William Shakespeare enjoyed a glass of beer – “a quart of ale is a dish for a king” – and he would surely approve of a local campaign for what he would call the Darling Milds of May.

The South Herts branch of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has teamed up with 16 local publicans to stage a Festival of Mild over the weekend of 18th and 19th.

Mild is a beer style in urgent need of support. It was the dominant type of beer consumed in this country in the 19th and early 20th centuries but has been in steep decline, replaced by paler beers such as lager and IPA.

One reason for the decline is the name Mild. Drinkers think it’s weak and lacking in hops and prefer beers with more alcohol and a hop kick.

So let’s dispel some urban myths about the style. It became popular in the 19th century when drinkers preferred it to porters and stouts that were aged for months in wood and had a sharp acidic character from wild yeasts trapped in oak vessels.

As Britain became an industrialised society, vast numbers of workers in factories and on the land wanted to enjoy beer that could be drunk in quantity and without the lactic character of stout.

Mild doesn’t have to be low in alcohol. This is proved by Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild brewed in Sedgley in the West Midlands. It’s six per cent alcohol and is based on a genuine 1920s recipe, produced on a small plant in the Beacon Hotel.

It’s a fruity beer with a pronounced blackcurrant aroma and palate balanced by spicy hops and dark malt notes.

Mild’s popularity waned as a result of punitive levels of tax imposed on beer in World War One. Then, as the number of people engaged in heavy manual work declined in the last century, many drinkers switched to paler styles such as Bitter.

I’m partial to a glass of Mild and always look out for it on my travels. Particular favourites are Joseph Holt’s Mild in Manchester and Brain’s Dark in Cardiff.

I also favour Batham’s Mild at Brierley Hill in the West Midlands whose Vine pub and brewery also has a Shakespeare connection, with a quotation from The Two Gentlemen of Verona emblazoned on the front of the pub: “Blessings of your heart, you brew good ale”.

But you don’t need to travel far to enjoy Mild as local brewer McMullen of Hertford has AK Original Mild (3.7 per cent) on offer. The beer dates from the founding of the brewery in 1827.

It’s a wonderfully refreshing beer and you will find it in many Macs pubs, including the Peahen at the junction of London Road and Holywell Hill, though you will have to fight your way through the scaffolding and tarpaulins that bedeck the old coaching inn at the moment.

Another fine example of the style is Tring Brewery’s Mansion Mild (3.7 per cent) that is bound to be one of the beers on tap this month.

The pubs involved in the Festival of Mild include the John Bunyan at Colemans Green and in the city the Beehive, the Boot, the Cock, Dylans at the Kings Arms, the Farmers Boy, the Farriers, the Great Northern, the Hare & Hounds, the Lower Red Lion, the Mermaid, the Portland Arms, the Robin Hood, the Six Bells and the White Hart Tap.

Another favourite Mild Ale of mine is Might Oak Brewery’s Oscar Wilde (3.7 per cent), brewed in Maldon in Essex. John Boyce, who founded the brewery in 1996, says the name stems from Cockney rhyming slang.

I grew up in East London and I must confess I never heard anyone ask for "a pint of Oscar" in a local. I must have gone to the wrong pubs.