The third batch of milds in our taste-off are from Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Lincolnshire and we bought all three from Beers of Europe.
All three are traditional dark milds without twists or special ingredients:
- 8 Sail Brewery Millwright Mild (3.5%, 500ml, £2.29)
- Elgood’s Black Dog (3.6%, 500ml, £1.99)
- St Peter’s Mild (3.7%, 500ml, £1.99)
The label for 8 Sail’s Millwright Mild (Lincs) isn’t slickly designed and has the look about it of what we call ‘gift shop beer’. Popping the cap released a fierce hiss and we braced for a gusher but, fortunately, it behaved. The carbonation was notably high producing a tall, foamy head of tight bubbles. (It had dropped back a bit by the time we took the photo above.) It had what we’re beginning to think of as the classic look for dark mild: red against the light, almost black in the glass.
That high carbonation and fizz was a harbinger, though: something in this bottle had eaten through every last bit of sugar and turned the beer sour. Once we’d got over its failure as easy-drinking mild this presumably accidental result made for a beer that was interesting in its own right. It was a kind of dark gueuze – a Black Forest gateaux of cherry and cocoa flavours, with a dab of tar-like treacle. Unfortunately, all that was too much complexity for the relatively light body to bear. This isn’t a contender but we might try blending the second bottle with, say, Mann’s Brown, to mellow it out.
Elgood’s Black Dog (Cambs) gave off a surprisingly intense aroma on opening – a puff of greenhouse strawberries, or of Nesquik milkshake powder. It occupies the red-black borderlands and is topped with a tan head.
It has a relatively powerful flavour, too – traditional, yes, but with everything turned up a notch. Roastiness, a touch of plummy red wine and rich, dark chocolate bitterness bring to mind a general impression of the porters we tasted last year. Dark mild may not historically be ‘baby porter’ but that is clearly how some modern brewers approach it.
Unfortunately, we could not agree on this beer. The sticking point was an overripe fruit aroma that Bailey could barely detect but which Boak found distracting and off-putting: ‘Like cheap foam banana sweets.’ Though we are trying to narrow the field, we think it deserves a second chance and so (only just) it’s a contender.
Another brewery which has always divided us is St Peter’s (Suffolk). In the early days of our interest in beer, their distinctive oval green bottles were easy to find in supermarkets and corner shops and gave us access to a wide range of historic and quirky styles such as porter and fruit beer. Boak has always been a fan, Bailey has not.
Once again, we found ourselves with glasses of red-brown-black, topped with well-behaved, just-off-white foam.
The aroma was restrained – just a touch of charred malt – and it tasted like another session stout with severe bitterness and a suggestion of burnt-toast. There was a balancing sweetness, though, enhanced by a sort of almond essence nuttiness. That might, we though, become cloying over a session, but we both enjoyed it a lot (lots of ‘Mmmmmmm!’ and ‘Ooh!’) so it’s a definite contender.
UPDATE: We posted this in a rush while heading off to work and got the geography wrong. Apologies.