Featured as a mild for May in BEER May 2009. To read the beginning of this piece see under Hobsons Postman’s Knock.
The beer also featured in BEER May 2011 as part of a piece on the influence of different malts on beer flavour. See additional text below, and to read about other beers featured see Woodforde’s Nelson’s Revenge.
Origin: Brill, Buckinghamshire, England
Another good bottled choice is Vale Black Swan (3.8 per cent) from former Metropolitan Line outpost Brill in Buckinghamshire. Its maker, Vale Brewery, was founded in nearby Haddenham in 1995 by brothers Mark and Phil Stevens, both of whom previously worked for larger breweries. Such was their success that in 2007 they expanded to their present facility on an industrial estate that now occupies the former station site.
Maris Otter Pale, Crystal and Chocolate malts and Fuggles and Perle hops give this very dark amber brew a subtle roasty bite. A fine fawn head slightly muffles a chaffy malty aroma with a dash of fruit. A well-balanced malty and slightly chocolatey palate has drying hops and a fleetingbut welcome fruit note. The finish is lightly drying with light roast and controlled hops alongside a salt-tinged rich dark malt character, fleeting fruit notes and developing burry, herbal hops.
This beautifully balanced, traditional and very classic mild, named partly in deference to the swan emblem of Buckinghamshire, squeezes impressive amounts of flavour into a relatively low ABV. Not surprisingly it won several CAMRA prizes in cask before joining the brewery’s impressive and reliable range of real ales in a bottle.
Added May 2011: A slightly darker “mild malt” was once common in Britain but has become rarer as the style has declined. Most microbrewed milds deploy dark and roasted malts alongside standard pale, giving a bitter roast character, but a mellower example is Vale Black Swan (3.8 per cent) from Brill in Buckinghamshire, which achieves its dark colour and maltier character by using extra crystal malt. I’ve written about this beer before but it’s worth featuring again – a beautifully complex and fruity-malty dark amber ale with herbal, salt and chocolate notes.
To download BEER if you’re a CAMRA member, see http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=beer.
To find out more about CAMRA membership, see http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=joinus.
For the next dark mild in this piece see Teignworthy Martha’s Mild, or for more on malts in beer see Hopshackle Historic Porter.
Read more about this beer at ratebeer.com: http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/vale-black-swan/26203/