Mild in Manchester

The Grey Horse, Manchester.

It turns out to be difficult to stumble upon cask mild in Manchester these days – you need a few clues as to where to look.

We have a the­o­ry that we’ve been test­ing for a few years now that there’s a sort of cor­ri­dor run­ning from the Mid­lands to Man­ches­ter where you can expect any halfway decent pub to have some kind of mild on offer, even if it’s only keg. (Keg mild can be quite decent, but it’s dis­tinct­ly dif­fer­ent.) When we’ve float­ed this thought before peo­ple have point­ed out that it might extend down as far as Cam­bridge and up to Leeds, so some­thing like this:

Mild map of England
Adapt­ed from images at Wikipedia.

We’re not inter­est­ed in pubs that some­times have a guest mild, or left-field inter­pre­ta­tions of mild. In fact, we’re scep­ti­cal of many micro-brew­ery milds which, through mis­un­der­stand­ings over how the style evolved, are too often real­ly baby stouts. No, what we’re intrigued by is the idea that there are still pock­ets of the coun­try where you could, if suf­fi­cient­ly per­verse, be a Mild Drinker, day in day out, in rough­ly the same style as your par­ents or grand­par­ents before you.

In fact, it was my par­ents who trig­gered our lat­est round of pon­der­ing on this. They were in Man­ches­ter on fam­i­ly busi­ness (my Mum is from Lan­cashire) and Dad want­ed to know where he could get a pint of cask mild. We, hun­dreds of miles in Corn­wall, did­n’t know, and so asked Twit­ter. Var­i­ous peo­ple chipped in, notably @pubs_of_mcr and @beer_justice, pro­vid­ing us with this do-able list:

  • The Abel Hey­wood
  • The Ape & Apple
  • The Cir­cus Tav­ern
  • The Grey Horse
  • Gul­liv­ers
  • The Mill­stone
  • The Old Mon­key
  • Rain Bar

After all that, the folks did­n’t get chance to go pub crawl­ing, but for­tu­nate­ly, a cou­ple of weeks ago, I did, so the effort was­n’t wast­ed.

I did­n’t make it to Gul­liv­er’s or the Ape & Apple. There was no mild to be had at The Cir­cus (gas fire, tiny rooms, Tet­ley), The Mill­stone (enthu­si­as­tic karaoke), The Old Mon­key (weird cold light) or Rain Bar (jeans and sheux). What I did find was a lot of this kind of thing:

Manchester faux-craft.
SOURCE: Lees/Hyde’s.

The Abel Hey­wood, an upmar­ket glossy-wood and shar­ing-plat­ters pub, had light mild (Hyde’s 1863) but no dark and, real­ly, isn’t a pint-of-mild kind of place. Where I had real suc­cess, and per­haps my favourite pub of a long week­end filled with clas­sics (Pev­er­il of the Peak, Lass O’Gowrie, Briton’s Pro­tec­tion) was The Grey Horse.

It’s a small sin­gle-room pub with a tiny bar and a psy­chi­cal­ly implied divide between pub­lic bar (front) and saloon (back). It’s prop­er­ly worn-in, scrubbed raw rather than pol­ished, and feels as if it ought to be on a back street in the ter­raced sub­urbs rather than at the heart of the city. There were old­er men in foot­ball shirts (‘Alright, Red.’; ‘Oh, it’s you is it, Rick­ets?’), cou­ples fresh from the office with loos­ened ties and dis­card­ed high heels, and a hand­ful of rosy-cheeked twen­ty-some­things. On my first vis­it the big excite­ment was that some­one had spilled a pint on a chair. Rather than remove the chair from ser­vice it had been left in play so that every time some new entrant went to sit on it the whole pub would break into pan­icked warn­ings.

Hyde’s dark mild is weird­ly brand­ed now as Old Indie ‘dark ale’ sug­gest­ing per­haps some sort of ses­sion black IPA. It cost £2.87 a pint and was pre­sent­ed with a good wedge of creamy tan foam. (If I was­n’t a stranger in town, I might have asked for a top up.) My first impres­sion was that this is a clas­sic mud­dy mild with just a snap of sug­ar and but­ter upfront before the ulti­mate water­i­ness washed them away. Entire­ly bland, which is not nec­es­sar­i­ly pejo­ra­tive. And there was so much going on in the pub I did­n’t need the beer to be enter­tain­ing and so I thought, yes, I could hap­pi­ly sit here and drink six of these if I did­n’t have some­where else to go.

