British Brewing's Best Kept Secret
Some of the tastiest, most subtle and satisfying real ales around are – wait for it – Milds.
Once upon a time it was trendy for the so-called opinion formers to rubbish this style. They trotted out all those tired old clichés and aired their ignorance for all to see.
Thankfully, we are now better informed and can give this gently hopped brother to Bitter the plaudits it deserves. It is ideal as a lower gravity starter to the evening. Indeed, its less potent alcoholic content makes it a good choice for lunchtimes, hot dates or for when you have to drive, and need to limit your intake.
Give it a try. You don’t know what you’re missing.
CAMRA is very keen on Cask Mild. We recognise the practical difficulties which have led many pubs to discontinue this style of beer, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Consumption of cask beer from independent breweries is increasing. Slowly but surely, the public is becoming educated in the merits of quality real beers.
A case in point is Moorhouses Black Cat. It was voted Champion Beer of Britain. With a redesign of the pump clip, omitting the word "mild", sales of this delightfully dark and tasty beer went through the roof. Drink driving awareness is encouraging some drivers to seek out lower gravity beers, too.
These recipes were provided by Sue Nowak, editor of The Beer Cook Book, priced £9.99.
Black Pudding Baked with Mustard and Mild (serves 6)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped roughly
Place onion and mild in a pan, cover, and slowly bring to simmering point. Leave to cook very gently for 30 mins without boiling. Strain beer off and discard onion.
Melt 15 g (12 oz) butter in a frying pan and, when foaming, add apple slices and fry brriefly on one side until brown. Turn over to brown the underside, sprinkling over the cider vinegar.
Divide slices between 6 individual ovenproof dishes - 3 to 4 in each. Carefully skin the black pudding links, halve them along their length, and place 2 pieces in each dish on top of the apple, flat side down.
Melt remaining butter in a pan and stir in flour, cooking for 2 mins. Add the mild liquor and give a good stir, then transfer to a liquidizer with the mustard and liquidize. Spoon this sauce into the dishes to cover the black pudding, then bake above the centre of a warm oven (190C, gas mark 5) until dark crust has formed on the top and the sauce underneath is bubbling.
Serve with chunks of malted grain bread to soak up the sauce
Beer-baked Bramleys with Dates and Walnuts (serves 6)
6 large Bramley apples
Mix dried fruit and dates in a bowl. Pour over enough ale to come about 5cm above the fruit. Leave to steep in the fridge for 48 hours until the fruit is swollen with beer. Drain, retaining liquor.
Core apples and cut a line round the diameter of each with a sharp knife. Mix beer-soaked fruit with chopped walnuts and ise to stuff apples, adding a little sugar as you go. Place in an ovenproof dish and pour over enough of retained liquor to come about 1 cm up the apples. Scatter any left-over mixed fruit around them.
Bake in the centre of a hot oven (200C, gas mark 6) for 30 mins. Remove from oven and place a walnut where the apple stalk was, sprinkling it with brown sugar, and return to the oven for another 30 mins until the apple is puffed up and marshmallow soft, the ale turned into a toffee syrup.
Serve piping hot with very cold thick yellow pouring cream.
Oxtail Casseroled in Dark Mild (serves 6)
1 kg (2 lb) oxtail - try to get it from a butcher who
will chop whole tails and give the little bits as well as the big lumps
Coat oxtail pieces in seasoned flour, brown quickly on all sides in hot fat, remove with a slotted spoon to a casserole. Adding a little more fat if necessary, fry the vegetables for 2 minutes and distribute them in the gaps between the meat. Add bay leaf, chestnuts, thyme and mild, cover and cook in the bottom of a very slow oven (150C gas mark 2) for 4-5 hours or even longer, until the meat is utterly tender and the stock has a marvellous dark sheen and spicy aroma, with a hint of hops. About 30 mins before the end of cooking, season with salt and black pepper.
