Had this on tap at the Blue Nile Saturday afternoon, the bridge between a weekend binge cleaning session and an extended family birthday gathering at the Mall of America. If you ask me, a beer or two is the least you can do to prepare for the megamall, as they say. Actually, it's probably not enough.
This was the first mild I'd had, though I can't quite be sure, because the style, from what I've gathered, is varied and the flavors many. I may have just broken an English language comma rule in that sentence. Anyway, this type of mild, the English Dark Mild variety, according to beeradvocate, is a British session beer characterized by low hops and low alcohol content. Well, if those are the conditions, Surly Mild qualifies.
To be fair, I dove into this one just after my first taste of a Surly Three, the third anniversary offering from the brewery. Three is classified as a braggot, brewed with 50% honey and 50% Munich malt, and let me be the whateverth person to say that the flavor is potent and delicious. In comparison, Surly Mild didn't stand much of a chance.
Maybe it was too early in the day (4:30ish), or maybe I was a bit too sick (stuffy nose), but I didn't get much aroma at all. Mild indeed. There certainly weren't a great deal of hops to wet my lips.
As for the taste, well, I can't much compare it to any other beer I've had, as it was markedly different. As a beer with 4.2% ABV, it lacked punch, but there was more taste than your average mass appeal 4.2% lager or ale. This is the part of the review where I'm reaching. I don't yet know enough about specific malts or how they taste, but what taste there was, I would surmise was due to the malts used. Al, when you read this, you can correct me. I got a very earthy vibe, not just the grassy hop flavor I get from many Euro beers, but soil and mineral flavors that give it a bit of depth without density.
Did I love this beer? No, certainly not. It's an easy drink, much easier than the palate-challenging beers we all love so dearly. And it doesn't make your face cringe like many low content beers would. It just doesn't have much to write home about. It's a bit plain.
So why does Surly make a beer like this? None of Surly's beers are mass appeal beers, I would argue, so they don't need to worry about pleasing a large sect of people. Mild isn't canned, and thus is available only to those diehards who seek it out. It certainly isn't a beer that would blow the diehards away. And frankly, it's not a beer I see the talented brewers at Surly finding enjoyment in pint after pint. I have one of these and think, OK, now I'd like to have any other Surly beer I've ever had.
Maybe it was a failed attempt. Maybe they wanted to show the Surly fans that they could make a simple, subtle beer. Certainly, not every beer a brewer tries can be better than the previous. And Surly has sort of dug their own grave on this one: why shouldn't a brewery be entitled to a couple duds? Mild isn't even a dud, but by their standards, it's pretty pedestrian. That doesn't change the fact that they've given us more than a handful of amazing beers.
Even so, there's a chance that Mild is a complete success. It's hard to imagine a beer more tightly fitting the name. I couldn't think of a better word for it, and by that standard, Surly Mild is a raging success.