I was drawn back a sec­ond time, this time in day­light, and found the pub no less appeal­ing. The beer I enjoyed more even after (or per­haps because of?) a week­end filled with a palate-bat­ter­ing canned IPAs, Bel­gian beer and pale’n’hop­py cask ales. It felt like a con­va­les­cent treat­ment.

As ever, apolo­gies if I’ve got Man­ches­ter wrong. I’m not claim­ing to be an author­i­ty, just an admir­er.

* * *

If you want to drink prop­er old-fash­ioned mild in Eng­land here’s a hand­ful of places you can rely on, based on our expe­ri­ence:

CAMBRIDGE: The Free Press, Prospect Row – Greene King XX
BRIERLEY HILL (Dud­ley): The Vine (Bull & Blad­der) – Batham’s
LONDON: The Roy­al Oak, Tabard Street – Har­vey’s
MANCHESTER: The Grey Horse, Port­land Street – Hyde’s Old Indie
NETHERTON (Dud­ley): The Old Swan (Ma Par­doe’s) – Olde Swan Dark Swan
WOLVERHAMPTON: The Great West­ern, Sun Street – Hold­en’s

We’d very much wel­come rec­om­men­da­tions for oth­er places to check out but remem­ber we’re after reli­able sources of old school mild, not a pub that occa­sion­al­ly has one as a guest.

42 thoughts on “Mild in Manchester”

  1. Seems like it’s active­ly curv­ing to avoid Lin­colnshire. As an ex semi reg­u­lar in both Ma Par­doe’s and the Great West­ern I feel per­son­al­ly attacked!

      1. Bateman’s famous­ly (or noto­ri­ous­ly) dis­con­tin­ued their Dark Mild, pre­sum­ably because it wasn’t sell­ing well enough.

        1. Is that the “black and white”?

          If so a shame, because despite the naff pump clip, it was a nice beer.

  2. Junc­tion Inn, Southamp­ton Greene king XXX always on but changed hands at tail end of last year so may have been swapped out

  3. Out­side the Mild Banana on your map, The Nags Head in Read­ing always has a Mild on, often Mag­gs Mag­nif­i­cent Mild from West Berk­shire (also a sta­ple at the near­by Ale­house) or Pressed Rat and Warthog from Triple FFF.

    1. That Pressed Rat & Warthog has blown me away a few times (Can­ter­bury fest, GBBF), but it strikes me that it might lie more on the mini-stout end of the spec­trum.

  4. My local, a large Holt’s pub in North Man­ches­ter, does usu­al­ly have a mild on – haven’t been in in a while though. Inter­est­ing that most of the places rec­om­mend­ed are owned by the tra­di­tion­al Man­ches­ter brew­eries – maybe some of the inde­pen­dent­ly run and new­er venues need to start think­ing about diver­si­fy­ing their range to reach all drinkers.
    I’m also impressed you went into the Mill­stone! Nev­er fan­cied it or known any­one who has actu­al­ly ven­tured in. Just too much karaoke.

  5. Our local branch of CAMRA runs an annu­al “Mild Mag­ic” trail in April and May, but it must be said that most of the entries are pubs that have a guest mild or (claim to) put one on spe­cial­ly for the event.

    When Robin­son’s dropped 1892 (for­mer­ly Hat­ters Mild) a cou­ple of years ago it must have halved the reg­u­lar out­lets for cask mild in the area. It’s now only Hydes and a few Holts that can be relied on.

    Every Sam Smith’s pub offers one or oth­er of 2.8% ABV keg light and dark mild, though 😀

    1. It cer­tain­ly did. I went look­ing for it last week but found the Dark on keg in the Brains hous­es I popped in. Swansea Brew­ery Deep Slade Dark in ter­rif­ic but only seen in their few pubs.

      Best GK XXX Mild I’ve had was in Steve­nage last year in the Che­quers, a rev­e­la­tion.

  6. I think your C shaped curve should real­ly just be a big red blob that cov­ers the entire mid­lands, because there is plen­ty of mild in Not­ting­ham both on keg and cask – try the Rock Mild in the Plough, Rad­ford, or the Keg Mans­field Dark in any num­ber of delight­ful­ly rough keg only pubs.

    The Green King XX is a dread­ful beer, just go next door to the Elm Tree where the Shef­ford Mild is far supe­ri­or.

    1. The Green King XX is a dread­ful beer”

      I liked it, but then I like this type of beer. If you don’t like this type of beer, of which it is typ­i­cal, then I can see why you would­n’t. The oth­er half was­n’t so con­vinced, for starters.