This is a dish to eat informally with friends becuase you will need to use your fingers and suck the bones to flush out every scrap of meat. Make sure you have plenty of bread to mop up the gravy - and you can serve mashed potato if you want.
Chicken and wild mushroom pate with mild
Unsalted butter for frying and mixing
Melt a knob of butter in a large frying pan. Add onion, garlic, chicken livers, fresh mushrooms and tarragon and saute gently for about five minutes. Add the chopped up ceps, their soaking water and beer, season to taste and continue to cookm for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Process roughly in a food processor or blender to produce
a fairly coarse textured pate, press firmly into a dish or pot, and pour
on a little melted butter. Chill until the pate is firm and the clarified
butt has set, then serve with hot, thin toast.
Cask conditioned Mild is a rarity in a lot of parts of the country, which is a crying shame, because Mild is a distinctive and tasty beer. Mild is one of if not the, oldest beer styles in the country. Until the 15th century, ale and mead were the major British brews , both made without hops . Hops were introduced from Holland, France and Germany after this time . This also started the trend on reducing the gravity of ale, as the Hop is also a preservative, and beers had to be brewed very strongly to try to help preserve them. The hop also started the rapid decline of mead, which is only made in a very few places today.
So what is Mild ? It is a beer which has tastes and textures all it's own. Basically it is a beer that is less hopped than bitter, etc. The darkness of Dark Milds , such as Greene King XX Mild, comes from the use of darker malts and/or roasted barley which are used to compensate for the loss of Hop character. "chocolate", "fruity", "nutty" and "burnt" are all tastes to be found in the complexity of Milds . However, not all milds are dark. Yorkshire brewed Timothy Taylors Golden Best is one of the best examples of a light coloured mild, as is Bank's Original ,the name changed from Mild to try to give it a more modern image . In Scotland, 60/- ale is similar to mild (Belhavens being a good example).
Milds today tend to have an alcohol by volume ("ABV") in the 3% to 3.5% range, with of course some notable exceptions. In fact, a lot of the Microbreweries who try their hand at mild are bringing the alcohol content back up somewhat! Mild wasn't always weaker though. In the latter half of the 19th Century, milds were brewed to about the same strength as bitters as a response to the demand for a sweeter beer from the working classes and in those days most bitters were around 6 to 7% ABV.
During the First World War, malt rationing and pressure from the temperance movement led to brewers rapidly reducing the strength. Following the Second World War, as prosperity returned, mild`s popularity as a cheap ale began to fade, not being helped by being kept badly in run down pubs as the Big Brewers began to heavily promote their keg lager brands. Coupled to this was a gradual, but steady decline in heavy industry in the North and Midlands of Britain, mild`s great marketplace.
By the 1970s, the keg lager boom had seen mild's share of the market fall to around 13% and it was a shame to see a bland gassy and overpriced product, that was generally weaker than the mild it was trying to oust, succeed in many cases.
So what of the future?
Well , fortunately, all is far from lost. The last few years have seen Mild make a very small, but very significant recovery, though unfortunately not to the mass market (although Greene King report that sales of their XX Mild are slowly increasing, mainly due to buying more outlets for it).
A Mild also won Champion Beer Of Britain at the Great British Beer Festival in 2000 (Moorhouses Black Cat).
There is also a sign that high gravity Milds are back . Gale's produce Festival Mild at 4.8%, there is the wonderful Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild at 6% brewed to an original early 20th century recipe, and we have seen others from micros up and down the country .
The Campaign For Real Ale can also claim a hand in this having run specific Mild promotions since the 1980s.
It is still in the Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire that Mild is most common, but the proliferation of Free Houses , and caring landlords has also provided the medium for the independent brewer to brew new milds . This is spurring the Larger independents and even some of the Large Regionals/ nationals to brew new milds, or at least start caring a bit more about what they already brew. Also, CAMRA festivals usually have at least one mild on sale.
If you like it , why not get your local to try some, and give this distinctive, tasty beer the new lease of life it deserves.
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