Mighty Oak has been brewing in Essex since 1996, producing traditional cask- and bottle-conditioned ales. Captain Bob is a deep amber, easy-going ale. Maldon Gold is pale, biscuity, and peachy sweet. And the Oscar Wilde Mild is a delicious mix of dark berry sweetness and chocolate malt.
Even if you’ve never been to the UK, you’ve probably heard the name Maldon before. Chefs all over the world swear by its flaky sea salt; “this is my heroin,” confesses celebrity chef and tax avoider Judy King in Orange is the New Black. Cameron Diaz once said the best Christmas present she ever received was “a big bucket of Maldon sea salt“. Truly, it is the gift for the celebrity who has everything.
Just because Maldon is famous for its salt, however, doesn’t mean people know where it is. My American partner assumed that because it’s so fancy, obviously it must be French. For years, she’s pronounced it “Mal-don”, as opposed to the more commonly accepted pronunciation “Mawldun”. Almost as embarrassing as that time she bragged about spotting the famous ballerina “Darcey Boo-sell” on Old Street.
There’s more to Maldon than flaky salt though. For over two decades Mighty Oak has been producing traditional, cask-conditioned ales. Having sampled my drinking buddy’s Brentwood bottles, this is our next stop.
I’ve been drinking Captain Bob for years, yet I still have no idea who he is. Is he a celebrated war hero from the local area? Is this beer named for Robert “Captain Bob” Cottle, host of The Ruff & Reddy Show in the 1960s? Perhaps we’ll never know.
As a beer, however, Captain Bob is what Mighty Oak describes as a deep amber ale. Indeed, it’s closer to copper in appearance with a tight, cream-coloured head. For context here, this is the kind of beer my dad used to drink on a Sunday afternoon right before our roast lunch. For me this is the platonic ideal of beer. I’m always going to love something with this kind of appearance.
The fruit aromas weren’t quite what I was expecting. I pick up red grape and elderflower. In a strange way, it’s a little bit like Schloer. The grape flavours follow onto the palate, accompanied by woody, malty notes and a good helping of lightly toasted white bread. There also a distinct malt sugar sweetness here, aside from any malty flavours. There’s not much of a finish to talk about here but at 3.8%, that’s perhaps not a surprise.
As described on the label, this is an easy going beer. One I’d happily pick up three pints of at the pub to refuel after a long bike ride, before saddling up for a wobbly ride home.
At least here the name is a bit more obvious.
Maldon Gold is a pale gold with a loose, lively white head. Maris Otter malt is immediately apparent on the nose, and follows through to give a satisfying, biscuity flavour. The hop profile starts with grapefruit rind bitterness, but beyond that initial hit lies peach sweetness.
It’s nice, but not as nice as Captain Bob.
Mild puzzles me. It’s a style I see very rarely, outside massive festivals like GBBF; even then there’ll only be a handful available. And yet I’ll often hear people lament the lack of good milds. Not enough to pay for them, it would seem.
Fortunately for the lamenters, Mighty Oak is on hand. I wasn’t aware Cockney rhyming slang had made it out as far as Maldon, but this beer would appear to suggest otherwise.
A ruddy off-black body topped by a lively and generous cream head, Oscar Wilde makes a striking first impression. The aroma is striking too, though mostly with the tart scent of carbonation at first. Beneath that, however, lies creamy chocolate and coffee.
Chocolate leads on the palate, but it’s soon joined by red berry flavours: raspberries and cherries. There’s the barest hint of that patent malt dry bitterness but that pairs nicely with the berry and chocolate sweetness. It’s the dry bitterness that lasts into the finish, however, which gives me even more encouragement to take a second and third sip.
I’m reserving judgement on whether milds are underrepresented as a style. But this particular beer? This I like a lot.