Naming your beer 'mild' in an age when the art of subtlety has withered and tastes tend towards extremes is a risky business. So is starting a microbrewery with only one beer in your portfolio.
However, with Taranaki's White Cliff's Brewery now approaching twenty years with mild ale as their flagship product, that approach has clearly worked well for them.
Mike's Mild Ale is a very good example of this old English style, with just a hint of dry antipodean flavour to add some edge. Although much darker in the glass, this mild is full of flavours that are not too far flung from the good old 'kiwi brown' and makes a great first step into the world of craft ales. Compared to the classic English milds there is less malt sweetness left in Mike's, thanks to a hungry Irish strain of yeast, and this allows the wonderfully subtle malt notes of cocoa, caramel and toasted grains to come through and tease the senses. It's quite dry and slender through the mouth, without being thin or watery, but as it warms it really begins to show off it's charm of roasted chocolate malt and the firm nutty base of crystal and pale malts. At 4% it's very sessionable (the short way of saying 'you can drink lots and still be able to hold a good conversation'), which makes it a great Autumn evening drop.
Some people promote Mike's Mild on the fact that it's made with rain water and 100% organic ingredients [that should read "despite the organic ingredients," Ed.], or that it's won medals in both of New Zealand's international beer awards. First and foremost for me, however, is that it's an exceptionally drinkable session ale that is far from meek.
LINKS: White Cliff's Brewery Mild Ale