Drink and Brew a Mild Ale in August

My love of beer has facilitated my love of words on occasion. For example, while perusing Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion I found the word ‘insouciant’. It appeared below a picture of two older British gentleman sitting at some hoary tables in a restored pub. I became enamored of the picture and fascinated with the word. Through much use, I finally adopted ‘insouciant’ into my mental dictionary.

These two chaps were drinking, insouciantly, a dark ale with a simple moniker: mild. Since their picture resulted in the enlargement of my vocabulary, it seems proper that it should also enlarge my knowledge of beer. August is traditional month in which to enjoy milds, so I decided to learn some more about this particular style.

Let’s begin with alcohol content. This is still what most people look at first, despite any contentions to the contrary. A mild is generally low in alcohol, approximately three percent by volume. This is not to say that that all milds are at this level. Beer is a wonderful libation that can be brewed to various tastes; some mild ales swell to nearly six percent alcohol content.

It is grouped with brown ales and old ales in the Brewer’s Association style classifications. Some mild ales are of a tawny hue and some are quite dark, hinting at their lineage. They may trace themselves back to porters, my favorite beer of all. Of course, some milds may also be lighter, coming close to the color of pale ales.

The name mild can refer to the mildness of the beer’s hop character. Malt should dominate the flavor and aroma of a mild. It should tend to be a sweet beer, with caramel and possibly roast malt overtones. Due to it’s low alcohol content and sweet, mild body this ale was designed to be refreshing. Also, brewer’s in the 18th century were blending their ales. They were making some ales very quickly resulting in immature beer. To improve its taste, they added some of their older beers. Drinker’s of this beer apparently dubbed it “mild.”

As mentioned, August is the traditional month in which mild ales are savored. The working class in England enjoyed these beers over a century ago. Jackson notes that milds were a harvest-time reward for farm workers. Papazian refers to the steel workers thirst for milds. Both professions enjoyed the refreshing mild ale after their hard work.

Milds, surprisingly, are not widely known or found today. In fact, only a handful of breweries still produce mild ales. The Wolverhampton brewery produces Banks’ Mild and Highgate Brewery produces its own mild. These are both located in England and are probably the best known producers of mild ales.

In North America, mild is very difficult to find. It seems that no one carries it regularly (at least none I could find), although some breweries will occasionally produce it as a specialty. So it is left to homebrewer’s to continue the tradition of mild. During the month of August, try to track down a sample of this beer. If you can’t or don’t feel like it – make your own! That’s what I plan on doing. In fact, here is the recipe I plan on brewing. Feel free to clone it, alter it, whatever. This recipe is for five gallons; that should yield around fifty bottles. It can all be made for approximatel $25.

4 lbs light malt extract
�½ lb chocolate malt
1 oz Cascade hops
White Labs English Ale Yeast

Steep the chocolate malt in 2 gallons of water and bring to a boil. Once boil commences, remove the grains (it’s handy to have a grain bag for this step). Then add your extract and hops and boil for an hour. After the boil is complete put your add the wort to your fermenter full of cold water. Use whatever cooling method is available to you to bring the temperature down to around seventy degrees. Take a hydrometer reading at this point. Remember, a mild should be fairly low in alcohol content so this will mean you’ll want a low starting gravity. It should be in the range of 1.031 to 1.037; if your using the Plato scale, the gravity would be 7.5 – 9. After you’ve gotten your reading, pitch your yeast.

Once I’ve got this all brewed and bottled, I’ll write a follow-up article and make your mouth’s water with delectable descriptions of Gray’s Mild. Until then, enjoy the mild month of August.

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