A Brief History of Mild
We're super stoked to be releasing our very first mild this week and it seemed the perfect opportunity to delve into the history and heritage of the style and the site our Brewpub now sits on. Alex, our lead brewer down at Finzels takes you back in time.
Words by Alex Simpson - LHG|BREWPUB Lead Brewer
Mild ale has endured quite a journey over the last three centuries. From a beverage considered by today’s standards as being not particularly ‘mild’, with recipes from the late 1700s showing original gravities (OG) in the region of 1.060 - 1.070, compared to an average OG of 1.035 in the mid 19th century to present day. It has been considered a go-to staple in ale houses, to a then almost debunked style only brewed by more traditional brewers, as the craft beer boom ensued across the UK and variations of Pale Ale and exciting novel beers led the way, whilst the humble Mild was left in the shadows. Now we stand in 2021 where traditional British ales are becoming ever more acknowledged again and UK brewers are adding heritage styles to their arsenal of products available, as well as an international acknowledgment of fantastic historical beers produced in England.
At Left Handed Giant we operate dual brewing sites, our St Philips brewery producing predominantly modern hop-forward IPA, fruited sours and Imperial Stouts whilst our brewpub site focuses on comparatively lower ABV beers and unfiltered lagers, ideal for the brewpub setting, with a few higher ABV beers thrown in for good measure. As a team we have a great love for classical styles as well as the modern frontiers of craft beer. It is this love of tradition done well that drew us to wanting to produce a traditional Dark Mild, and it seemed only fitting that our brewpub site take the lead on this one with its roots in sessionable beers and being produced at a site steeped in brewing heritage.
Our LHG Brewpub site resides on the grounds of the former Bristol Brewery Georges & Co, which then became the site of brewer Courage, Barclay & Co in 1961. We feel very honoured to be breathing life back into a space with such brewing significance, after the smell of sweet wort has been absent in this site for twenty years. Georges & Co was founded in 1788 by Phillip George, the son of distiller William George and produced Porter, as almost all English breweries were at the time. After a century of positive trade relations with Ireland, and thriving local sales across a roughly twenty mile radius, the company began to monopolise their position in the city by acquiring other local brewers such as; the Bedminster Brewery in 1889, the Stokes Croft Brewery in 1912, along with Lodway Brewery in Messrs and Hall & Sons Brewery of Pill in 1918. Extensive premises along Bath Street were also purchased from the former Finzel’s sugar refinery, in what proved to be a very exciting year in dominating the regional market with a steady stream of public houses being added to their portfolio as well as brewing premises. Our LHG Brewpub is located adjacent to the former Fermentation Rooms building of the George’s Old Porter Brewery here at Finzels Reach, which we are looking forward to welcoming patrons back to later this year.
As traditional Porters became ‘lighter’ through the course of the early 1800s, through the use of paler malts and a proportion of roasted malt along with dark sugar to aid colour development, the palates of thirsty patrons developed accordingly. Throughout the first quarter of the 18th century much paler, sweeter, alternatives to Porter were widely available, usually dictated in colour by the balance provided from the regional water, and were largely outselling their predecessor. Mild had become the new staple for the working class. It continued to be a favourite beverage across Britain until the mid 19th century even as the rise of sweet Burton pale ale and the drier IPA took hold with the Victorian middle classes, and with the new ‘Bitter’ (the lesser hopped and more hopped version of the IPA) rising from the mid 1800s onwards.
During the first World War the ABV of Mild dropped significantly to an average of 3.5%, opposed to a previous average of 5%, and aside from a few exceptions this has remained largely the same ever since. Through 1920 - 1940, Mild was still making up around 90% of draught sales in public houses, but as we edge towards the late 50’s paler Bitter is ever growing and to be seen drinking it could be considered a statement of class, as working class Mild ale slowly started to diminish. This trend continues over the next half a century as the rise of kegged ale along with pale hoppier beer takes its place as a mainstay in all good ale houses and bars. Throughout the twentieth century we still see excellent examples of traditional Mild brewed by regional brewers, in both bottle and cask but it is only in the last decade that we have seen a slow rise of production in microbreweries and now to a place within the craft sector where ever more brewers are trying their hand at traditional styles from the past to add another string to their bow.
We are delighted to be releasing our Dark Mild, paying homage to our historic brewpub site, as well as having the flexibility for our brewers to relish in creating a broad range of styles - from boundary blurring and innovative, to the humble and unassuming. Every beer has a time and place and this Dark Mild with notes of; English hedgerow berries, smooth caramel and lightly roasted malt, with a rich mahogany hue, will be taking pride of place to see us through many cold evenings. Enjoy at room temperature or lightly chilled from your favourite pewter tankard with an array of traditional savoury delights.