Do you know how nice it is to be able to go into your local two nights in a row and order a decent ordinary dark mild?
Bristol and District Rare Ales Group, or BADRAG, campaigns for wider availability of stout, porter, old ale and mild. This year, hacked off with the madness of May as CAMRA’s official month of mild, it decided to launch its own bonus mild event in November, when dark beer has much more appeal.
As that happened to coincide with a beer festival at The Drapers Arms, we were treated to something remarkable on Saturday: a choice of three milds.
Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild is a classic, of course, but at 6%, not one you can settle on. No, the beer that caught our eye (and Ray’s especially) was Future Proof, a 3.3% traditional dark mild from Bristol Beer Factory.
We’ve got a soft spot for this well-established Bristol brewery even though, as one of our fellow drinkers put it, “They’re having some sort of midlife crisis at the moment”, no longer being hip or new.
With that in mind, dark mild is an interesting choice. We’d like to think it suggests confidence – so we’re middle-aged, deal with it – but it might just be the BADRAG effect.
Tasting notes on mild, like tasting notes on ordinary lager, can be a struggle, like trying to write poetry about council grit bins. Good mild is enjoyable and functional but, by its nature, unassuming, muted and mellow.
Still, let’s have a go: dark sugars and prune juice, the body of bedtime cocoa, hints of Welsh-cake spice, and with just enough bite and dryness to make one pint follow naturally into the next.
It’s a really great example of this endangered style, in line with the best of the output from the old family breweries.
Is mild ‘back’? Is a great revival underway? Well, probably not – you win some, you lose some – but it feels like good news that we’ve been able to manage two sessions on mild in the past month without making a special effort.