The George on the corner sold Timothy Taylor's Golden Best, but was on very poor form and basically undrinkable. We put this down to lack of sales and poor cellar keeping. So far so bad.
Thank goodness for the Railway in Portwood! Their 'One mild at all times' policy has got to be commended. We ordered lots of Allgates mild (4.4%), and were met with the question 'Are you sure? That's mild y'know.' To which we explained the purpose of our visit, and were met with amazement. Apparently Mild is so unpopular these days that when a mixed gender and age group all order it, the bar staff assume that you must have made some terrible mistake. More members of the Squad then arrived and bolstered our numbers to 9. We ordered so much mild that people at the bar began spontaneously ordering mild themselves, curious as to what the fuss was, and soon the whole bar area was awash with many glasses of mild. We'd created a mildstorm!
The mild itself was excellent, and we soon ordered more, and inevitably it immediately ran out. Fortunately, it was soon replaced with a barrel of Pictish Black Gold Mild (3.5%), which was also excellent. We stayed here so long that we had to rush to our last pub of the evening.
The Sun and Castle had promised me that they had Holt's mild, when I rang them earlier in the day, but when we got there, it turns out that the staff member didn't know the difference between cask and keg, and there was only keg. It was in other regards a typical Holts pub. Karaoke was in full swing, and the decor was eccentric.
So what have we learnt? Well, firstly, that Mild, the drink of the working man is basically gone. With the extremely honourable exception of the Railway, you cannot expect to find it anywhere in central Stockport as a matter of course in a drinkable state. There are a number of real ale pubs that sell it sometimes, but you would need to ring round in advance.
I would guess that with duty making such a large proportion of the cost of a pint, the price differential between mild and other drinks is now a much smaller percentage of the cost of a pint, and therefore much less of a factor in a drinker's decision. With micro brewers, the milds are usually a little stronger, and therefore cost the same as a basic bitter, removing the price element altogether.
Drinkers have moved onto stronger beers, and lagers. A weak, cheap beer is no longer possible or desirable in the regular market place. Like a fancy, heavy glass bottle being mistaken for the quality of the drink within, so the price and ABV of a beer is often mistaken for quality.
What can be done? Well, the point of this new group is to raise awareness among landlords, CAMRA groups, and brewers, not to mention other drinkers, of the merits and interest in Mild. By being a largeish group of people, and therefore more valuable to pubs than a single drinker, we can have a positive effect on the awareness levels. In the Railway, we ordered so much mild that it had an immediate knock-on effect with the other drinkers in the pub, one that won't have gone unnoticed by the staff. We will use social media to inform useful parties of our interest and enthusiasm. Our visit to the Railway was tweeted at Stockport and South Manchester CAMRA, who retweeted it. Their several thousand followers will now be slowly gaining awareness of a group of dedicated mild drinkers.
By asking for it, even if it isn't there, we can demonstrate interest. By visiting places that sell it, and buying it en bloc, we can deliver a visual message of support. By backing up this activity with social media, we create a positive and public message, and encourage others to seek it out and ask for it.
Booze it or lose it!