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English Dark Mild 1.0

The Finished British Dark Mild Ale
Where Have I Been?

If you're noticing that it's been a while since I brewed a batch of beer (July 29, 2018 was the last one), that's primarily because I'd been having issues with the PicoBrew Zymatic. Specifically, any time it had to heat water or wort more than about 30 degrees Fahrenheit, it would shut down with an error. The PicoBrew support folks were responsive and nice, but it was a time-consuming process. They would email me to request photos or to suggest a course of action. I would have to wait until I got home to try the action or get the photos, and send a response. Sometimes I couldn't answer right away. Other times I'd contacted them outside their normal work hours or on a weekend. In the end, we think we've got the issue sorted out. (It basically took several intense soaking, cleaning, and rinsing cycles to clear residue from the heat exchanger.)

My wife and I have also been doing a bit of "beer tourism" lately, too. We attended Brew Dog's "Annual General Mayhem" last weekend. We've visited Lineage Brewing, Platform Brewing, Zaftig, toured the local Budweiser plant (a rare opportunity), and more. So the time to brew (and interact with the good folks at PicoBrew) has been a little limited.

Why An English Dark Mild?

It's been some time since I encountered an English Dark Mild on a beer menu anywhere. I loved the style the first time I had one. It was malty, smooth, and really easy to drink. Until today, I had never tried to brew one.

The BJCP guidelines for the Dark Mild style include the following:
  • Overall: It's a low-gravity, dark, malty session ale.
  • Aroma: Malt aroma is low to moderate, possibly with fruity elements. Malt can be caramel, grainy, toasted, nutty, chocolatey, or lightly roasted. There is little or no hop aroma, but if any aroma is present, it should be earthy or floral.
  • Appearance: Copper, mahogany, or dark brown. Low to moderate off-white head. Head retention may be poor.
  • Flavor: Generally malty, with a wide range of malt and yeast-based flavors. It can finish sweet or dry. May have a roasted finish. Low to moderate bitterness, enough to provide balance but not enough to outshine the malt. Moderate to no fruity esters. Diacetyl low to none. Hop flavor low to none.
  • Mouthfeel: Light to medium bodied. Low to medium-low carbonation. 
  • Ingredients: Pale British base malts, crystal malt, dark malts or dark sugar adjuncts, (optional) flaked maize, and may be colored with brewer's caramel. Characterful English yeast. Any type of hops, as their contribution is muted and rarely noticeable.
Generally, the beer ranges in gravity from 1.030-1.038 SG, with bitterness in the 10-25 IBU range, with a color in the 12-25 SRM range, and ABV 3.0-3.8%.


In line with the BJCP guidelines, this recipe mixes Maris Otter base malt with caramel malt, pale chocolate, and black patent malt for color. East Kent Goldings hops are used at the start of the boil for bitterness, but not flavor or aroma, in line with the style. White Labs WLP002 English Ale yeast is used to ferment the wort.

4.25 pounds Maris Otter Malt
5 ounces British Crystal 50-60L Malt
4 ounces Crystal 120L Malt
2 ounces British Pale Chocolate Malt
1 ounce British Black Patent Malt
0.40 ounces East Kent Goldings hops @ 6.1% AA (60 min.)
0.25 tsp. Brewtan B (mash)
0.25 tsp. Brewtan B (boil - 15 min)
0.25 tsp. Super Irish Moss (boil - 10 min)
0.25 tsp. Yeast Nutrient (boil - 10 min)
3 gallons, 16 ounces, filtered water

The Zymatic Recipe Crafter estimates the following qualities for the beer:
  • BJCP Style: 13A Dark Mild
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons (actual was 1.75, diluted to 2.75)
  • Original Gravity: 1.053 SG (actual was 1.066 SG, 1.040 after dilution)
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
  • SRM: 21
  • ABV: 5.5% (after dilution, estimate is 3.8%)
A modified mash schedule based on the "Cover all the Bases" mash schedule in a BYO Magazine article and the Zymatic High-Efficiency Mash Schedule was configured in the Zymatic recipe editor:
  • Dough in 20 minutes at 102F
  • Beta Glucan rest for 10 minutes at 113F 
  • Mash step 1 at 135F for 15 minutes
  • Mash step 2 at 145F for 20 minutes
  • Mash step 3 at 154F for 30 minutes
  • Mash out at 175F for 10 minutes
A 60-minute boil follows the mash, as noted below:
  • 60 minutes: East Kent Goldings pellets (Zymatic compartment 1)
  • 15 minutes: Brewtan B (Zymatic compartment 2)
  • 10 minutes: Yeast nutrient and Super Irish Moss powder (Zymatic compartment 3
Following the boil, the wort is transferred to a sanitized stainless steel vessel in which a sanitized stainless immersion chiller is placed. Cold water flows through the sanitized chiller while the wort is stirred using the chiller and/or a sanitized stainless steel spoon. 

