By HAYDON DEWES
I like to think I know something about the Dark Mild style of beer. I have a version I brew at home and have on tap regularly. It’s won four medals this year in national homebrew competitions, including a runner-up Best in Show.
I love the style. Love it! There are few beers that weigh in at 3.5% and have so much flavour and character. You can have a couple of pints and not be drunk. They’re not filling – and they pair well with lots of darker pub foods such as bangers and mash and fish and chips.
It’s a funny style though, in that there are almost no commercial examples available, making it difficult to get a good handle on the style. Because of the low alcohol – they’re between 3 and 3.8% ABV according to BJCP guidelines – they do not travel well and are not often packaged in cans and bottles, even in their home country of England. It’s draught or cask, all the way. And the low alcohol and British style just doesn’t make them a easily marketable beer here in North America.
I was excited then to learn that Ribstone Creek Brewery out of Edgerton had made a version. Not only that – they also took out a gold medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards held last month in Ottawa in the Session Ales category.
I tried a can this week. It poured with a tan head, which quickly dissipated (the malt bill in a mild typically doesn’t have massive amounts of proteins, which means head retention is often poor). It is a dark brown, with ruby highlights when held up to a light.
Instantly, you could pick up a ton of aromas that are typical in a Dark Mild: light nuttiness, a bitter chocolate note that is reminiscent of crème de cacao, light coffee hints and some sherry-like wafts of dried fruit (from the dark crystal malt no doubt) – raisin and figs. There was a light roastiness too, which is not that common in a Dark Mild, but not out of style either.
Ribstone Creek’s version has a medium-low body, medium-low carbonation and enough bitterness to leave an impression without overwhelming the delicate malt. There is a lingering astringency (common with the darker malts used in this style) and it finishes very dry and crisp.
Could it be better? Perhaps if the dryness was dialled back just a little, some additional sweetness and body could lend a little more mouthfeel. And the roastiness is perhaps a little too out there – but only a little. I prefer softer chocolate, nut and fruit flavours.
But who am I to judge – this is a gold-medal beer, a great quaffing session ale and is true to style.