Mild is dead, long live mild?

westquay.jpg Having posted yesterday about the decline of mild, we went out to the Fountain Inn, Bridgwater, only to find… mild on tap.

The mild in question was called “Pint-sized brewery mild”, and was a mere 3.3%. The Pint-sized brewery in question turns out to be a microbrewery on Wadworth’s premises, at least according to this old press release from 2004. The idea being that they develop new products and test them on the market on a small-scale first.

Anyway, the mild itself was rather drinkable, but not particularly exciting in terms of flavour or aroma. No hops and a very subtle toasted malt flavour. Probably quite true to the original milds, or at least their incarnations by the late seventies..?

It’s strange — on the one hand, it’s nice to see the resurgence of a British style, especially one you can drink pint after pint of with no ill effects. It’s also positive to see the Camra campaign having an impact — they’ve really done a lot to promote mild and other endangered styles in the last few years, and I do think you see it around more frequently.

On the other hand, what if its sole selling point back in the day was that it was weak (therefore cheap) and inoffensive, taste-wise? Did it pave the way for keg?

There are some great milds out there — Oscar Wilde, from the Mighty Oak brewery, is a regular favourite of ours — but are these new generation milds particularly representative of the mass-produced stuff that was being downed in the post-war period? Is something like Wadworth’s pint-sized mild a more “authentic” version?

I think I’ll take flavour over authenticity.

Notes

The Fountain Inn is at 1 West Quay, Bridgwater TA6 3HL. It’s a Wadworth house, but was also serving an excellent pint of Butcombe bitter. It’s a very friendly place, but in no way “poncey”, and worth some of your time if you’re in the area.

The picture is the old logo of the Starkey, Knight and Ford brewery, which used to own the Fountain.

Boak

One reason for the decline of mild..?

dad_ipa.jpgHere’s my Dad enjoying a glass of our IPA. He and my Mum used to run a pub in Exeter. Last night, they told us about a popular belief in the 1970s and 80s that mild was “the slops”, which might have been part of the reason for its disappearance from many pubs. My Dad:

“Jack the Rat was one of our customers — he used to wear a flat cap and had a beard like Catweazel. We once suggested to him that he should try a pint of Whitbread mild and he turned it down because he thought it was a barrel made up of the slops from the drip trays at the bar.

“It actually was common for landlords to keep all that surplus and serve it up to customers as ‘mild’. We used to get our Whitbread Mild from the brewery at Tiverton [formerly Starkey, Knight and Ford]. By that time, demand for mild was so low we could only get one ten gallon imperial firkin at a time, so ours was always fresh. Jack the Rat tried it and never drank anything else again after that.

“I used to go Tiverton for a new firkin twice a week, and it was getting more popular with our customers, but by then it was a bit late — the brewery wasn’t pushing it and it was just out of fashion generally. I’ve seen more mild on tap recently, but for twenty years, I hardly saw any. Shame.”

So, a perception that mild was poor quality beer, partly based on fact, was one reason why people stopped drinking it, and why the supply began to dry up.

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Disclaimer: any resemblance between my Dad and the man from the Sam Smith’s Alpine Lager pump is purely coincidental and does not represent a trademark infringement.

Bailey 

Another London beer festival

Sadly, we didn’t make the Battersea beer festival this year (work and family stuff) so we were delighted to notice last night that the Castle in Walthamstow, East London, is having a beer festival. It’s running on the 15-17th of February.

It’s supported by the local CAMRA branch, and promises, in massive lettering, “Ales, milds, STOUTS and PORTERS”. I’m hoping the massive letters mean an emphasis on warming, wintry brews.

The Castle itself is the sister pub of the Nag’s Head, although it’s struggling to build up quite the same level of buzz or custom. Surely worth a visit when there’s a festival on, though, and one of a few pubs in the area with potential.

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The Castle is at 15 Grosvenor Rise, Walthamstow E17 9LB.