Once the wort is near room temperature, it's roughly poured into a sanitized fermenter to oxygenate it a bit before yeast is pitched. A sanitized Tilt Hydrometer is added, along with a half-vial of White Labs Clarity Ferm, and the yeast. The fermenter is then sealed and the BrewJacket temperature control system configured.

The beer will ferment at the basement's ambient 68F temperature, which is in the optimum range for the WLP002 yeast, per White Labs. 

I'll then treat it with gelatin and cold-crash it in my mini-fridge until it drops clear.

After that, it will be primed and bottle-conditioned until ready to serve.

Post-Brewing Notes and Observations

09/01/2018:  After chilling, I ended up with approximately 1.75 gallons of wort at 1.066 SG. I diluted the wort with a gallon of steam distilled water, down to a gravity of 1.039 SG and 2.75 gallons in volume. The color looked like I expected. I chilled the wort down to 73F. After pitching the yeast, adding the Clarity Ferm, and added a Tilt Hydrometer to monitor the gravity and temperature.

09/02/2018: About 18 hours after pitching, the wort's gravity was unchanged. Peeking inside the fermenter it was clear that fermentation was not happening. I pitched a second package of WLP002 yeast, one that is close to its expiration date, so it may not do well either. If there is no activity within 12 hours, I'll drop in a package of Lallemand's London ESB yeast, which should be a decent substitute for the WLP002. (Update, late in day) The yeast still did not come to life in the beer. The top of the wort was still and clear, with no hint of ongoing fermentation. At 9:30pm, I pitched a fresh packet of dry London ESB yeast to get fermentation going.

09/03/2018: The ESB yeast has gone like gangbusters. Starting around midnight, the gravity began to drop. By 11:30am today, the gravity had dropped to 1.020 SG. The temperature peaked around 75F, which is a few degrees outside the yeast's optimum range, but hopefully not enough to cause off-flavors. I strapped ice packs to it to start cooling it down within its ideal range, and soon had it there. After that, I strapped on my Cool Zone cooling jacket and pumped cool water through it to get and keep the wort near 68F, the ambient basement termperature and a good one for the ESB yeast.

09/04/2018: Gravity has held for a while now at 1.013 SG, and the temperature has held at 70F. I'm debating whether raising it to 72F (the yeast's upper end) would coax it to reach the expected final gravity of 1.010 SG.

09/05/2018: Gravity is now 1.012 SG, and the temperature is 70F

09/06/2018: Gravity is down to 1.010 SG, and the temperature is holding at 70F.

09/08/2018: Gravity has held at 1.010 SG for a while, so I'm assuming primary fermentation is complete. I prepared gelatin finings and added them to the fermenter before moving it into my mini-fridge to cold-crash and brighten up before bottling. I plan to leave it chilling until next Monday evening, and bottle it then.

09/15/2018: The beer has now had a week in the mini-fridge with a gelatin addition for clarifying. Today I bottled the beer using 3 small carbonation tablets per bottle (low carbonation).

09/22/2018: A bottle was chilled and poured. The photo at the top of this post was taken.  The color is a coppery brown with minimal carbonation and very little head. It's a little hazy. The beer's aroma is fruity and malty, primarily caramel in the malty portion of the aroma. A touch of diacetyl is present in the aroma. Flavor begins with a slightly grainy malt, a touch of toasted malt, and a hint of caramel. A touch of tartness makes an appearance as well. Finish is clean and slightly sweet.

I think the next version needs to be mashed at a slightly higher temp, with perhaps a touch more caramel malt. The higher fermentation temp seems to have added a light tartness that isn't right for the style and possibly some yeasty notes to the aroma.

05/12/2019:  It turns out that the bottling wand used to fill the bottles with this beer was infected by an unknown strain of bacteria. The entire batch had to be dumped. Every bottle gushed its contents out after opening.  Worse, the affected wand was the one I used most often, so most of the batches I've brewed in the past year were infected at bottling and have had to be trashed.


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