Dark Mild 2021

As part of a general interest in brewing session beers, I recently tried my hand at a dark mild. Thanks to Ron Pattinson’s excellent work on historic English brewing, I’ve learned that the original dark milds were in fact beyond session strength, and have evolved to be low alcohol. Either way, the modern take is supposed to be a style that is full of flavor and light on ethanol.

My particular version was formulated after looking at a few other recipes, with consideration of what supplies I had on hand. Conveniently, I had some Maris Otter to finish out, and a few other English malts. I had planned on using a packet of English ale yeast from Cellar Science, but it just so happened that I kegged an oatmeal stout right before brewing the mild. Because the stout used Nottingham yeast, I decided to pitch the mild directly onto the yeast cake (after removing a cup or two, to reduce the potential effects of overpitching). I’ll admit this strategy also served my laziness, because then I didn’t have to completely clean and sanitize a new fermenter right in the midst of the brewing process.

To go for a more “authentic” cask-like serving style, I carbonated the beer to only 2.0 volumes. My keezer is set a bit cooler than ideal (~40°), so flavors don’t really start to pop until the beer warms.

Dark Mild 2021

  • 6.75 lb. Finest Maris Otter ale malt (Crisp)
  • 0.5 lb. crystal 75 (Bairds)
  • 0.25 lb. Carafa Special I (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 lb. coffee malt (Simpsons)
  • 2 oz. black malt (Briess)
  • 0.75 oz. East Kent Goldings hop pellets (5.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Nottingham ale yeast (Lallemand), pitched onto partial yeast cake from previous batch

Target Parameters

  • 1.036 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 3.3% abv, 20 IBU, 20 SRM
  • Mash held at 156° for 60 minutes, and 10 minute mash-out at 168°
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I heated 6.75 gallons of water to 161°, and mashed in with the grains to hit a temperature of 156°. I added 5 mL of 88% lactic acid to hit ~5.35 pH (estimated), and held at 156° with recirculation for 60 minutes.
  • After 60 minutes, I raised the mash temperature to 168° for 10 minutes, and then removed the grains.
  • In total, I collected 6.1 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.035, for 73% mash efficiency.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled down to pitching temperature (~68°).
  • Starting gravity was 1.040, a bit higher than targeted.
  • I transferred the beer onto the yeast cake from my previous batch of Eagle Face Oatmeal Stout. Prior to transfer, I removed ~2 cups of yeast in order to avoid overpitching.
  • Once the yeast was pitched, I sealed up the fermenter and moved it indoors to ferment at ambient of around 65°.
  • I brewed the beer on 11 December 2021, and kegged it on 26 December 2021
  • Final gravity was 1.020, for 2.6% abv. I carbonated to around 2.0 volumes. Within about a week of kegging, the beer had dropped completely clear.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Pours with a light tan head that rapidly disperses; the beer itself is pretty clear and a deep mahogany in color.
  • Aroma
    • Light chocolate and coffee on the nose, and no major yeast character.
  • Flavor
    • Coffee and dark chocolate and some faint roasted notes, and a bit of biscuit character in the malt. There is faint dried stone fruit quality in the yeast. Bitterness is low, and the finish very much tips towards the malt.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Light body, low carbonation, off-dry finish with very slight astringency.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • I really like this beer! For such a low alcohol brew, it packs a really punch of malt character. It is eminently drinkable, but also very interesting in flavor. I wouldn’t mind a little more yeast character, perhaps some extra fruity notes, but that is a fairly minor critique. I may well try this recipe again, and will certainly brew a dark mild again. It is a style with a fair bit of latitude, which is worth exploring.
  • Overall
    • 8/10
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