many happy returns

Our beer columnist David Holliday of Moon Gazer Ale talks about a birthday brew that celebrates an old world style.

For those of you that know and enjoy Moon Gazer Ale, you know we like to celebrate all that is Norfolk, and in particular Maris Otter barley. You will also know that we love to follow a bit of tradition and pop a contemporary twist on it.

While many new wave brewers will have you believe they have invented new beer styles – and indeed some have – the reality is that there ain’t a whole lot that hasn’t been brewed over the last 2000 years and on so many occasions, brewers’ latest concoctions owe their roots to centuries old brews!

As is the case when it came to celebrating our 10th anniversary by brewing Bouchart X – a mild at
10% abv. 

Crikey came the cries; ‘milds aren’t that strong; they are cheap and weak dark ales’ and apparently only enjoyed by folk who look and talk like Andy Capp.

How wrong can you be? Milds were originally a lot stronger – sometimes quite a lot – and the mild referred not to strength but to the low hopping rate and low bitterness and freshness, moving away from the practice of drinking aged beers. 

Soon these strong, fresh and yes, even golden ‘milds’, were Britain’s favourite tipple. 

Then along came World War I and the need to raise taxes – step in a Chancellor to tax the most popular beer. Brewers responded, reducing the amount of tax they paid by lowering the beer strength. In World War II, the same thing happened, and it did with each subsequent need to raise taxes. So, by the 1970s, ‘mild’ had indeed become weaker and darker – designed as much by the tax man as the brewers!

That said, it is a style that we love, a style where the malts shine through and complex flavours swirl around the tongue. 

That’s why for our birthday brew we decided to super charge our dark mild Bouchart –upscaling it from its 4.9% abv to a rather grandiose Bouchart X – with the X for both the 10% and 10th anniversary.

Essentially, we used the same ingredients – with a bit of tweaking to maintain the balance – and we also wanted to add a bit more darkness, so we’ve introduced some Cara Special three, a dark German malt that adds colour without any associated bitterness.

As you would expect, the backbone of the malt comes from Norfolk Maris Otter – the star of so, so many Moon Gazer ales – with a rich complexity coming from the addition of chocolate malt, Crystal 240, and a touch of wheat. This gives Bouchart’s trademark liquorice, biscuit malt flavour, while the use of British hops Pilgrim and Goldings add a touch of blackcurrant, honey, and spice notes. 

A beer to be savoured – a simple, unfussy recipe but one which delivers on so many levels. 

It is an approach that suits us well and has stood us in good stead for a decade, and hopefully
will do so for many more to come. 


  • Visit to find out more.
  • Also check out Samantha’s delicious chocolate cake, made with the original Bouchart, on our website. 

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