The Dreary Brit was brewed on 12/26/16 as part two of my double brew day along with Murky Waters Mango Shake, my take on a “milkshake” DIPA. I wanted a beer that was an easy drinking ale for the dreary weather in Chicago this time of year, but one that wouldn’t put me on my ass if I wanted a few. A friend of mine brought a homebrewed Dark Mild to an Oktoberfest party this fall, and I really loved the simple, yet awesome flavors of the beer. It was easy drinking and sessionable while still having enough flavor to keep it interesting.
The English Dark Mild is surprisingly the first straight up English style that I’ve ever tackled. Milds where once the “it” beer in the UK. They were light in alcohol, easy to drink in quantity, and still had enough flavor to be interesting. If you walked into a pub and wanted a beer, it was probably a mild that would be served. Milds are of course mild in flavor, with the hops providing just enough bitterness to balance the beer. The English hops can provide a bit of spicy or earthy flavor and aroma, but it should be very subtle as this is a more malt forward style. The malt flavors should come from a combination of good base malt like Maris Otter, and a combination of specialty grains to provide toasty, sweet, chocolate, and roasted notes. Yeast esters are also acceptable here to enhance the flavor profile. Milds were eventually replaced in popularity by bitters and lagers almost to the point where they were to become a thing of the past. With the craft boom happening in England just as it has here across the pond, Mild ale has made a comeback.
When I decided to brew this beer, I thought a lot about what I wanted it to be. I still wanted a dark, low abv beer that I could put a few away on a work night if I wanted and not feel it in the morning, but was interesting enough that I would be satisfied with just one. To that end, I debated if I wanted to “Americanize” this traditionally subtle English ale. I thought about adding American hops in low quantities to make it a bit more bold, or to bump the abv up just a bit into the mid 4% range. But then I thought, “why?” Why mess with this beer to the point where it isn’t really mild at all? So I decided on a more traditional approach. Really the only departure from a number of mild ale recipes that I saw was the additon of flaked oats.
The idea behind the oats was two fold. First, I had a half pound from the beer I brewed earlier in the day. Secondly, I want this beer to have a fuller body for the low abv so it still feels substantial and never watery. I chose good old Maris Otter for the base malt for its wonderful bread and biscuit notes. I would have used English chocolate malt, but I still had a half pound of Briess chocolate, which is paler, so I just used that. It will still contribute a ton of flavor into this ale. English medium crystal will provide the bulk of the sweetness, while UK Fuggle hops will provide the bitterness. As usual Wyeast London Ale III, my house ale yeast, will bring it all together. This was the last pitch of a continuous harvest since summer, so this yeast has served me well!
The brew session for this beer went off without a hitch. I had a few more people over for this batch, even my old neighbor! Sometimes when I have that many people around, especially after I’ve had a few, mistakes get made, but I was on point here. I got the mash going during the hopstand and chilling of my first batch, so I was able to save some time there. I mashed this beer at 158 to help achieve a nice, full body for the low abv. I boiled the beer for an hour as usual and then went straight to chilling it. No hopstands here!
I got the beer chilled down to about 70 degrees and took my hydrometer sample. My OG came in at 1.039, just one point over what I had shot for. Its right at the top of acceptable for the style, so I’m happy with it.
It’s been so long since I brewed a really simple, but nuanced ale. I did that a few times this year with lagers, but most of my ales were various New England style hop bombs or flavorful imperial stouts. The only thing that I’ve made that come close to this would be my Irish Red and I haven’t made that in over a year. I truly can’t wait to see how this one turns out! As usual, my recipe and water are below. I’ll update with kegging and tasting notes as they come.
Ca+2 Mg+2 Na+ Cl- SO4-2 HCO
143 12.0 36 150 104 196
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.039 SG
Estimated Color: 21.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 22.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
5 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (Thomas Fawcett) Grain 1 66.7 %
1 lbs 8.0 oz Crystal, Medium (Simpsons) (55.0 SRM) Grain 2 20.0 %
8.0 oz Chocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM) Grain 3 6.7 %
8.0 oz Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 4 6.7 %
0.75 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 5 13.6 IBUs
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.50 %] – Boil 15.0 min Hop 6 9.0 IBUs
1.0 pkg London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318) [124. Yeast 7 –
Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 7 lbs 8.0 oz
Name Description Step Temperat Step Time
Mash In Add 9.38 qt of water at 172.9 F 158.0 F 75 min
Kegging Update 01/08/17: I kegged this beer with my usual C02 transfer from the carboy into a purged keg. I took a gravity reading that came out to 1.013. That gives me an ABV of 3.5%, right in line with the style. The beer already has a nice flavor, but with a beer like this it doesn’t need much conditioning.
Tasting Notes 01/14/17:
Appearance: The Dreary Brit pours a deep amber or brown color with a moderate level of haze. There’s a thin off white head that quickly fades to the edges of the glass. This isn’t a style where I’m concerned about clarity especially with the addition of oats, but I fined with some gelatin anyway. I’ll be interested to see if it clears.
Smell: This beer is actually pretty aromatic. There’s pleasant notes of toffee, hints of dark fruit, and caramelized sugar. There’s also some really nice coffee-like aroma, but not in a dark roasted way. Very little in the way of hop aroma or aroma from the yeast.
Taste: The beer is very well balanced, almost more than I’d have preferred. The style is malty, and I wish just a bit more sweetness came through. Still, there’s some nice malt flavors of toasted bread, caramel, bread crust, and a bit of roast in the finish. I think I’d maybe up the chocolate malt next time, or use a version from the UK instead. The flavors are all pretty mild as the name would imply, and this is a very easy drinking beer. The hops didn’t contribute much flavor, just a hint of earthiness and spice. I would have liked a little more character from the yeast.
Mouthfeel: The beer is medium bodied which is good for a beer of such low abv. I think the addition of the oats contributed nicely here. The beer is on the lower side of medium carbonation.
Overall: I haven’t had a ton of examples of this style, but this falls right in line from what I remember of them. I would have liked the malt to be a bit more assertive, but there really shouldn’t be bold flavors in this beer. It should be what it is, a mild easy drinking beer that one can consume in quantity. I’m glad I stepped outside of my usual box and brewed something both different for me, but also very traditional and classic. I’m not sure if I’ll revisit this beer anytime soon, but I’m glad to have done this.