We owe a lot to the fine city of Coventry. It was there in the early 1990s that we first met as design students at the city’s polytechnic* – Nick a scruffy beer drinker from down the road in Gloucestershire, Rich a well coiffured, lager guzzling chap from up the road in Leicestershire. It’s where we learnt the typographers art of kerning**; it’s where we enjoyed some of the best gigs we’ve been to***; and it’s where we honed our drinking skills through dedicated daily practice, often starting off with a gentle half of mild at lunchtime before trying to track down more exciting brews in the evening.
Since those giddy days, some things have changed beyond all recognition. Nick is still a scruffy beer drinker but Rich now prefers beer and cider to lager and has no need for coiffuring. And, like the rest of the country, the Coventry drinking scene has improved dramatically.
In our day, being able to get a lunchtime mild was a rare treat, almost exclusively available to residents of the Midlands. It was massively out of fashion elsewhere and even in cities like Coventry was steadily falling out of favour. Originally named for the mild level of conditioning the drink went through it latterly tended to refer to dark ales with a mild level of alcohol (usually below 4%). They were generally lovely beers, although at some of the dodgier bars they were often presented with a slight taste of vinegar, usually as a result of late barrel changing due to a lack of popularity with locals.
Real ale revivers CAMRA have been campaigning to encourage increased mild drinking for years, with little success, so their members should be twitching their beards with glee to discover that a new Coventry brewer now produces an excellent version of the style, infused with a touch of vanilla, which might just remind drinkers what they’ve been missing.
Beast of a Midlands Mild by Twisted Barrel ales is a superb drop which pours, as Rich puts it, “the colour of cola.” The aroma instantly takes us back to the Oak Inn (our design department’s lunchtime mild drinking venue of choice)****. Nick describes it as “a slight creamy sweetness mingles with the malty waft of beer, like catching a passing note of vanilla milkshake in a Munich beer hall.” It glides through the mouth leaving behind a lovely dry toasty finish. Of the vanilla, Nick reckons “it isn’t obvious in the flavour, but it probably contributes to the slightly exotic oaky dryness that permeates through the mouth.” Rich, however, detects a touch of the Madagascan spice, noting that “lovely vanilla-y notes that give way to dark roasted coco bean flavours and a subtle malty finish. Very flavoursome despite it’s meek 3.5%.” It’s a perfect, modern mild, one which Rich thinks is “a great beer for sipping whilst working. And when I mean working, I mean writing words about beer. Pretend work. Not actual proper ‘manhandling power tools’ kind of work.”
Back in the early 1990s it was some effort tracking down those special beers, and there was certainly no local brewery producing anything like the quality of Twisted Barrel’s ales. We’re due a Coventry re-union sometime soon and, for old times sake, we’ll be suggesting starting at lunchtime with a half, or more, of mild.
*It was a University by the time we left. Polytechnic sounded so much better
**Fine-tuning the g aps be tw een lette rs
***Who could forget the ear destroying noise of bleached blonde Brummies Birdland; or sulky Manchester outfit Molly Half Head who performed a shortened set before giving up and sitting on the stage while the DJ swung into action; or the psychedelic pomposity of Dr Phibes and the House of Wax Equations, whose lead singer now resides at Her Majesty’s Pleasure for killing his mother…
****Rich doesn’t remember going there. Perhaps they didn’t serve lager
Brewery: Twisted Barrel Ale, Coventry
Beer name: Beast of a Midlands Mild
Hops used: East Kent Goldings, Saaz
This bottle was sent to us by Eebria in one of their excellent Brewery Club deliveries