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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A Mild is the Best British Beer

According to the judges in the Great British Beer Festival, this year's best beer is a mild ale from Yorkshire:
A baritone cheer erupts from the crowd of barrel-chested beer enthusiasts as Rudgate Ruby Mild is named the victor. Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide, says: “I’ve just come from tasting nine beers. I’m astonished I can actually speak.”

Equally astonished are Craig Lee and Jamie Allen, in charge of the seven-man brewing operation in Tockwith, North Yorkshire, where Ruby Mild is made. They have been brewing the beer to the same recipe for 14 years — to little interest, with the exception of a silver medal in the mild category last year. Suddenly they will face a surge in demand that will stretch their capacity to the limit.

At present they produce 40 barrels a week — the equivalent of 11,520 pints — and have the capacity to produce 20 more. Previous winners such as the Coniston Brewing Company in Cumbria had to get a larger brewery to help to make their Bluebird Bitter, because demand outstripped supply....

The beer, which is described in the Good Beer Guide as a “nutty, rich ruby ale, stronger than usual for a mild”, won by the biggest margin in living memory. One judge remarked that it “stood out a mile” from its nearest competitor.

The US brewing industry has yet to come back around to the joys of small beer. It's impossible to imagine an American competition awarding best in show to a beer of just 4.4% alcohol, no barrel aging, and modest hop levels. (The winning little brewery has a crude website that fails to list information about available beers.)

Update. Full list of winners is here. Also, note that the restrained Brits manage to muscle through with just eight categories--just 28 winning beers overall.

Update 2. CAMRA's promoting a "People's Pint" that would exempt beer from taxes if it's 2.8% or below. 2.8%. That's a small beer.


  1. It's pretty RARE to find a Mild in the USA.... To bad, they're great session beers. We seem to be overtly fixated on beer that are BIG and Very Alcoholic. Gee, how obnoxiously American is that? ;-}

  2. I agree with Dr. Wort here and it is a shame that we don't have more of those styles available from our local breweries. In some ways, it is much more difficult to brew a mild or session ale that has great flavors compared to big OG and lots of hops in so many offerings. Alcohol and bitterness can overwhelm us with the excess. But, the experimentation and innovation here is pretty interesting. Drink local, I suppose. I hope to taste that winning entry if I should get back to the UK any time soon.

  3. Maybe it's all about the right mentality? Local social drinking vs. Local social drunken? ;-}

    We noticed in Europe, social drinking is part of life, but being socially drunk is looked down upon. Would be nice to acquire that way of thinking here....?

  4. I don't know if anybody here got the chance to try Laurelwoods British Daily Ale butit was a sessionable winner, and a mighty fine brew.

  5. Riiiight Dr. Wort. Those masses of Stella drinkers at British pubs aren't socially drunk at all :-0

    One of the main reasons many British pubs close at 11:00pm is to get the drunks home.

    In the USA once you get past the college beer bong phase things tame down quite a bit.

    I think one thing that gets lost in the fact that British beer in lower in alcohol is that sometimes people put down A LOT of pints.

    Of course I'm not denying if you are drinking 8.5% beer and not paying attention you can get in trouble too ;-}

  6. I see the Times writer couldn't resist the tired old stereotypes about real ale drinkers. We are told the white, middle-aged men in attendance would be an asset to a tug-o-war team, pork pie and pork scratchings were selling well and XXXL is the most popular t-shirt size. I suppose if you go aiming to have your prejudices confirmed, you can.

  7. Mild is one of my favorite styles of beer, but the modern versions will never sell in the US for two reasons: they're generally brown and brown ale doesn't sell well and they're lower alcohol at a time when most beer enthusiasts seem to be demanding double imperial barrel aged whatever. Subtlety is a the sign of a sophisticated palate, but it doesn't sell well. Too bad...