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Where to drink Mild and other “endangered” beer styles in Keighley and Craven

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Fred Baker presents the Pub of the Season Summer 2017 plaque to the staff at the Boat House, Skipton, July 2017

Fred Baker presents the Pub of the Season Summer 2017 plaque to the staff at the Boat House, Skipton, July 2017

Beer Styles - Mild

(Reprinted in edited form from Graham Cundall‘s “Beer Styles” series in Alesman, updated to February 2012.)

Mild - smoooth, suave and effortlessly tastefulThis beer is without doubt a “red data” species, in danger of extinction. Yet if it were to disappear from our pubs and other licensed places it would be a great shame. Sadly mild is often seen as a beer without so-called ‘street cred’, and is colloquially the one you were warned off early in your drinking career because of what unscrupulous publicans might be adulterating it with.

Back in 1959 Mild accounted for 42% of beer brewed. Twenty years later it was down to 10%,and today it‘s probably much less than that. Initially this steep decline was largely the result of selective advertising on bitter beers, but until the late 70s most brewers still produced at least one mild. Its last strongholds now are the Midlands and the North-West, especially the Manchester area. Its popularity there perhaps typified by Chester‘s “Fighting” Mild as it was endearingly known. Once a delicious dark mild, so dark that the first time you walked into a pub selling it you would be convinced everyone was drinking draught Guinness. The “fighting” tag seems to be derived from typical scenes inside and out at the average Chester‘s house! Chester‘s was sadly closed by Whitbread in the 1980s.

The majority of the Manchester brewers still produce a mild today. Hydes still produce two, and in the West Midlands, traditionally a mild-drinking area, Banks‘ mild, relatively strong but delicately flavoured, still has a large following in an area where the popularity of mild ale has held up. Conversely there are many breweries today producing only very small quantities of mild or none at all in areas where its popularity has diminished. This is a vicious circle of no promotion, restricted availability, and hence declining demand. This typifies the decline of mild in much of the Southern regions of England.

Mild beers in good condition are deliciously tasty and come in a host of varieties. Many are dark in colour, but some are as lightly coloured as bitter beers. Some have more of a character of a bitter beer than mild and others are rich and strong in gravity. In fact there still over 100 different milds being brewed in the United Kingdom.

Mild beers are normally characterised by being brewed with less hops than bitter beers and often utilising darker malts, as well as more sugar or caramel to give their typical dark colour. They are generally speaking the lowest gravity beers brewed, apart from some unmentionable tinned supermarket beers(?). They are therefore light and easy to drink, hence the name Mild.

While it is certainly true that the use of fewer and inferior ingredients can result in a sweet, bland tasting beer there are a number of outstanding milds still brewed. Examples of those available in this area are:-

  • Timothy Taylor Dark Mild
  • 3.5%
  • Refreshing, moorish Dark Mild with gentle hop & caramel flavours.
  • Timothy Taylor Golden Best
  • 3.5%
  • Classic light mild. Widely available. An excellent session beer. Available at Taylor‘s tied houses and at a number of free trade outlets.
  • Thwaites Nutty Black
  • 3.3%
  • A tasty dark mild, malty with caramel notes.
  • Tetley Mild*
  • 3.2%
  • Another that is quietly disappearing. On form still tasty.
  • Moorhouses Black Cat
  • 3.4%
  • A popular and distinctive beer.
  • Copper Dragon Black Gold
  • 3.7%
  • A dark style with a rich fruity roast malt character, more akin to a weak stout than a mild.
  • Naylors Velvet
  • 4%
  • A new stronger dark brown beer, launched in late 2011 to run alongside Pinnacle Mild.
  • Naylors Pinnacle Mild
  • 3.4%
  • The original Naylors mild, Pinnacle Mild and Velvet are brewed in alternate months.

* Beware keg versions of these products - not all production of these beers goes into cask form. Some of these products are pasteurised, pressurised and served as keg beer or even bottled or put in cans. All beers suffer during these unnatural processes but, mild with its more subtle and gentle flavours, seems to suffer even more than other beer styles. Keg and canned milds are simply horrible.

Graham Cundall

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