I have taken the chance to start writing another ‘How-To’ for my favourite beer…in this scripture I shall do my best to offer some insight into how to make a simple but thoroughly enjoyable quaffing beverage.
To begin with we shall look at a brief history of where Mild Ale came from (all credit to Ron Pattinson):
In the 18th century there were two types of malt liquor, Beer and Ale. Beer was first brewed in the 1500’s when hops began to be imported. Ale was originally unhoped and had been around since Saxon times, but by 1700 ale did contain small quantities of hops.
Both beer and ale were made to a variety of strengths and a used a variety of base malts, Pale, Amber and Brown. Ale was a lightly hopped beer and Beer heavily hopped. Also malt liquor was classified by age, and those sold young was described as “Mild” and those that were aged were called “Stock”, Keeping” or “Stale”. Porter is a good example of a Brown Beer that was sold “Mild” from the 1700’s up to its demise in the 1940’s.
So in the 1700’s Mild Ale was a vague term, and the Mild Ales from this time had very little similarity with Mild Ale of today, even the weakest Mild Ale would have been at least OG 1050.
At the end of the 1700’s a new style of heavily hopped Pale Ales were being brewed, which also spawned IPA. This type of malted liquor should really have been called Pale Beer, but it doesn’t sound as good.
Also around 1800 taxes were raised on malt to fight the Napoleonic Wars which coincided with the period when the hydrometer was being introduced. Brewers looking for a way to save costs then discovered that they could get much better extraction from pale malts than dark malts, and pale malt became the base malt of choice and even Porter and Stout were brewed from a base of pale malt.
In the early 1800’s Mild Ale grew steadily in popularity and by the middle of the century took over from Porter as England’s favourite beer. Mild continued with this popularity up to the 1960’s when it was overtaken by Bitter.
In 1830 the Beer Act was passed by parliament which removed tax on beer but taxed the malt and hops instead. This Act also gave the green light to granting licences to pubs selling beer only, which further increased the availability of beer.
The family of Mild Ales from this time were classified by X’s, with X ale the weakest and XXXX the strongest. The X may have come from the tax on a barrel which was 10/- before 1830 or it could just have been an easy mark to make using chalk on the barrel.
The grists of these early X ales was simple and used pale malt with English hops The strength was similar to Whitbread’s ales from the brewing logs of 1837;
X OG 1073
XX OG 1091
XXX OG 1103
XXXX OG 1115
An interesting point is that even the weakest milds had a higher gravity than IPA.
Over the 19th century Ale gravities dropped and X ale ended up around OG 1050-1055 by 1900. The stronger milds being discontinued over the course of the century.
The difference between Mild Ale and Pale Ale wasn’t colour or gravity but rather a lower hopping rate and higher FG which made Mild maltier, sweeter and fuller-bodied.
Another historical milestone was the 1880 Free Mash Tun Act which allowed sugar and adjuncts to be used, and shifted the tax from ingredients back to beer itself. This had an impact on Mild Ale grists and saw maize, rice and sugar become common ingredients.
After 1900 X Ale started to become darker, first by the use of crystal and amber malt and then by the use of darker invert sugars and caramels. The colour change may have been the result of customers being able to drink beer from glasses which allowed them to see the beer.
Another significant and dramatic change to beer happened as a result of shortages towards the end of WWI. Gravities were limited by Law and the cheapest and biggest selling beer X Ale dropped to OG 1030 or even less. As a result brewers had to develop their skills to produce a flavoursome beer of low gravity by using combinations of malts and adjuncts.
After the war X Ale crept up to about OG 1040-45 and continued this way until the Wall Street Crash in 1929 and the resulting worldwide recession. Again tax was a factor, being increased in 1931, and rather than increase prices brewers lowered the gravity to keep the price stable. Gravities dropped to around 1035, which is around where it continued until present day.
WWII also brought shortages which persisted post war and again gravities dropped to 1027-1032 before climbing again in the 1950’s to today’s level of 1030-1035.
Now we all know a little about Mild’s origins we can move on to some of typical ingredients involved in making a Mild ale.
People often stamp it as being dishwater (the politest I’ve seen it called), but, I think that a low ABV, well crafted and complex Mild is better than any ridiculous American hop monster that we will find.
Of course there are the modern all malt Milds of today but, being me, I prefer to have a more historical touch and with all the research I’ve been doing, I’d like to share my knowledge and experience with you in the hope it may just persuade a few more people to brew one.
So, how to make a Mild?
We shall start by taking a look at the overall types of ingredients that can be involved, namely Brewers Invert Sugars No. 1, 2 & 3 and also Brewers Caramel for colourant.
As I have mentioned before Invert Sugar is not readily available unless you know someone in the food trade that can supply you with it but it does usually come with a 2 month waiting list.
The closest you will get readily is Tate & Lyles Golden Syrup, this is Partial Invert Syrup and as such is only 75% fermentable and has to be mixed with either Treacle Syrup or Blackstrap Molasses if you want anything darker than Invert Syrup No. 1, however, if you can get a hold of the real deal, I would strongly recommend it if for nothing else than authenticity as the majority of historical Mild recipes have a sugar addition of some degree.
The second most uncommonly available today I found was Brewers Caramel, this basically does nothing except colour the beer and given my average Mild EBC is around 100, this saves me a lot of malt!
The remainder of the ingredients are pretty generic, of course you have Pale Malt/Mild Malt, people will argue that the difference between these 2 malts is minute but I find Mild Malt gives it that little edge, But Pale Malt works equally as well, I use a minimum of 74% up to a maximum of 95%, plenty of room for experimenting.
