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JUST WILD ABOUT MILD; Why pint dubbed boring is making a comeback.

Byline: BY LORNE JACKSON on National Mild Day

PICTURE this. Robbie Williams, David Beckham and Liam Gallagher swagger into a trendy watering hole.

After fending off a feast of fervent female fans, the three amigos push towards the bar.

"What'll it be then, lads?"

"Three pints of mild, please," leers Liam. Hold on a minute. What's wrong with this scene?

For one thing, Liam Gallagher is unlikely to say 'please' to anybody.

And being a Mancunian, he would never pay for someone else's pint.

But most important of all, Liam and the lads would not drink mild.

Why?

Because mild ain't wild.

Instead, it has a reputation as a flat beer drunk by flat cap fellas living flat cap lives.

But all that is about to change.

At least that's the plan of the people behind the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

They designated yesterday Mild Day, while the rest of May has been labelled Mild Month.

Debbie Boddison is the landlady at the Bottle & Glass Inn, the pub situated in the Black Country Living Museum.

Her ale house is run along the lines of a West Midlands pub, circa 1910.

Which means Debbie stocks mild - in abundance.

Why does she think the drink has gone out of favour in recent years?

"It has always been associated with the working man," says Debbie. "And a lot of people want to distance themselves from their working class roots now.

"But that is all wrong. Because the working man is honest, decent and hard-working.

"He is something to be proud of. And people should be proud to drink mild."

But why does the drink have such a strong connection with the working class?

Essentially it was cheaper than bitter, since it was sold before fully maturing.

(Which also explains the name. Milde is an Old English word meaning 'new' or 'fresh'.)

Another reason it was cheap was that pub landlords traditionally dumped slops into it.

It was easier to mess with mild than bitter because the dark colour of the drink hid floating 'extras'.

Of course, the practice no longer takes place.

In fact. Debbie says these days mild is more of a health cordial. "Traditional mild is a food," she says. "Simple as that. It is full of vitamins and minerals, not like all those terrible lagers."

New-fangled fizzy beers happen to be Debbie's pet peeve.

"Lager was still available, even in the old days," she says. "But it was only supplied in up-market places, like the Titanic.

"It was always obvious that the drink was no good. Look what happened on the Titanic!"

By the 1960s, lager was making inroads into the British market, when it became popular as a lighter, frothier drink for women.

But most blokes weren't convinced.

"I can remember when nobody would drink next to a man who ordered lager for himself," says Debbie, who lives in Coseley. "Only gentlemen of a particular persuasion wanted any of that."

The next generation of blokes turned their backs on the booze of their fathers.

Lager was lionised' mild melted into the murky past.

But Debbie, 45, believes the times they are achanging. Mild is back in town.

"I've managed to convert many of the tourists who come into the pub," she winks. "Once they've had a sip, they don't need much converting.

"Anyway, people are becoming nostalgic for the old days. It's trendy to be nostalgic. And it's trendy to drink mild."

Working in a museum, Debbie is part of the past but even in modern pubs, mild is increasing in popularity.

At the Old Swan in Netherton, pub tenant Tim Newey, 47, brews his own mild - named Dark Swan - on the premises.

The tar-coloured brew is smooth, with just a hint of nuttiness.

A bit like Steve Martin's stand-up routine.

It also goes down a treat and has won several awards.

"I don't think mild will ever be the most popular drink in my pub," admits Tim. "But it does compete for attention in its own gentle way.

"As more people become interested in a variety of different beers, hopefully they will be willing to give mild a chance."

So perhaps the idea of Liam, Robbie and David sipping on a pint of Black Swan isn't that crazy after all.

Watch this space.

lorne_jackson@mrn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

CHEERS: Debbie Boddison at the Bottle & Glass Inn' TOP BREW: Tim Newey at the Old Swan in Netherton
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 7, 2006
Words:741
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