Make Your Best Pale Mild

Hard to find, historic origins, easy to drink, and straightforward to brew: sounds like a perfect homebrewing style.

Josh Weikert 5 months ago


Once upon a time, "Mild" was just a term that differentiated English beers that were flinty and bitter ("Bitters") from those that weren't ("Milds"). Over time, it seems like we've gotten away from that approach in favor of using "Mild" to describe low-ABV beers that are particularly dark, malty, and even roasty - but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't keep the Pale Mild alive!

Although they make no appearance in the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines, you can still brew and enter Pale Mild in the "Historical Beer" category. Finding examples in the marketplace can be challenging, though not impossible: Epic's "Mid Mountain Mild" is a great example. They usually feature ingredients that most homebrewers have in reasonable quantities, too.

Hard to find, historic origins, easy to drink, and straightforward to brew: sounds like a perfect homebrewing style to me.


The Pale Mild can be differentiated from the Dark Mild by appearance, of course: Dark Milds are markedly darker. Having said that, the Pale Mild isn't especially pale (like most "pale" English ales): the commercial versions I've come across are all firmly in the light-amber range. They differ by more than color, though: whereas nuttiness is a hallmark feature of the Dark Mild, and represents a lighter variant of a whole host of deeper malt flavors, the Pale Mild tends to feature nuttiness as one of the "darker" flavors, supplemented by a fair amount of biscuit and toast flavors. Hopping is described in various sources as being limited, but I subscribe to the general principle that paler versions of related styles should include a more-noticeable hopping regimen, especially when the hops can be regionally appropriate.

That's going to get us into a little trouble here, though: most of the recipes I reviewed before starting in on this style (lo, these many years ago) were really heavy on Saaz or Mt. Hood hops. It was justified by a desire for earthy, herbal flavors, but it still seemed wrong to me to go New World or Bohemian in origin when there are more "appropriate" hops available! But I digress…


Finally, like the Dark Mild, this is a low-ABV session ale. It's an easier trick to pull off in paler beers, in my experience, because the "dark equals rich and roasty and full" assumption isn't present, so it's an expectation that just isn't there, and therefore doesn't need to be overcome.


I'm shooting for a hair over four percent ABV in this recipe, laying down 6 pounds of Maris Otter and one pound of Munich malt as a base. To that, there are only two additions: one half-pound of Caramunich, and one half-pound of Chocolate Rye. The base malts have a healthy amount of bready Melanoidin character going for them already, and the Caramunich will add some more-complex light crystal malt flavors. The Chocolate rye is there for drying, but it will also impart some spice and a very slight blonde coffee flavor that pairs well with the toasty flavors in the grist. It should get you to an SRM of about 15, which is a very pleasant amber shade.

Hopping is simple: two ounces of Styrian Goldings at twenty minutes. You'll add about 23 IBUs, and some moderate herbal and earthy flavors. I prefer Styrian to the Saaz (which has always been a temperamental hop for me in terms of pulling flavors) or Mt. Hood (when I've made this with American hops I prefer the woodsy aroma of Northern Brewer). The Styrian Goldings, true to its heritage, has a healthy dose of the herbal Bohemian qualities of Saaz while also adding some of its English flavors. It makes for a nice fit. Finally, I ferment with Wyeast 1318, London Ale III. It's consistent, attenuates well enough for a low-ABV ale, and just tastes and smells "English" to me.


This is a good style to play with if you're new to brewing: the process is a straight line. Mash at 152, boil for 60 minutes, chill, and pitch. I ferment this at a steady 67F for about a week, then let it rise a bit to clean up any diacetyl. It's worth noting, though, that when one version of this came out as a butter bomb that it still kind of worked for it.

Cold crash (if necessary - your yeast should drop clear early and fully!) and carbonate to about 1.75 volumes. I prefer this at more-than-cask pressure, but you can adjust to your desired carbonation! If it seems too light in body, just bump up the CO2 a bit. If it seems too spritzy and carbonic (like bread-flavored seltzer) back it down.


If you do enter this beer in competition in the Historical Ales category, be sure to describe it fully! There's a decent chance the judges don't see many of them, and you don't want them judging you by the much-darker "Mild" guidelines. A solid year-round style, Pale Mild can also stand up to some age, even at its session strength. As the hops fade, the light maltiness should push more to the fore, and I once found a year-old bottle of this in the fridge that was a pleasure to drink even on that hot August afternoon. Cheers!


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