Dark English Mild – Stamford Session Ale

I love Mild. There is just something about this style of beer that speaks to me. I love the toasty flavours with supporting malt complexity, I love the lower ABV that allows you to drink more than one, and I love that, so far, I have had good success brewing this style of beer. Mild (BJCP 11A) isn’t a style you find a lot of in bottle shops or tap lists in North America, usually if a brewery is making a low ABV beer it’s either a Session IPA or some kind of English Bitter. I’m sure part of the reason for this is that low ABV beers with low bitterness don’t tend to keep as well over time.DSC_2698~2[1]

Historically, as the story goes, the term mild was used to refer to a beer lacking the sourness that aged beers tended to have, unfortunately they didn’t have StarSan in the 1800’s. Today, mild is defined as a style of beer by the BJCP. A Mild is a, low alcohol, malt focused beer with character ranging from lighter malt flavours like caramel and grainy up to dark chocolate or light roast. The bitterness should only play a supporting role to balance the malt, but not distract from it.

This is the second Mild I have brewed in my short brewing career. The first one turned out very well, but had a bit too much diacetyl for my taste, probably due to the WLP005 (Ringwood) strain I used. Keep in mind that low levels of diacetyl can be nice in certain English styles of beer. For this iteration however I wanted to use a cleaner yeast, so I used WLP002, which I already had on hand anyway. I have found that I really like the toasty character that brown malt lends to Brown Ales so I upped the amount from my previous recipe. The pale chocolate is there to give a nice deep brown colour and some light roast malt flavours of dark chocolate. The Crystal 65L is there to give some toffee flavours and to add some body.

Dark English Mild

Description
Brewed: Nov 13, 2014
Kegged: Dec 10, 2014
Targets: OG: 1.041, FG: 1.013, ABV: 3.7%
Actual:   OG: 1.041, FG: 1.011, ABV: 3.9%
19 IBU
18 SRM

Process
Batch Size: 6 gallons
Mash: 152°F for 60 mins @ 1.50 qt/lb thickness
Boil: 60 minutes
Pre-boil Volume: 7.25 gallons pre-boil
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%

Grain Bill
5.5 lbs  Maris Otter 3.5L (Muntons)
1.25 lbs  Brown Malt 60L (Fawcett)
8 oz  Crystal Malt II 65L (Fawcett)
8 oz  Pale Chocolate 200L (Fawcett)

Boil Additions
0.50 oz East Kent Goldings 6.4% AA @ 60 mins (11.6 IBU)
0.50 oz East Kent Goldings 6.4% AA @ 20 mins (7.0 IBU)
1 whirlfloc, 2 g DAP yeast nutrient @ 10 mins

Water and pH
Mash pH target: 5.29 pH (Bru’n Water)
Water Volumes: mash 3.04 gallons, sparge 5.26 gallons
Gypsum: 0.3 g in mash, 0.5 g in sparge
Calcium Chloride: 0.6 g in mash, 1.1 g in sparge
Lactic Acid: 0 mL in mash, 0 mL in sparge
Water Profile: Ca = 55.2 ppm, Mg = 9 ppm, Na = 15 ppm, SO4 = 42.1 ppm, Cl = 51.8 ppm, HCO3 = 109 ppm, RA = 46 ppm, SO4:Cl = 0.8

Fermentation
WLP002 (~160 Billion cells)
Pitch at 62°F
Aerate with 90 seconds of O2
Controller set to 66°F
Bump up to 72°F on Day 4

DSC_2471[1]

My brew day proceeded similarly to previous ones, so please see one of my previous blog posts for a step by step of what I do. I’m just going to discuss the exceptions here in the interest of length and keeping things fresh. One unique thing I noticed is that Maris Otter base malt I used had much smaller kernels than my usual Pilsner or 2 Row. I ended up running it through the mill twice since I found that there were a few too many whole kernels left after the 1st pass. I’ve since opened a bag of Baird’s Maris Otter and the kernels are much closer in size to my usual 2 row so I figure it must have just been that lot of grain.

After adding the calculated acid and mashing in, I took a pH measurement and got 5.52 pH, which is about 0.2 pH higher than I was aiming. In the moment I decided that adding another 2 mL of lactic acid was a good idea, but unfortunately it brought me all the way down to 4.97 pH. In retrospect I should have only added 0.5 or 1 mL, especially since this is a lower OG batch and I had less water and grain in the mash tun than usual. Conversion seemed to happen fine anyways though since I got clear wort of sufficient gravity at the end.

