Mild in America
So mild’s taking hold again in the U.K., but what’s surprising is that breweries and brewpubs in the U.S. are starting to serve it, too.
Brewers Union Local 180 is a tiny brewery/pub in Oakridge, OR. This summer it served a pilot batch of Light Rye Mild (3.1 percent ABV) and the 3.6 percent Cwrw Bach, which means “small beer” in Welsh. The latter came out a little thinner than was intended, said publican and brewer Ted Sobel. It’s a dark mild that contains a little peated malt, but Sobel would like to try it with more chocolate and maybe some oats.
Brewers Union Local 180 is located in the Cascade Mountains, an area that’s becoming a destination for mountain biking, so 75 percent of business comes from tourists.
The mild does sell and we’ve not had a cask go bad, but by far the tastes out here are big (for big beers). But I do get requests for mild, especially more from the ladies. With mild, people are looking for less alcohol, less hops, something a bit on the sweet side, something refreshing.” Sobel typically serves mild during the summer and fall.
This is a big discovery for some people. Many people don’t understand what [mild] means, so some brewers call it something else. People see the word mild and it scares them away. But our place seems to be unique because we’re hidden away and people want to try cask ale. We sell way more cask beer than CO2” said Sobel, referring to the added carbon dioxide used to dispense conventional draft or keg beer.
The Happy Gnome in St. Paul, MN, serves the seasonal 4.2 percent Surly Mild from Surly Brewing Co. in Minneapolis. “It sells well, especially for people who hate hops,” said general manager Catherine Pflueger. “The nice maltiness means it pairs really well with food. It also has nice caramel and chocolate flavor.”
Around 70 beers are offered on tap at The Happy Gnome, and mild is offered as often as it is available. “Because it’s low alcohol, it’s really easy to drink but might be a little dangerous ultimately. It’s perfect for the spring because it’s lighter and everyone drinks it,” said Pflueger.
Milds deserve more recognition, she said. “I think it’s harder to make a non-hoppy beer than to hop things up. You can always add hops, hops, tons of hops and at some point it gets a little much.”
Church Key is a high-end beer bar in Washington, DC. It serves five cask ales and one of those is almost always a mild. The milds most consistently come from Pratt Street Ale House in Baltimore, brewed by Steve Jones, a Brit with a biochemistry background.
This summer, Church Key served Oliver’s Dark Horse (4 percent), which beer director Greg Engert described as “a little malty, not bitter but a little dry. Coffeeish with some nuttiness but hardly any roast to it.”
The bar also serves Black Cat from Moorhouse’s Brewery in Burnley in the north of England. Unlike most of the other beers poured here, it comes in a bottle, so it is not as fresh as the cask mild from Pratt Street Ale House.
So it will run the risk of oxidation, or a sort of deadened aroma, or even some skunking from UV light infiltrating the glass bottle,” said Engert. “Since mild is a mellow and delicate brew, the fresher and more natural the product, the more flavorful and rewarding it will be. Mild really should be brewed locally and dispensed from the cask.” The two beers are also different in price. A pint of Oliver’s Dark costs $5 but a 16.9-oz. bottle of Black Cat runs double that.
People who drink mild are typically the people who are more informed about beer, said Engert. “It’s people who want a few beers without being inebriated. It’s almost trendy to drink low-alcohol beers now.”
Portsmouth Brewery in New Hampshire attracts quite a few beer geeks according to brewer Tod Mott, but he said that the pub gets great kudos from any visiting Brits for the milds it serves.
It has a British-style dark mild called the Dark Light, and an American mild that’s closer to an IPA, but containing late kettle addition hops so it’s a little milder and around 4.2 percent alcohol—a little stronger than most British milds. The American mild, Whippersnapper, is more popular.
Milds, said Mott, are “the original session beer. As soon as we turn people onto them, they get it.”