Beer styles

Mild is dead, long live the new mild

The Grey Horse, Manchester.

A couple of weeks ago, Roger Protz quoted a Black Country brewer foretelling the eventual death of mild along with the passing of those who regularly drink it. But what if it’s just mutated?

We once wrote about a resurgence in the popularity of mild not as a mainstream beer style but as a niche oddity, like milk stout or Berliner Weisse.

We still think that’s about right – that what is dead, or dying, is the standard three-point-something ABV dark mild that too often tastes like watered down stout or, worse, watered down mild.

What hadn’t quite occurred to us, though, until we listened to our own middle-aged grumbling, was that mild might have faked its own death before sneaking back into the room with a different hat on.

Forget beer styles, forget beer history, and think about utility: what do English drinkers seem to want?

A beer they can drink four pints of without too much damage.

A beer that doesn’t demand lots of attention while being drunk – that goes down easily and addresses thirst.

That isn’t bitter, or dry and, indeed, might even be called sweet.

For much of the 20th century, that was mild.

Then, for about 40 years, it was so-called cooking lager – the kind of stuff that apalled Rheinheitsgebotists but which British drinkers took to overwhelmingly from the 1970s onward.

But now… Could it be soft, hazy session IPA?

Circa 4%. Not bitter, perhaps even sugary. And undemanding, unless you’re hung up on haze, with fruit juice and soft drink citrus flavours rather than the brittle hop spikiness.

One data point does not prove the case but it’s certainly fascinating to see the degree to which Ray’s dad, previously a keen mild drinker, has taken to beers like Moor Nor’Hop.

5 replies on “Mild is dead, long live the new mild”

I was in the Beer Library in Vilnius last night — they have a section on mild, and there are actually at least 2 Lithuanian milds. As it happens, no session IPAs here…

A couple of months ago I expressed some doubt about James Watt’s prediction that IPA would take over the world, but I suggested that, if it did, it would be something much more like that than Punk. Still don’t think it will, but it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that it could be the new fruit cider 😉

Protz’s article referred to Bathams and Holdens, stalwarts of Black Country mild. However, they have had the market largely to themselves for decades (let’s scroll quickly past Wolverhampton and Dudley’s Banks’s Original). Their milds both remain perfect examples of the style but “newcomers” like Hobsons and Church End, alongside resurgents like Sarah Hughes and Ma Pardoes must be taking a chunk of their throat. The West, West Midlands has also been dominated by pale beers around 4.5% – some free houses have 7 or 8 barely differentiated regular and guest beers in this category. I suggest the two big players need to work a bit harder to retain their thrones. As in so many parts of the beer world, you can’t rest on your laurels.

… and a lot of bitter isn’t very bitter. Certainly if mild took off big time a lot of beers currently re-branding as amber ales would start calling themselves milds.

Interesting thought. As a longtime mild drinker, but young enough not to be dying off yet personally, I’m not overly keen on those soft, fruity, sweet beers. On the other hand, I’ve never had the pleasure of drinking Nor’Hop. I can see the similarities you are talking about though.

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