Mild was once one of the world’s most popular beers. This malty, lightly hopped and highly sessionable beer accounted for more than 75 percent of all beer brewed in Britain in the 1930s, according to Brian Glover’s entry in the Oxford Companion to Beer.
That’s not the case anymore. Hardly any breweries produce mild, and very few drinkers will actually order one, even in its native Britain. But that’s about to change. For the next month, Seattle is going to look a little bit more like early 20th Century London, with pints full of mild at some of Seattle’s better beer bars. Why the sudden growth of mild’s popularity in Seattle?
Blame Machine House Brewing.
The Seattle brewery throws a month-long event called “March Mildness,” where bars around the city tap casks of Machine Houses’s Dark Mild, and craft beer fans get punch cards and stamps for every mild they drink. If you earn enough stamps, you can get a March Mildness pub glass or a T-shirt. I’m not usually a fan of marketing gimmicks and punch cards, but this is celebrating one of Seattle's most overlooked beers, so in this context, I'm okay with it.
Dark Mild drinks with the full roasted flavor of a porter or a stout, but with hardly any perceived bitterness. It has a surprisingly light and balanced body given the beer’s jet-black color. And at only 3.7% alcohol, you can keep drinking one pint after another. In fact, this beer almost commands you to drink more of it, as each sip seems to leave you wanting another. It’s a beguiling quality that most beers lack.
The local beer industry definitely knows about Dark Mild—local social media circles are swirling with photos of March Mildness punchcards after just five days into the month. But not enough Seattleites outside of the beer community celebrate this balanced beauty of a beer. You can order a pint of Dark Mild at Machine House’s Georgetown Brewery, at their new pub in the Central District, or at nearly a dozen participating bars around the city. The event culminates in a party on March 31 at Machine House's Georgetown location. If all goes as planned, there will be a Machine House-Floodland collab beer at the party.
I caught up with Bill Arnott, Machine House’s founder, over e-mail to learn more about Dark Mild. I would have conducted this interview in person, but Bill was last seen walking around his brewery with the quiet intentionality of a British man in a hurry while he simultaneously bartended and brewed a batch of Dark Mild.
It comes from Machine House! But in making the recipe I was heavily influenced by the Mild we brewed at my old brewery in Norfolk, Tipples Brewery. It was called The Hanged Monk. Really opened my mind to the beer style, which doesn't have a great reputation, especially for people under the age of 70. But 3.4-3.8% ABV, with full, delicious complex malty flavor and slightly dry finish, it's just great and there's not much else out there like it.
Mild is an overlooked beer style that few people outside of the beer community know about. Why do you brew a beer that not a lot of customers are looking for?
Mostly, I just brew it because I know that it is really good and if people are open-minded enough to try it, then a lot of them will like it, despite it not being a popular or well-known style. Like a lot of our beers, it is relatively low alcohol but tastes great, which is still hard to find here. I like that Machine House can bring something a bit different to the beer scene, I have never had an interest in making what’s popular because there’s about a million other brewers doing the same thing. It’s also just a little bit of a 'fuck you' to the dominant culture of the craft beer scene, which has always been an inane hyper masculine merry-go-round of bros bragging about the size of their Double IPAs, or whatever. In my mind, making Dark Mild somewhat subverts that stuff and maybe erodes that culture in a small way.
What was the inspiration for March Mildness? Are you just trying to trick us into buying a bunch of your beer in March?
Haha yes, exactly. I think my friend Thom came up with the pun one day while we were landscaping. Then we eventually thought up this thing where people just had to drink quite a few milds, just for the fun of it. Then we made T-shirts, glasses, and people just got really into it. In some ways it’s all pretty silly, but I love that we can take the time to celebrate and appreciate this beer that I am really proud of, but still doesn't get that much attention. March Mildness gets some hype but it’s still not the easiest thing to sell someone.
Do you have any special beers that you are making for the March Mildness final event?
Planning to brew a historic Mild recipe with Adam from Floodland next week, ideally in time for our Wild Mild Party on the 31st. As long as neither of us flake out, or something goes wrong... Otherwise, just lots of our classic Dark Mild.