I had a soft spot for Springfield Bitter, which was a lovely beer when in good condition. I can remember serving it at Ally Pally one year and was amazed at how good a head it formed served by gravity. Nice clean flavour, too.
Springfield was brewed at the former William Butler brewery in Wolverhampton. William Butler started brewing in the 1840's and built a new brewery at Springfield in 1874. The company was bought by M & B in 1960 and closed in 1991. M & B merged with Bass in 1961.
Drinking in and around Birmingham in the 1970's, I can remember Springfield being irritatingly difficult to find. Especially as the beer sold in M & B pubs instead, Brew XI, was much inferior, despite being stronger. Pretty crap, if I'm being honest. And, inevitably, Bass Charrington eventually closed the brewery.
Highgate has a particularly weird history. Bought by M & B in 1939, it was slated for almost immediate closure, but was saved by WW II. Under wartime rules, each brewery was allocated raw materials, based on their output before war started. By keeping Highgate open, M & B got more raw materials. Bizarrely, it not only survived the war but all the other M & B breweries, including the company's home base of Cape Hill. Bass flogged the brewery off and it continued for a while as an independent company, before going through a series of ownerships. I'm not sure if it's still open or not. I hope it is.
In the 1970's and 1980's Highgate was famous for only brewing Mild. The only such brewery in the world. Though, as you can see from the table, at a certain point a Bitter and Old Ale were also brewed.
Highgate Mild was another excellent beer that M & B seemed to want to hide. I'm not sure I ever found it in the wild around Brum. The only times I can recall drinking it were at beer festivals and in the White Horse in Parsons Green.
As a special bonus, I've included some beers from William Butler from before the takeover. The Bitter Ale is, I assume, the forerunner of Springfield Bitter.
|Beers from Mitchell & Butler's other breweries|
|1977||Mitchell & Butler (Walsall)||Highgate Mild||Mild||draught||1034|
|1979||Mitchell & Butler (Walsall)||Highgate Mild||Mild||draught||1034|
|1981||Mitchell & Butler (Walsall)||Highgate Mild||Mild||draught||1036|
|1983||Mitchell & Butler (Walsall)||Highgate Mild||Mild||draught||1036|
|1986||Mitchell & Butler (Walsall)||Highgate Mild||Mild||draught||1036|
|1989||Mitchell & Butler (Walsall)||Highgate Mild||Mild||draught||1011.3||1036||3.20||68.61%|
|1983||Mitchell & Butler (Walsall)||Highgate Best||Pale Ale||draught||1036|
|1983||Mitchell & Butler (Walsall)||Highgate Old||Old Ale||draught||1055|
|1977||Mitchell & Butler (Wolverhampton)||Springfield Bitter||Pale Ale||draught||1035.9|
|1979||Mitchell & Butler (Wolverhampton)||Springfield Bitter||Pale Ale||draught||1035.9|
|1981||Mitchell & Butler (Wolverhampton)||Springfield Bitter||Pale Ale||draught||1037|
|1983||Mitchell & Butler (Wolverhampton)||Springfield Bitter||Pale Ale||draught||1037|
|1986||Mitchell & Butler (Wolverhampton)||Springfield Bitter||Pale Ale||draught||1036|
|1989||Mitchell & Butler (Wolverhampton)||Springfield Bitter||Pale Ale||draught||1009||1036||3.50||75.00%|
|Good Beer Guide 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1987, 1990.|
|William Butler beers|
|1930||Amber Ale||Amber Ale||6d||pint||bottled||0.06||1013.4||1036.3||2.96||63.09%|
|1930||Bitter Ale||Pale Ale||7.5d||pint||bottled||0.06||1010.2||1049.9||5.17||79.56%|
|1959||Black Satin Sweet Stout||Stout||14.5d||halfpint||bottled||1016.6||1042.2||300||3.30||60.66%|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/001|
|Whitbread Gravity book held at the London Metropolitan Archives, document number LMA/4453/D/02/002|
Most of the information about the history of the various M & B breweries is taken from "The Brewing Industry: A Guide to Historical Records", edited by L. M. Richmond and Alison Turton, 1990, page 236.