Next up is Crystal Malt, another staple Mild ingredient, it varies between breweries as to who used Medium and Dark Crystal Malt, if you prefer a stronger Caramel flavour, use Medium, if you prefer a stronger Toffee flavour, use Dark, I personally use Dark Crystal Malt for 90% of the Milds that I produce but the choice is entirely up to you, I use a minimum of 5% up to a maximum of 10% in the grist.
The last major ingredient is a Roasted Malt, this can vary between Black Patent, Chocolate and Roasted Barley, I use Chocolate myself but in the early 19th Century Black Patent was very common in this style as a colourant and roast flavouring, I use up to 5% in the grist.
We won’t cover gravity as throughout the ages there has been a huge variation during different periods of time, especially with the draconian measures brought in during war times, ranging anywhere from 1.060+ all the way down to 1.027, so we have enough room to choose whichever we like but this particular recipe would suit the period of pre-WWI or the first couple of years of the war.
Now we know some of the common ingredients we can start building a grist bill, the whole idea of Mild is it was cheap and quick to produce and sell, this should be reflected in the grain bill but still with a good portion of base malt for modern drinking.
Now failing having the Invert No. 3 you can of course use Golden Syrup (75% fermentable) or any other kind of sugar Brown/Muscavardo etc. But these are 100% fermentable and will have to have quantities adjusted. Invert No. 1, 2 & 3 are 95% fermentable.
Note: Whichever sugar you pick will alter the overall taste and dryness of the finished beer.
Traditional Milds as far as I’m aware tended to finish on the dryer side of things but with an initial sweetness.
Now we have covered the base malts and sugars we can move onto the hops, as usually there is an abundance these days of hops to choose from for the modern Mild, some have even crossed paths into experimenting with American hops.
Certain American varieties can match well with the style but for this particular example we shall look at, I will stick with the more traditional English varieties.
Some of the household combinations are the well known and approved Fuggles/Goldings and Challenger/Goldings. I have been experimenting with Challenger/EKG and Styrian Goldings, this is turning out to be a very nice combination.
I prefer to keep it simple when it comes to hopping, generally I stick to a single boil addition and a dry hop of some form, but for this example I shall include a late hop addition.
I have seen many different ratios of hopping for the style but most of the articles are American authors, my own personal rates are between 0.5 – 1g/l for the late and dry additions and the remainder of IBU’s made up in the boil addition, my late additions are always added at 15 minutes but my boil additions vary between 60 – 90 minutes depending on how much bitterness or additonal flavour I want in the beer.
A typical and relatively good IBU for a 4% Mild is around the 20 IBU or 0.50 balance mark. For a slightly more bitter version I will stretch to 24 IBU.
With a selection of hops chosen we can look at the mash temperatures and profiles, for those who really like to keep it simple, at this ABV you can afford a very standard 90 minute 66° mash, this will suit the style well enough without further interference, for those with an ability to step mash you can look at something a little more complex but will work equally as well but it will result in a dryer beer.
This is the profile I have been experimenting with:
Mash In: 60° for 5 minutes.
Step 1: 63° for 40 minutes.
Step 2: 67° for 50 minutes.
Step 3: 75° for 40 minutes.
This will produce and dry but well bodied beer without being cloying or chewy.
If you wish to darken the beer measure out your Brewers Caramel (Available from Hop & Grape 250ml) before you reach the boil, this is best mixed with 500ml of wort due to its own viscosity, to work out what you need is simple, after the initial maths it equates to roughly 6 EBC per 1.45ml in a 23 litre brew length, to know how much you need just simply subtract your actual EBC from your desired EBC and divide the answer by 1.45 and this will give the the required EBC to meet the mark.
E.g: I want an EBC of 100 and my recipe is 40 EBC, so 100 – 40 = 60, 60/1.45 = 41.3ml of Brewers Caramel. Round up or down as you see fit.
Next is your choice of yeast, I personally use WLP022 – Essex Ale but as it’s not readily available WLP007 – British Ale and Wyeast 1335 – British Ale are both good substitutes but feel free to use any dried yeast or local liquid yeast to you but this will alter the taste of the final beer.
Realistically you just want a good attenuating English yeast from 75% and upwards with a low ester profile and generally more malt accentuating. If you have a local brewery who will supply some yeast, use that as it will be better suited to your water.
I will add a small section on typical water make up for the style later.
If you are casking or doing any secondary fermentation step and you have the equipment to avoid blocking any tubes you can also add 1 – 1.5g/l of Oak Chips to the beer to give an additional flavour of it being aged in the wood, Whisky Oak Chips, Sherry Oak Chips or something else, the choice is yours!
So after all of that reading we can now look at a typical example of a Traditional Mild with a modern view.
It started out as a clone beer but has been tweaked and varied with every bit of new information I learn and has now arrived at this, for the example I shall be assuming 75% brew house efficiency and a yeast attenuation of 76%, this gives us a total of 3.5kg total grain required and 385g of sugar:
Name: Old Brewery Mild
EBC: 40 +/- (100 if using BC)
Grist: 95% Pale Malt, 5% Chocolate Malt.
Sugar: 11% Brewers Invert No. 3
Hops: ~1g/l – Challenger (7.3% AA)
Late Hop: ~0.75g/l – East Kent Goldings (5% AA)
Dry Hop: ~1g/l – Styrian Goldings (4.5% AA)
Yeast: WLP005/007/022 or Wyeast 1335, for dried yeast S-04 or Nottingham will do.
For that something extra add 1 – 1.5g/l of sterilised Oak Chips to the secondary stage for 7 – 14 days depending on tastes.
This will give a very good thirst quenching Mild without knocking your block off. It is well balanced between the hops and malts for aroma and should favour the malt for the flavour.
I hope I have been able to pass on some useful knowledge for all those looking to make this style of beer, I shall upload some pictures of my next brew day but until then I need a lie down!