The picture above isn’t of the Castle — it’s an old one from this post, also about Walthamstow.

German pub in London

Zeitgeist at the Jolly Gardeners, Vauxhall, South London is absolutely bizarre and absolutely brilliant.

We frequently get “homesick” for Germany, despite being from the UK. When we heard about Zeitgeist through Metro, the free newspaper they give away on London Underground, we got very excited. Tonight was our first visit. It won’t be our last.

It’s run by two expat Germans from Cologne and offers 36 German beers, with at least 10 on tap. They took over in October 2007 and reopened the pub in November. Some of the reviews on Beer in the Evening paint a picture of a pub in the middle of a terrifying council estate. Having grown up on a terrifying council estate, I’m less scared of working class people than some, but the fact that you can almost see Big Ben and MI6 from the pub makes it even less of a worrying prospect. It seemed like a perfectly nice area to us.

The pub itself was excellent. Definitely a pub, but equally surely a small piece of Germany 15 minutes from Westminster. The landlord and landlady were both dressed in German football shirts and the barmaid spoke to us in German — that’s the default language. During our stay, the place filled up with expats keen to watch the Germany/Austria match on a big screen.

What about the beer? Well, here’s the menu. Nothing staggeringly exciting for any tickers out there, but all are in great nick, and with most of the common German beer styles represented. We were especially excited to find a decent Koelsch on tap (Gaffel). If you want to know what the fuss is about Koelsch but can’t get to Cologne, here’s your chance to try the real deal nearer to home.

We were amused to see British customers getting full glasses with tiny heads, plus an apology the glass wasn’t completely full, which German customers were served tiny glasses with towering, frothy ice-cream heads. What’s the German for: “I’ll take mine like a native, please”?

The food was good, too. The menu divides it up by region. Notably, there are at least twelve schnitzel dishes on offer, as well as Nuernberger sausages and Cologne potato pancakes.

In short, we’ll be back. This pub deserves to be a big success.

Notes

Zeitgeist is also known as the Jolly Gardeners, and is at 49-51 Black Prince Road, Se11 6AB. Map here. Closest tube stations are Vauxhall, Kennington, Lambeth North, and Westminster.

Bailey

I wish I was in Cologne

cologne1.jpgIt’s Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day). I love pancakes, don’t get me wrong. But isn’t Shrove Tuesday in Britain a pretty tame celebration, compared to the multi-day benders that go on in many parts of the world?

The Rhineland goes in for carnivals in a big way. Whilst we were in Duesseldorf a few weeks back, we saw plenty of posters advertising the big events to come. The Cologne carnival is even more famous.

I wish I was in Cologne, drinking koelsch tonight.

And that reminds me — we haven’t posted our postscript to our trip to Duesseldorf — a brief round up of a couple more cheeky koelsches downed between train connections.

On the way out, it was a visit to the Gaffel brewery tap in the Alter Markt. Gaffel’s pleasant enough, particularly when it’s the first beer of the trip. However, more exciting was the fact that we saw the very waiter from the photo that illustrates the “Cologne and the Northwest” section of the Eyewitness Guide to beer.

On the way back, we thought we’d pop into the famous Frueh am Dom, which had always looked too touristy/busy to visit on previous trips. It being a wet Monday afternoon in January, there was plenty of room, even with all the businessmen and their suitcases, awaiting their train connections. It’s a nice place. The brew itself is a very clean, crisp koelsch, very refreshing but not one of the more interesting ones (in our humble opinions).

Highlight this time round was Peter’s Koelsch, from their outlet in the old town. We seemed to have missed this on our first crawl round Cologne. You can definitely taste the ale in this one — fruity and almost sulphurous. We liked it.

Notes

A map containing all of the places mentioned here and in our previous post can be found on Ron Pattinson’s European Beer Guide, here, which also has stacks of other interesting information. You can also follow this link for Ron Pattinson’s various koelsch crawls, all entertaining reads.

Boak