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Homebrewing: How to Brew an English Mild Ale
A beer for the working man or woman, the English Mild is a quaffable yet complex ale. This mahogany colored ale usually comes in at about 3.5% ABV, and relies on crystal malts to provide more malt flavor than many other lower-alcohol beer styles. Malt flavors in this style of beer can include sweet toffee, nutty, roasty or dark fruits, but the light body keeps it refreshing. In recent years, the Mild seems to have fallen out of style with commercial brewers in favor of bigger and bolder beers, which leaves it up to homebrewers (like you!) to revive this sessionable English ale.
The distinctly English Marris Otter malt often forms the base of a Mild Ale. Other English pale malt varieties can be used, but it's best to stay away from American pale malts for this homebrew. Medium and dark crystal malts provide color, flavor and body. About 15% of the grain used should be crystal malts, with most of that being the medium crystal. To add a little more complexity a small amount of chocolate malt is sometimes used to supplement the crystal. The "less is more" approach to grain varieties will produce a focused malt flavor. It's fine to use two or three varieties of dark malts, but more than that will make the flavors muddled rather than complex. I recommend using one medium crystal malt, one dark crystal malt and one variety of chocolate malt.
Hop character is very subtle in English Mild ales. Hops should provide a balance to the sweetness from the crystal, while leaving the focus on the malts. Small quantities of English hops should be used primarily at the beginning of the boil. Since the hops play a background role, the variety isn't particularly important, but stick with a traditional variety such as Fuggles, Northern Brewer, or Goldings.
English yeast comes in more than half a dozen varieties from both Wyeast and Whitelabs, and is a great opportunity for experimentation within the style. Each different strain will coax out a different aspect of the malt flavors. The basic English strains are Whitelabs WLP002 or WLP005, along with their counterparts Wyeast 1968 or Wyeast 1187. There are corresponding English dry yeasts, but liquid yeast should be used for this recipe. The low alcohol content of this homebrew means a yeast starter is not necessary, so there is no benefit from using a dry yeast.
English Mild is the style I always recommend if you want to make a quick homebrew with a lot of character. The lighter body and low alcohol content allows the beer to ferment and carbonate quickly. The last batch I made was completely finished fermenting in 5 days and ready to drink 10 days later. It's a perfect beer for the warming spring days or for a working lunch where you actually intend on getting work done. This one won't last long in storage, so consume quickly and enjoy!