We were lucky enough to have Paddy and Matt from the brewery with us in this month’s meeting and being back in the boardroom almost meant we lost someone in the bar. In the end it was all good though and we enjoyed some great discussions about the beers brought, enzyme use and parti-gyle brewing.
Before we got to the beers though Paddy and Matt were kind enough to spend some time talking about the history and brewing techniques and recipes you need to make a ‘bostin’ mild. I’ve captured what I can recall here so feel free to use these tips and points to make your own ahead of our Mild May meeting based on CAMRA’s Mild month! (That’s a mouthful that sentence)
First the history, and this is where the excellent ‘Designing great beers’ by Ray Daniels shows its value. The chapter looking at Brown ales and Milds gives a real historical view of their origins but the take away for me is that time was the choice in a pub was between a bitter and a mild, two beers at opposite ends of a spectrum. The bitter end is obviously just that, bitter, and the mild end focused on the malty side of the street. A Mild is a beer designed to showcase everything malt has to offer without the sharp tang of the hops taking up too much space.
The low strength many people associate with a Mild appears to be a newer phenomenon maybe based on ‘value engineering’ of recipes by the brewers as their popularity dwindled and they had to maintain the margins. Paddy created some notes around the recipe and process build – including the strength and I’ll share and explain those here. So first what would you aim for in terms of gravity, colour and bitterness.
So here we have the specification from two breweries Mitchell & Butler and Highgate. You can see the gravity here would give you a beer of about 4.0%. The interesting aspect of this is the PG. This is the gravity that the beer was filled into cask meaning the beer was quite actively fermenting still when it was packaged and so it really was extremely cask conditioned. The bitterness of around 24 is on a par with a modern commercial lager, enough to balance the sweetness but not overwhelm it. The colour here is quite dark – as I’d expect a mild – but the range can be from a chestnut up to black, so a lot of scope there.
What about the mash? This is a showcase for malt flavours and you can see here where they come from. The values relate to the mash tun at the brewery but the ratio would remain and then scaled down to your own mash tun size to yield 1035 or so. So a solid base of pale ale malt and then around 4% Crystal. This would probably be a medium colour crystal and then about half that amount of Black malt to get the colour up to where you like. Paddy’s tip was to aim low on the colour as you can always add more with liquid caramel (as per the recipes here) to increase it, but you can’t take it away. The 10% torrified barley and 6% malted wheat give you the body and thick head retention and then sugar as well. This is on top of priming sugar added into the cask. On top of the remaining gravity when filled that priming sugar would have made sure it was a real strong fermentation in the cask. I’ve no idea how it cleared. Note at the bottom Calcium Chloride. This should be added as opposed to gypsum to the mash liquor to emphasise the maltiness.
And finally the process details. You can see a slight difference in the mash temperatures between the two breweries here but it didn’t have much difference on the FG. The boil at Highgate you see is aiming for a massive loss of volume, over 8%, and at M&B it’s still high so a long boil is important, I wonder if that helps with the caramel and Maillard flavour development in the beers? Not mentioned in the notes are the hops. These were discussed but used only for their bittering properties the type of hop used is less important. Traditionally they would be English hops so for authenticity Fuggles perhaps, but they’ll not be adding too much to the finished product. We did discuss the likelihood that in the US an American twist on this beer would definitely be hop loaded – so not traditional but something that could be interesting.
Fermentation was pitched at a normal 17-19C and left to rise naturally up to 23-24C as the yeast got going. The relatively low OG should mean this would probably be done in 3-4 days – less if you move to cask with all those point of gravity left. So this is a quick beer to turnaround and it was often gone so fast in the midlands that it would expected to be drunk young. This means you’ve plenty of time to get yours done before the Meeting on the 25th May when Paddy will judge your efforts and interpretation.