We all go through a phase where the endless joys and pain of high gravity brewing, but after a while all that big beer just starts to weigh a man down. Sometimes you just want to reach for a bottle or keg of something easy to drink. For most of the world, that means reaching for a "pilsner". That's just not my cup of joe. (Sorry John A.)
Bruce pointed out the benefits of brewing smaller beers (faster turnaround, more brew, easy drinking, etc), but his focus is more on the peerless Ordinary Bitter that he and Brian brew. I like hops, but something about bitter doesn't sit right with me; perhaps it's too many bad EKG and Fuggles beers.
So I ran to the anti-Moorman style, the Mild and all of its variations. Put simply, a mild is all about the malt, a malt chew that's interesting but not exhausting. Caramels, light roasts, coffee, just about any flavor you can expect from the malt is the central key turn on this beer. To avoid it being goopy and too much like a stronger brown ale, you need sugar and a light touch of hops.
There are two types of mild, a Dark Mild (the typically thought of mild) and a Pale Mild (or AK). Both are about the malt with the Dark Mild expressing the deeper dark flavors of caramels while the AK expresses a light, but full flavor like a malt Blondie bar.
Milds can be assembled quickly and dropped into a keg in a little more than a week. They make great weekday nighttime brewing fodder. One thing to watch out for is collecting the right volume for a low gravity (~1.036ish). To give myself breathing room, I inevitably calculate my malt bill to 1.040 and when the sparge is done, I'll get to my target volume by a slight dilution. This also helps avoid collecting tannins; a reason I don't like making milds as a "small" beer. Remember this beer doesn't have much hiding room for a strong tannic presence.
Keys to the Style:~1.034-1.038 and 10-16 IBUs
- Marris Otter or Golden Promise as a base malt
- For a dark mild, a dark Crystal malt (150L, 120L), a touch of black malts (Carafa, Chocolate, Roasted Barley)
- For an AK, a light Crystal malt and other malts to reinforce a toasty malt character if desired.
- Both styles benefit from the use of an adjunct, like oats to round out the body and an interesting bit of sugar (~1/2lb) to deliver a lot of flavor without adding extra heft. My favorites include Turbinado and Billington's Molasses Brown Sugar.
Mash: Single infusion, 152-154F, no mash out
Hops: While any British hops would be appropriate, including Fuggles and EKG, I prefer Target (for bittering FWH/60 minutes) and Progress/Challenger for flavor.
Yeasts: Traditional - 1275 Thames Valley or 1318 London III (2-3 weeks fermentation); Fast - WLP001 California Ale (1 week fermentation)