecto­plasm on open­ing. What we man­aged to rush into a glass was three-quar­ters head. After a few min­utes, it had sub­sided enough that we were able to pour two small serv­ings of mud­dy dark-tan beer topped with what looked like beat­en egg-whites.

The aro­ma was­n’t imme­di­ate­ly appeal­ing either, evok­ing the hum of a run-down pub with stale beer dried into its well-worn car­pets. That and the gush­ing led us to expect some­thing funky in the flavour and, yes, it was a lit­tle sour and spiky, with some spicy Dunkel­weizen-like notes. Though at first we strug­gled to detect much malt char­ac­ter, as the head and the fizz died away, some choco­late became appar­ent – Her­shey’s, though, or bar­gain-bin east­er eggs, rather than any­thing espe­cial­ly lux­u­ri­ous.

Being char­i­ta­ble, we might say this beer has a rus­tic qual­i­ty which some will enjoy. More blunt­ly, it tast­ed to us like begin­ner home brew and so we would­n’t buy it again. Nor did it quite tick all the box­es of what we’re look­ing for in a mild: yes, it has a low ABV, but it was also light in colour, rel­a­tive­ly high in bit­ter­ness, and lacked lus­cious­nessIt’s not a con­tender for the final taste-off.

* * *

Moon Gazer mild poured into a glass with the bottle at its side.Nor­folk Brew­house­’s effort, Moon Gaz­er Dark Mild, was imme­di­ate­ly more appeal­ing. It had a touch too much fizz, per­haps, but the bot­tle pro­duced, with­out effort, two yeast-free glass­es of gleam­ing, deep stained-glass-red with appeal­ing off-white foam.

Ooh, yes, blimey, now then, that’s more like it!’

Regard­less of the facts of how dark mild devel­oped, this is a beer that occu­pies a place on the porter-stout spec­trum. It is soft and rich, all rum and sher­ry and raisins, but by no means heavy going. There’s no roasti­ness and only just enough bit­ter­ness to keep it from seem­ing down­right sweet. It made us think of dark, mys­te­ri­ous brew­ing addi­tives and Vic­to­ri­an tins of syrup and trea­cle – sug­ar with char­ac­ter.

We liked it a lot, in short, but does it sat­is­fy as a mild? We think so, despite an ABV which is high­er than most draught exam­ples. It’s our first con­tender.

* * *

Elmtree Nightlight Mild.Moon Gaz­er pushed the lim­it for the ABV of a dark mild under the con­tract between drinker and brew­ery; Elmtree Night­light smash­es right through it, set­tling some­where near Fuller’s ESB and oth­er cult ‘strong ales’ at 5.7%. That’s more than twice as strong as many keg draught milds whose ABVs have been squashed down to 2.8% to make them eli­gi­ble for reduced beer duty. Though in his­toric terms, this might be quite accept­able, if we’re look­ing for some­thing ses­sion­able to enjoy in 2015, it might be a deal break­er.

This was anoth­er gush­er, though only gen­tly so, and pro­duced an over-the-top head with just a touch of beige to it. The beer beneath was black with red high­lights.

Its tex­ture was that of a big, vel­vety stout, though it lacked any bit­ter­ness or char­ring, being fruity through­out: cher­ries and port at first, with a slight­ly off-putting rot­ten, veg­e­tal note in the fin­ish, like black­ber­ries that have ‘gone over’ hav­ing been left on the bush too late in the sea­son.

It does­n’t sat­is­fy our require­ments of a mild, and has its flaws, but it’s a fun­da­men­tal­ly decent beer which might appeal to fans of Adnams Tal­ly Ho, or Old Peculi­er fans who find the cur­rent bot­tled incar­na­tion bland and fizzy. It’s not a con­tender but we’ll be quite hap­py to drink the spare bot­tle some time.

Next up: Lin­colnshire, Cam­bridgeshire, Suf­folk.

5 thoughts on “Bottled Milds 1: Norfolk”

  1. As a bar­man in a pop­u­lar Cam­bridge pub, I can attest that mild, of the dark­er vari­ety, is an oft sought out style, albeit by our old, white and male cus­tomers. A par­tic­u­lar local favourite is Elgo­ods Black Dog, which has­n’t gone unno­ticed by Tesco, the New­mar­ket Road branch of which has long stocked it. I’m not impar­tial to it myself to be hon­est, the yet more local Mil­ton Brew­ery’s Mino­taur is also very agree­able.

  2. We in the East love a Mild! For myself in my late 20s, I feel it is under­rat­ed by many drinkers in my gen­er­a­tion. I think this is because there is a lot of bland stuff out there. I love Night­light Mild but total­ly agree with you with regards to it not being a typ­i­cal Mild. May I sug­gest Micaw­ber’s Mild from Mauldons in Sud­bury and Colch­ester Brew­ery’s Mild as oth­ers from East Anglia worth try­ing.

      1. Thanks for the sug­ges­tions, Chris. We’re not buy­ing any more beers for this par­tic­u­lar project (well, unless we stum­ble across them in a shop) but it’s inter­est­ing to know there are so many being made out your way.

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