Bottle Milds 4: Old & Dark

This time, we’re tasting two beers that weren’t on our original list, one from Glamorganshire, the other from Sussex.

There was a bit of angst on Twitter and elsewhere when we said we hadn’t been able to get Brain’s Dark for this tasting. We really did try, checking six or seven different supermarkets, and online. We’d given up and moved on when, suddenly, it appeared in our local Tesco. It wasn’t on display proper but hidden in a plastic-wrapped slab on top of the shelving from where a chap with a ladder had to retrieve two bottles. We paid £1.50 per 500ml in a four-for-six deal.

Despite the cryptic name the label trumpets a ‘best mild ale’ award from the World Beer Awards. The ABV is 4.1%, nudging above where most milds sit. It’s not bottle-conditioned or self-consciously artisanal so there were no gushes or quirks on pouring and it produced a glass of black topped with a thick wedge of beige without fuss. This is the blackest mild we’ve tasted so far — a real light-stopper.

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High Speed Death

We’re always delighted to find out that a beer has a nickname. Recently, we were told by a barman that St Austell’s HSD (Hicks Special Draft) is commonly known as “high speed death”.

That reminded us of the story that Brains’ S.A. (4.2%) is sometimes referred to as “skull attack”.

We think these nicknames reveal a previous generation’s attitude towards beer. Bailey’s dad describes any beer stronger than 4.5% abv as “bloody strong” and HSD is 5%. Most beer geeks or, in fact, anyone who’s grown up with 5%+ lagers in the pub, would probably think it a pleasant-enough (or, possibly, boring) brown, mainstream bitter.

Do you know anymore nicknames like these? And can you think of any beers that used to be known for their strength but are now considered nothing special? (Like the end of an episode of Kilroy, that bit.)