At the beginning of August we were lucky enough to be given free tickets for the Trade Session at the Great British Beer Festival, held every year at Earls Court in London. As well as the chance for brewers, licensees and other interested parties to meet and sample beers, the big event is the judging and announcement of this year’s top award winning beers from around the UK.
There are several categories, including Bitters, Strong ales and specialty beers, and the winners from each category are then separately judged to decide on the Supreme Champion Beer of Britain.
The announcement is made during the afternoon at the Trade Session, so this year we were able to taste the Supreme Champion on the day it won the award.
This year the winner was Hobsons Mild
Hobsons brewery was set up in 1993 and is based in Cleobury Mortimer in South Shropshire. The first brew was produced over the Easter weekend of 1993 – after problems on the Saturday which meant the first batch had to be thrown away, the Sunday saw the first successful brew; Hobsons Best Bitter.
The business moved its present site in 1995, following problems with the previous premises being too small and not suitable for prolonged brewing. They are now housed in an old brick granary building and have been able to increase their production capacity, due to an extension in the form of a second brewery building constructed in 2001.
Hobsons brews can now be found in quite a few pubs, especially in the Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire areas, and some of their beers have now been bottled to allow it to be enjoyed by people out of the brewery catchment area. Beers to look out for include Hobsons Bitter (a traditional session beer at 3.8% ABV), Town Crier (a straw coloured bitter at 4.5% ABV) and Old Henry (a ruby stronger bitter at 5.2% ABV).
~WHAT IS MILD?
This type of drink is actually pretty similar to a bitter in a number of respects. It was very popular a number of years ago and was once one of the most drunk styles of ale in Great Britain. It was really developed around 150 to 200 years ago, but has its roots back in the Middle Ages, in one shape or form. It was popular as a cheaper (& less alcoholic) alternative to the Dark Ales and Porters that were being drunk at the time.
Milds are usually darker in colour and are generally weaker; making them an excellent choice for lunchtime or session drinking. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all Milds are the same though and don’t fall into the trap of generalizing.
I have seen light coloured Milds, as well as ones that are quite strong! They are actually quite a versatile little beverage! They are called “Milds” because they aren’t made with as many hops as other beer styles and are generally brewed using darker crystal malt.
Some Milds are virtually indistinguishable from Bitters; it is often their less hoppy aroma that is the only thing that gives them away! Milds are still quite difficult to find, especially in the South of England, and are less popular than they used to be. They are, however, having a resurgence of popularity in recent years, so if you find a pub that sells one, be sure to take advantage of its presence!
*A Bit of Background*
At a time when everyone said that Mild beers were unpopular and sales were at an all time low (according to national reports). Hobsons decided to buck the trend and start brewing a brand new Mild.
It is a classic dark coloured Mild and it proved so popular that it soon began to outsell their other brands. It came to the notice of beer drinkers nationally and was entered to be judged in this year’s Great British Beer Festival. Against all odds (in the past couple of years light coloured bitters and golden ales have been the choices of the judging panels) Hobsons Mild came out on top against the 50+ beers on offer.
Hobsons Mild weighs in at 3.2% ABV and is brewed in the style of a traditional dark coloured Mild ale, using Maris Otter pale malt, pale chocolate malt and crystal malt and Fuggles and Goldings hops.
*Look, Aroma & Texture*
Looks wise, Hobsons Mild is a dark copper brown beer with a slight head, which is quite short lived, but with some small bubbles present. Aroma is chocolaty and nutty (probably coming from the dark roasted malt), with a pleasant caramel smell, mixed with a sweet biscuity scent (again the malt is responsible for this).
Texture is medium bodied, with a surprising amount of character for a beer of this strength and style. Milds are often criticized for being weak, watery and with little texture or body – Hobsons Mild has a little more to it than a lot of other Milds.
*Tange’s Taste Test*
Again there is a surprising amount of flavour for a low strength brew. Predominantly I found it to be quite nutty, but there are actually quite a few layers of flavour that come through as you drink. The combination of malts give it a caramel and chocolate taste, mixed with a rich roastiness and a hint of coffee. The flavour becomes increasingly bitter (quite unusual in a Mild), leading to a smooth biscuity finish and a slightly sweet aftertaste.
~WHAT I THINK.
Firstly, I am really pleased to see a Mild coming out on top in a competition for a change and I hope that this event will increase the style’s popularity. As a Mild, Hobsons offering is a good effort. Don’t expect the taste and texture that you would find in a more robust style of beer – it will never tempt me away from my stouts and strong ales!
What you will find is a well crafted and well brewed example of a low gravity (alcohol) beer! It has a good amount of flavour, the layers of taste blend together well and, to be honest, there are few Milds of this strength that come close to matching it.
I still prefer the stronger Milds (like Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby and Gales Festival mild) and I will still probably opt for a light Mild (like Timothy Taylor Golden Best) because they are just that little bit different.
All that said, Hobsons is still a great choice and I can see why the tasting panel rated it so highly. As a session beer, or even a daytime beer to drink with food, it is non-threatening and won’t overwhelm your palate. At only 3.2% it will also not blow you away and send you slumping under the table either!
We were drinking it during the afternoon at the Great British Beer Festival and found we could still taste the other beers we tried – we also found that there was enough flavour in the mild to allow us to taste that too! That is the sign of a good quality beer.
Our Mild was drunk by the half (we also made use of the increasingly popular third of a pint measure to allow us to sample more beers) on two afternoons at the festival. We were lucky because once the result was announced it ran out quite quickly on the first day and we were there early enough on the second day to try another before it ran out again! Such is the price of fame!
We paid 1.10 for our half pints and, although it wasn’t my favourite beer of the day, we certainly enjoyed it and would gladly have had another (if there weren’t about 200 other beers to try).
If you see Hobsons Mild on the bar when you are out and about I thoroughly recommend that you give it a try. It’s not going to be the tastiest or best beer you have ever had – but it will be good. You may even enjoy it and be glad you had a pint.
Hobsons Brewery Newhouse Farm Tenbury Road Cleobury Mortimer DY14 8RD
Tel: 01299 270837