The Best Bottled Milds Are…

Mild taste-off: multiple milds in plastic beakers.

After five elimination rounds we ended up with eight bottled milds to compare against each other in the big final.

  1. Banks’s (can)
  2. Elgood’s
  3. Holden’s
  4. Ilk­ley
  5. Moorhouse’s
  6. Nor­folk Brew­house
  7. St Peter’s
  8. Thwaites’s (can)

We fol­lowed what has become our usu­al pro­ce­dure: Bai­ley num­bered eight plas­tic beakers and poured sam­ples, as above; Boak then tast­ed them blind, pro­mot­ing and demot­ing until we were left with a rough peck­ing order. Bai­ley (who sort of knew which beer was which) then reviewed her rank­ings.

In this case, we were in broad agree­ment, with only a lit­tle debate over third and fourth place: one beer was rel­a­tive­ly bland but clean, the oth­er more flavour­ful but with a nag­ging off-note. In the end, we went with clean, but there wasn’t much in it.

First place badge.First place: Holden’s Black Coun­try. A notice­ably ‘big­ger’ flavour with­out resort­ing to stout-like roasti­ness or flow­ery hop­pi­ness. It seemed some­how more dense and con­cen­trat­ed than its rivals, despite its restrained ABV of 3.7%. It isn’t quite like drink­ing cask mild but nor is it over­ly car­bon­at­ed or crys­talline as some bot­tled ales can be. Worth buy­ing by the case with a ses­sion or two in mind. It is avail­able for £2.09 a bot­tle at Beers of Europe.

Sec­ond: Moorhouse’s Black Cat. The smoky note we detect­ed first time round was even more pro­nounced in this com­pa­ny – verg­ing on cig­a­rette ash at times. Nonethe­less, it seemed quin­tes­sen­tial­ly mild-like, and inter­est­ing to boot. Beers of Europe have it at £2.05 a bot­tle; if you live in the North West, you should be able to find it in shops fair­ly eas­i­ly, and prob­a­bly cheap­er.

Best value badge.Third: Thwaites’s. This one slight­ly sur­prised us as, at a mere 3.2%, we thought it might get washed away along­side stronger, more char­ac­ter­ful com­peti­tors. Though almost bland, it isn’t quite, and a tongue-coat­ing body makes for a very con­vinc­ing pub-style beer. It’s cer­tain­ly top in terms of val­ue sell­ing for around a quid a can in super­mar­kets.

Fourth: Ilk­ley Black. We still like this beer a lot but it seemed marred by a faint slick of but­ter this time round. We bought ours from Beer Ritz at £2.96 but we are told it can be found in Asda stores in the North at less than £2 a bot­tle.

As for the oth­ers, we found St Peter’s much less enjoy­able than on our first encounter, with an unbear­able stale card­boar­d­i­ness; Banks’s seemed all but flavour­less in this com­pa­ny; Elgood’s was rather fizzy and Cola-like; and Nor­folk Brewhouse’s effort was excel­lent but (per­haps this bot­tle was fresh­er) had grassy, flow­ery hop notes that seemed quite out place. (Links are to our orig­i­nal tast­ing notes.)

At the end of all that, we’ve got a much clear­er idea of what we think mild is about. First, it has to put sweet malt and flavours from sug­ar at the fore­front, but that doesn’t have to mean that it has to be sick­ly or lack­ing in char­ac­ter. Bit­ter­ness can work, but exces­sive per­fume just seems wrong. Roasti­ness also jars, sug­gest­ing that some brew­ers remain in thrall to out-of-date his­to­ry that declares mild to be a degen­er­a­tion of porter, which it isn’t. (Though baby stout is quite a nice thing in their own right.)

Most impor­tant­ly, though, we’re now con­vinced that bot­tled mild can work after all – great news for those of us who live in regions where it is rarely seen in the pub, and also for those of you abroad who want to get to under­stand the style with­out hav­ing to book a flight to Britain.

9 thoughts on “The Best Bottled Milds Are…”

  1. Inter­est­ing stuff. Course, then there’s light mild – although Lord knows where you’d find that in bot­tle (I can think of Dun­ham Light and, er…).

    1. Cheers. It’s just the new stan­dard Word­Press theme, Twen­ty Six­teen, with a cus­tom head­er – not much thought involved!

    1. You might get some narky respons­es to this sug­ges­tion…

      Sub­tle Bel­gian-style spic­ing might work, I sup­pose.

  2. Love. It. Love the rel­a­tive val­ue con­sid­er­a­tions as well as the goal of defin­ing what should be val­ued in the pro­file if it’s to earn the name.

  3. Moor­house Black Cat is fre­quent­ly avail­able in B&M for £1 a bot­tle or not much more.

    Glad it came 2nd, its prob­a­bly my favourite mild.

  4. I love a good mild, but the one that’s stayed with me for 10+ years was an odd­ly notice­ably hop­py & slight­ly roasty pint (wrong on 2 counts by your esti­ma­tions B&B😆)…of Cain’s cask Dark Mild. It was dark, almost black, pret­ty low abv, light in body, but with a creami­ness & a slight roasti­ness.

    Their web­site (still up!?) con­firms it had dry hops in cask. I think I also remem­ber read­ing they’d used some unusu­al sug­ars to get the right com­bi­na­tion of flavour, colour & body.

    The landlord’s name was Dave…© Viz Magazine…#RealAleTw@ts #CraftW@nkers

  5. Thank you so much for this. As an Amer­i­can on a tight trav­el bud­get, I’ve nev­er had mild in the wild. I’ve tried my hand at it with home­brew and so far so good. Impos­si­ble for me to know if it’s what you might find there, but your descrip­tions have helped me to see that I’m on the right track. Huz­zah!

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