      1. With­in that par­tic­u­lar style, the Shef­ford Mild is much bet­ter – did your host not take you to both estab­lish­ments so you could com­pare them back to back?

        1. To be fair we don’t ‘always’ have a mild on in The Elm Tree although it is worth the 30 sec­ond walk to check out whats on if you are in the Free Press any­way…

  7. I realise it’s a thorny top­ic, but some peo­ple (inc. Michael Jack­son and the brew­ery itself) used to con­sid­er McMul­len’s AK a mild. It’s now brand­ed as a bit­ter (with­out the recipe hav­ing been changed, afaik), but it’s avail­able in cask in most of their estate in Herts/N. Lon­don.

  8. Mild is def­i­nite­ly a tra­di­tion­al­ly urban drink, asso­ci­at­ed with old indus­tri­al towns, where­as the coun­try­side is more tra­di­tion­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with cider. Bit­ter, which I under­stand became pop­u­lar much lat­er, is far more ubiq­ui­tous, albeit with local tra­di­tion­al vari­a­tions in style.

    Cam­bridge appears to be the out­lier here – I won­der if the preva­lence of mild is more of a reflec­tion of the mild­ly patro­n­is­ing affec­ta­tion of the mid­dle class­es for retro work­ing class cul­ture in the same way that scotch eggs are pop­u­lar, rather than a gen­uine local tra­di­tion.

    Its inter­est­ing how some tra­di­tion­al­ly work­ing class inter­ests are still over­whelm­ing­ly work­ing class (like dog rac­ing and darts), oth­ers have become ubiq­ui­tous (like foot­ball) and oth­ers have been aban­doned but tak­en up by the mid­dle class­es instead (like cask ale).

  9. Staly­bridge Buf­fet Bar (yes, there again) has a per­ma­nent mild line that is ever rotat­ing. Or at least it did up until about 6 months ago when it was def­i­nite­ly mild. Recent­ly the line can prob­a­bly be described as “rotat­ing low strength dark beer” line.

    A fewof the region­al brew­ery pubs seem to have moved to the keg offer­ing. A lot of my local pubs are Thwait­es hous­es and most seem to have Thwait­es Dark on keg.

    When I lived in York­shire there were a few tied Tay­lor hous­es that all seemed to offer the Dark Mild of theirs. You also saw Ram Tam a lot that I always con­sid­ered to be a mild but you will prob­a­bly tell me it isn’t.

    And, like has already been said, the loss of Robinson’s mild has real­ly halved the offer­ing, with Robinson’s hav­ing so many pubs around Lancs, Cheshire and Der­byshire

    1. Cheers, use­ful info.

      We’ve always thought of Ram Tam as mild – maybe ‘best mild’, in old mon­ey – but peo­ple have told us off for say­ing that. Tay­lor’s reck­on it’s a win­ter warmer, i.e. old ale, i.e.…. mild.

      1. It’s well known in York­shire that Ram Tam is Land­lord with caramel added, Dark Mild is Gold­en Best with caramel added.
        Myth? well, a local land­lord ordered Ram Tam and received Land­lord, on com­plain­ing he was sent a bot­tle of liq­uid caramel and told to add it and roll the cask. At a meet the brew­er night the Tay­lors man (not a brew­er) almost con­firmed the con­nec­tion just say­ing it was no acci­dent about the ABVs being the same.

        1. We might write a blog post about this. We know of oth­er milds that are actu­al­ly the brew­ery’s bog stan­dard bit­ter dyed black. But the weird thing is, even when we know that, it *still* seems to taste dif­fer­ent, so either the addi­tion of caramel has some effect on flavour; some­thing else changes too (maybe they use old­er casks whose hop char­ac­ter has dimin­ished, for exam­ple); or it’s all to do with the pow­er of sug­ges­tion. Blind-tast­ing exper­i­ments sug­gest the lat­ter is very pos­si­bly the case.

          1. I’m sur­prised to find that Tim­o­thy Tay­lor’s own Web site describes Ram Tam as a mild – although only low down in the ‘brew­er’s notes’, not in the head­line descrip­tion. Also, accord­ing to their respec­tive Cyclopes [gram­mer], Land­lord is actu­al­ly sweet­er than Ram Tam, as well as just gen­er­al­ly tast­ing total­ly dif­fer­ent (‘cit­rus, hop­py’ vs ‘tof­fee, roast­ed’). That caramel must be doing a lot of work.

