Banks’s Mild – one of the most iconic names in the British beer world – is set to make a return to pubs, bars and off-licences after brewers said the surge in popularity of real ale had made mild cool again.
Mild beer, which is sweeter and less strong than other ales, became the drink of choice for industrial workers in the factories, forges and foundries of Victorian and early 20th-century Britain.
The Wolverhampton-brewed Banks’s became the best-selling mild beer in the United Kingdom and consequently the world.
But the brewery decided to change the name to Banks’s Original several years ago, because mild began to get a reputation as an out-of-date drink.
Richard Frost, the head brewer at Banks’s, said: “Mild as a category has dropped hugely. ‘When I started here, we were brewing four to five times as much as mild as bitter, but now it’s about even stevens.
“One of the problems is that mild wasn’t seen as an ‘aspirational’ brand, it’s seen as having links with industry, working men, flat caps and allotments, that sort of thing.
“But the growth of mild is part of the growth of cask ale – I think we have seen quite a growth in ale sales in the last two or three years.
‘‘There’s a real interest in ale as a category nowadays and mild is a kind of ale so there’s more interest.”
Mild is most popular in industrial areas where it was once brewed for industrial workers at factories and mills. It fell out of favour in the second half of the last century after lager and other drinks became more popular.
It became most strongly associated with the Midlands and particularly the Black Country.
Indeed, the area was one of just a few places where it was still commonly drunk.
But it has seen a renaissance as drinkers become more interested in new kinds of beer as part of the renaissance of craft ale.
Mr Frost said the increasing number of people who were choosing to drink bottled beer at home because of the financial pressures of recession meant a lot of drinkers were starting to think about trying new kinds of ale.
Although breweries and pub companies have struggled during the financial downturn, sales of real ale have continued to rise, along with the fortunes of breweries making it.
There are now more breweries making ale in the UK than at any time since the Second World War.
Two years ago, there was a strong sign of the resurgence in popularity when a mild was named the best beer in Britain. Hobsons Brewery, from Shropshire, was given the Champion Beer of Britain award for its mild at the annual Great British Beer Festival hosted by the Campaign for Real Ale.
The award surprised judges and experts, who said they weren’t expecting a beer that had been seen as so old-fashioned to become more popular.
At the time, beer expert Roger Protz, who headed the judging panel that chose the winning beer, said: “It’s a very good thing for brewing in the West Midlands.
“I would hope there would be a resurgence in people drinking mild after brewers and drinkers in the Midlands have remained faithful to it for so long.”
Camra has since launched a nationwide campaign to promote mild and has named May ‘mild month’ in an effort to encourage more people to try the drink.
* According to the Campaign for Real Ale:
* Milds are black to dark-brown to pale-amber in colour and come in a variety of styles, from warming roasty ales to light and refreshing lunchtime thirst-quenchers. Malty and possibly sweet tones dominate the flavour profile, but there may be a light hop flavour or aroma. Slight diacetyl (toffee/butterscotch) flavours are not inappropriate. Alcohol levels are typically low. Pale milds tend to have a lighter, more fruity aroma with gentle hoppiness. Dark milds may have a light roast malt or caramel character in aroma and taste.