Bottled Milds 3: Fenland &c.

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)

8 Sail Brewery Millwright's Mild.

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.

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.

St Peter's Brewery Mild.
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.

East Anglian Pubs, 1965

Batsford published a whole series of guides to pubs in the South and East of England in the 1960s. Vincent Jones wrote the guide to East Anglia and here are some nuggets that caught our eye.

Intro­duc­tion: ‘Hous­es owned by all sorts of brew­ers are here; but there is a pref­er­ence for those which belong to East Anglian brew­eries and sell East Anglian beer. This choice is pure­ly per­son­al.’ Buy­ing local, resist­ing monop­oly – the SPBW-CAMRA ten­den­cy?

Sor­rel Horse, Barham, Suf­folk: ‘Those who fear that the bread and cheese and pick­les pub has alto­geth­er dis­ap­peared may take courage for here one is and a very fine one too.’ We can’t recall the last time we found a pub like this though we remem­ber them from child­hood.

→ Queen’s Head, Bly­ford, Suf­folk: ‘Among the snacks he is not­ed for his Scotch eggs.’

Lord Nel­son, Burn­ham Thor­pe, Nor­folk: ‘They are main­ly drinkers of mild ale in this area: it is drawn from the cask.’ More evi­dence of the East Coun­try as mild ter­ri­to­ry; inter­est­ing to note cask, draught and ‘drawn from the wood’ are used inter­change­ably through­out. (More on the devel­op­ment of the lan­guage around cask/keg here.)

Con­tin­ue read­ing “East Anglian Pubs, 1965”