Dark Mild & Ram Tam in Hertfordshire
Keighley and St Albans are roughly 190 miles apart. The former’s in West Yorkshire, the latter's in South Hertfordshire. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord is ubiquitous down here and as far down as the south coast. Boltmaker, after winning Champion Beer of Britain 2014, is also seen in pubs across the Thames valley and beyond. What isn’t seen are the other staples from Timothy Taylor’s portfolio. They seem tucked into their West Riding bolthole in the Pennines.
A few days ago, these rare gems were showcased in the Six Bells during an evening of food pairing. I had to work that evening but today I finally managed to down a pint of two beers I’ve been aware of for years from the brewery website - but that have never been within my grasp: Dark Mild (3.5 ABV) and Ram Tam (4.3 ABV).
The dark mild isn’t as good as I'd hoped - it’s much better. Topped with a toasty brown froth (more often now seen crowning imperial porters), it has a chocolate note on the aroma. Drawing it down, it’s as smooth as milk but feels so much more nourishing. The carbonation tingles without inveigling on the creamy mouthfeel. It just tastes so grown up. A coffee bitterness lingers on the roof of the mouth and I’m left with a sensation like I’ve just eaten liquorice strings.
The Ram Tam (above) is jet black with a brief light beige foam. It has more of a roast coffee edge on the nose but on the palate still reminds me of the mild. It’s more tangy though - a bit like a stronger, tangier, sweeter version. There’s cocoa but it’s a dark brooding note in the background. There’s also a treacly aftertaste. Towards the end, this ale’s a headless black oil oozing with aroma and taste. There’s reason for this that Timothy Taylor might not like….
As Jonathan Meades once illustrated, Britain has an irony curtain that terminates somewhere in the Midlands above Birmingham (start at 3:35). Where does the sparkler curtain stand? I sense at about the same latitude. These beers were served without that sprinkler head so didn’t convulse in an orgy of impounded oxygen and as such, had no head to speak of. Depending on where you live, it's either heresy or good practice.
The Dark Mild gives me faith for a style I too often write off as porter-lite. I hope these ales make their way down here again. The mild’s smoothness can’t be matched.