  10. On the sub­ject of Tim­o­thy Tay­lor’s don’t for­get to men­tion their Gold­en Best, the last ‘Pen­nine’ light mild pro­duced in any­thing like decent quan­ti­ties. It might be los­ing ground, but it’s still wide­ly avail­able in Keigh­ley and the Craven Dales area in both pubs and clubs. Try the Bolt­mak­ers Arms, and the Red Pig in Keigh­ley for the right atmos­phere. Check this list out.

  11. Your curve reach­es Leeds, think­ing through Leeds pubs one guest dark line that might be mild seems fair­ly com­mon. West York­shire around Leeds might be worth check­ing out but city itself you’d need local sup­port to find pubs with guar­an­teed mild on.

  12. The Che­quers, between the new town and the High Street here in sun­ny Steve­nage always has Greene King XX dark mild on – and it’s beau­ti­ful!

  13. and of course, the Bea­con Hotel in Sed­g­ley – home of the Sarah Hugh­es Brew­ery and the Dark Ruby Mild. If you haven’t been there yet, give me a shout when you do ven­ture up

    1. Hehe­he­he, not get­ting into the argu­ment about Sarah Hugh­es and its “mild­ness” again 😉

      *so* lit­tle Mild in Lon­don these days (the Roy­al Oak except­ed!)… The refurbed Fitzroy had the SS dark mild recent­ly, but not every SS pub has it. The Harp does­n’t have a mild tap any more and don’t think the Wen­lock does either…

      1. That real­ly is the only place we know of. Fuller’s and Young’s let­ting the side down.

        1. The Owl & Pussy­cat, the new micro-brew­pub in Eal­ing seem to have their mild on quite fre­quent­ly, on my last cou­ple of vis­its it has been.

        2. Does­n’t the Nags Head, in your old manor of Waltham­stow, have Mighty Oak’s Oscar Wilde Mild on as a per­ma­nent beer? Cer­tain­ly did when I lived there ten years ago and the few times I’ve been back since.

  14. When I first came to Man­ches­ter mild was my big dis­cov­ery – I’d nev­er seen it in the south-east; it seemed to be every­where at the time, although my only spe­cif­ic mem­o­ries are of Marston’s and John Smith’s (light and dark, but both on keg).

    You’ll see Tim­o­thy Tay­lor’s Gold­en Best in a few places in the Man­ches­ter area, although none I can think of in the cen­tre. The Beech in Chorl­ton always has it on. Last time I was in the George in Stock­port they had both GB and Tim­o­thy Tay­lor’s dark mild, which is hard­er to find and rather good; I don’t know if they’re always on, but they looked pret­ty per­ma­nent, and the George isn’t an amaz­ing mul­ti­ple rotat­ing guest-ale kind of place. (And no, Ram Tam isn’t a mild.) Oth­er­wise, as Mudge says, you’re best off try­ing your luck with a Hyde’s (1863/Old Indie), Holt’s (Mild) or Lees (Brew­er’s Dark) pub. (What’s real­ly hard these days is find­ing a mild that’s actu­al­ly badged ‘mild’!)

  15. When in South Wales try
    Cardiff : Old Arcade,Cottage (Brains Dark) Andrew Buchan (Rhym­ney Dark)
    Pon­typridd : Patri­ot (Rhym­ney Dark
    Merthyr : Win­ches­ter (Rhym­ney Dark)

  16. Two reli­able out­lets for Goacher’s Real Mild Ale in Kent:the Red Lion at Snar­gate and the Black Lion at Lyn­st­ed.

  17. Baf­fled why any­one would sug­gest you go to the Cir­cus for mild – not sold it for years.

    1. Sus­pect it might be down to the ten­den­cy to think you saw some­thing ‘a cou­ple of years back’ only when you look into it it turns out to have been in 2004.

  18. In Cam­bridge The Kingston Arms (a very fine pub) invari­ably has a mild on. Often the Oscar Wilde Mild, but I’ve seen Ruby Mild amongst oth­ers.

  19. The Dis­pen­sary in Liv­er­pool has George Wright on per­ma­nent­ly.

    Liv­er­pudlians used to big Mild drinkers – Hig­sons and Tet­ley had a large pro­por­tion of the pubs and mild was usu­al­ly avail­able from both brew­eries.

  20. You may need to redi­rect your cor­ri­dor – in Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford­shire I would­n’t be sur­prised to see mild in a pub, but I can’t think of any­where where I could con­fi­dent­ly expect to get any either. Those with bet­ter local pub knowl­edge may cor­rect me!

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