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Bottled Milds 5: The North Country

This final batch of bottled milds are all from the North — a term which, of course, covers a great deal of territory.

Though the Midlands has a strong claim to mild it is The North with which it is most associated in the popular imagination — part of the stereotypical image of a northerner along with flat caps and whippets, as in this article on the crowd-sourced comedy website NewsBiscuit:

In a move which is sure to be welcomed by ‘hard working families’ and ‘lovable northerners’, the Government has announced that whippets, pipes, pints of mild and dolly tubs are all to be zero-rated for VAT.

As with CAMRA and beards there is some truth in the association: we found a relative abundance of mild on our last trip to Manchester, albeit mostly kegged; and yet as early as the 1970s CAMRA was declaring it all but extinct in London and the Home Counties.

Apart from the question of whether they’re any good — the main point of these posts — there’s a secondary line of enquiry: do they have anything in common with each other? And, if so, can we say northern mild is any way distinct from Midlands mild?

  • Brass Castle Hazelnut Mild (Beers of Europe, £2.89 500ml)
  • Ilkley Black (Beer Ritz, £2.96 500ml)
  • Moorhouse Black Cat (Beers of Europe, £2.05 500ml)
  • Rudgate Ruby Mild (Beer Ritz, £3.00 500ml)
  • Thwaites Dark Mild (Morrisons, £3.96 4 × 440ml)
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Canned dark mild to the rescue

Either we’re very harsh critics of our own homebrew or, after years of practice, we’re still crap at it. Whichever is true, we found ourselves this week with a polypin of what seemed to us very dry, very Cascade-flavoured, under-conditioned pale ale, which we didn’t much want to drink.

Then, in the supermarket, a sudden impulse saw us chuck four cans of Thwaites Dark Mild (£2.98) into our basket.

Tasted on its own, this was nothing special — watery, sweet with a little sickly caramel. As a mixer for half-and-half, however, it not only hit the spot, but transformed our pale ale into something magnificent. There was chemistry. The two beers complemented each other perfectly and produced something very like a good cask-conditioned stronger mild. Not a compromise but a real pleasure to drink.

Our conclusion: it’s worth keeping something like this tucked away in the larder. You never know when it might help you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.