The sparge, boil, and chill went on without exception and I ended up with 5.5 gallons of 1.041 OG wort into the fermenter, right on target. I pitched the yeast at 62°F and let it rise to 66°F where I held it for 4 days before letting it rise and finish off at 71°F. I took a gravity reading on day 10 and it had attenuated down to 1.014 SG. I didn’t have any free CO2 lines on my keezer at the time so I racked it into a purged keg and put it in the corner for a few weeks. On Jan 5th, I took another reading and it had further attenuated down to 1.011, so I wrote that down as FG and put it in the keezer to crash and carb up to 2.0 vol at 8 PSI.

Tasting

I finally sat down to write up some tasting notes about this beer on Jan 22nd and I have to say it came out fantastic. The main feature here is the malt, mainly coming through as a medium toasty malt with some notes of dark chocolate. I get a low amount of floral hop flavour, but it’s pretty faint. I really like the balance on this beer, nice and dry but still lots of malt character shining through vibrantly. I don’t know why, but it’s usually the beers that I overshoot on pH adjustment that end up tasting the best. I suspect part of it is that the lower pH helps the flavours seem less muddled and shine through individually. I’m still going to try to hit closer to 5.2 pH next time though. I don’t get any noticeable yeast character in this beer, definitely cleanly fermented. The clarity is a little lower than I expected with this yeast, but you can still see through it, perhaps it will clear with more time. No gelatin since I have a vegetarian friend coming to the wedding. I think the colour on this batch is just right, coming in around light brown.

I haven’t had many commercial Milds so it is hard to nitpick where to improve. If I had to say something I would probably bump the brown malt down a touch to allow some other malt flavours to come through as well, and maybe bump up the ferment temp a bit to allow a low amount of esters to come through and give it a distinctive English character. Of course I would like to see the clarity improved, perhaps some more strategic cold crashing is warranted, or more calcium. Overall I think it’s an excellent beer and I scored it 38/50.

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5 thoughts on “Dark English Mild – Stamford Session Ale

  1. Water Profile: Ca = 55.2 ppm, Mg = 9 ppm, Na = 15 ppm, SO4 = 42.1 ppm, Cl = 51.8 ppm, HCO3 = 109 ppm, RA = 46 ppm, SO4:Cl = 0.8

    Is that your profile right out of the tap (w/ some additions)? If so, I’m jealous! I’ve got to blend my water ~70% with RO to get to those levels.

    Otherwise, here’s what Palmer has to say about Mild water.

    Type Color Bitterness Ca Sulfate Chloride Alkalinity RA
    light ale amber soft, moderate 50 – 150 100 – 200 50 – 100 40 – 120 0 – 60

    Looks like you could stand to bump your Chloride up another ~50 ppm which should help you get the Ca a bit higher too.

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    • Yep, that’s my tap water with the specified salt additions. I calculated that no lactic acid was needed since the specialty malts were should have been acidic enough to drop the pH to 5.29 pH. I think I put brown malt in as a base malt at 60L, since it rejects roasted under 200L.

      Out of the tap I’m at 35 ppm Ca, 27 ppm SO4, 26 ppm Cl, and 109 ppm HCO3 (reported as 89 ppm alkalinity as CaCO3).

      I’d say that is moderately alkaline water, enough that it does have some noticeable buffering ability. The hardness is somewhat low since we get our water from Lake Ontario.

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  2. That is an IPA water profile if I’ve ever seen one lol. A bit high in sodium, but still. I have to add 5 g or more of gypsum to get that! Would definitely make some styles of beer hard to brew though.

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  3. Tx for sharing. Shame you cant sub the MO for Mild ale malt. The flavour is quite different IMO
    RE: clarity.; the 1968 yeast your using is the quickest dropping yeast out there, and usually throws the same dyactyl than the ringwood.
    I would suspect chillhaze if your serving temperature was below the 12 degrees C.
    Mild should be like mud with mild ale malt, http://barclayperkins.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/city-of-london-brewery-mild-ale-quality.html
    but clarex helps that protein issue. If desired.
    I would suggest sub brown malt for roast wheat.
    An excellent style choice.

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