Can we talk about mild for a hot minute? It’s the world’s most uninterestingly named beer style yet it has held me rapt since I stumbled upon a delicious interpretation at the Washington Cask Beer Festival. It was called ‘Extra Mild’ from Hi-Fi Brewing and was rich with toffee and caramel notes. Being on cask didn’t hurt the cause much neither. There’s something about serving beer under 2.0 volumes that just riles my jibblies.
The strange thing about mild ale as a style is that it isn’t, really. Milds can be pale or dark and range from 3% to 7% ABV. Traditionally some kind of brewing sugar was added to boost gravity (and to a lesser extent, flavor), but sometimes not. In fact, the only real common thread I’ve been able to find is that milds were historically almost always the youngest and freshest beer a brewery offered. There were none of the funky or sour notes often ascribed to beers that sat around aging in gigantic wooden vats (read: porter).
As a style that defines itself mostly in relation to the other beers in a brewery’s portfolio, this makes mild ale a bit of an odd duck in 2017. Nevertheless, I attempted to make one at work as my second spin on the brewery pilot system. I chose to go closer to copper in color and should have it clock in under 4% ABV if the yeast does my bidding. This was my first experience brewing with invert sugar, a kind of processed sugar syrup. I made my own, natch, by boiling turbinado sugar and water with a touch of lactic acid. This breaks down the sucrose into its constituent parts, glucose and fructose, both of which are much more digestible for the yeasties. It also imparts some color and caramelized flavor to the kettle, so I got that going for me.