Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Mitchell & Butler Mild Ale 1935 - 1993

Seeing as I've written about Ansell's Mild, I may as well discuss its West Midlands evil twin, M & B Mild.

As I said in my last post, I wasn't a huge fan of M & B's beers from Cape Hill. A shame, as it was the largest producer of cask beer in the world in the 1970's and 1980's. The Mild was better than Brew XI, but that's not saying very much. The Springfield Brewery in Wolverhampton produced much better Bitter. But last time I forgot to mention the oddest brewery in the Bass group: Highgate.

Why odd? For two reasons. First, it was by a long way their smallest brewery. Second, it only brewed Mild. Which for most large brewing groups would have put it top of their closure list. So why did it stay open? Because it made money and was cheap to run. And its Mild was very popular locally. It wasn't worth their while to close it. Which is how it managed to outlive Cape Hill, something I don't think anyone would have anticipated in the 1960's or 1970's.

Highgate Mild was in a different league to the usual M & B Mild. Probably one of the best Dark Milds in the country. And, believe me, I drank a lot of different Dark Milds in the 1970's and 1980's. Only problem was, outside of the occasional appearance at beer festivals, you had to go to the Black Countryto find it.

It's always fascinating to compare beers that were direct rivals, which was certainly the case with M & B and Ansells, especially in Birmingham itself. More often than not, such beers have very similar specs. That's definitely true here.

Let's kick off with the gravity. Ansells Mild was 1034.8º in 1950, 1038.3º in 1950, 1038º in 1960, and 1033.9º in 1971. That's remarkably similar to the gravity of M & B Mild. And a sign that the two breweries were probably analysing each other's beers. I've a feeling that a large number of breweries must have kept Gravity Books. It's just that most haven't survived.

The degree of attenuation and ABV don't differ much, either. 85% plus attenuation in the 1950's, falling to a more typical level of 70-odd% by the 1970's. And the ABV was around 4% in the 1950's, pretty high for a Mild of that period, falling to a more typical sub 3.5% by the 1970's

The colour of the two beers is also very similar, in the 40 to 45 EBC range. Or not really very dark. More on the cusp between amber and brown.

Looking at the gravity, you might suspect that Highgate Mild was similar to M & B Mild. I suppose they were, but only in a very general sense. When it came to flavour, Highgate was a clear winner.

Mitchell & Butler Mild Ale 1935 - 1993
Year Beer Price size package Acidity FG OG colour ABV App. Atten-uation
1935 Family Ale pint bottled 0.05 1008 1040 34 4.16 80.00%
1949 XX 1/6d pint draught 0.05 1003.9 1034.6 35 Brown 4.00 88.73%
1949 Mild Ale 1/1d pint draught 0.10 1003.5 1034.5 38.5 B 4.04 89.86%
1950 Mild Ale 1/1d pint draught 0.04 1005.4 1034.6 37 Brown 3.80 84.39%
1950 Mild Ale 1/5d pint draught 0.05 1003.8 1034.5 38 B 4.00 88.99%
1950 X 15d pint draught 1038.44 41
1961 Keg Mild 19d pint draught 0.04 1009.9 1038.5 45 3.58 74.29%
1962 Keg Mild 22d pint draught 0.05 1007 1038.3 50 3.91 81.72%
1963 Keg Mild 20d pint draught 0.04 1010.2 1037.9 50 3.46 73.09%
1966 Mild 19d pint draught 0.05 1005 1036.9 45 3.99 86.45%
1972 Mild 11-13p pint draught 1009.8 1034.5 3.20 71.59%
1977 Mild pint draught 1034.6
1977 Highgate Mild pint draught 1034
1979 Mild pint draught 1034.6
1979 Highgate Mild pint draught 1034
1981 Mild pint draught 1034.6
1981 Highgate Mild pint draught 1036
1982 Mild pint draught 1036
1983 Mild pint draught 1035
1983 Highgate Mild pint draught 1036
1986 Mild pint draught 1036
1986 Highgate Mild pint draught 1036
1989 Mild pint draught 1009.8 1036 3.40 72.78%
1989 Highgate Mild pint draught 1011.3 1036 3.20 68.61%
1993 Mild Ale draught 1008.1 1033.5 48 3.3 75.82%
Sources:
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.
Daily Mirror July 10th 1972, page 15.
1993 Real Ale Drinker's Almanac
Good Beer Guide 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1987 and 1990.

6 comments:

Bailey said...

Idle thought: do you think there was much industrial espionage going on? I.e. hanging around a pub near the brewery and slipping a production brewer a fiver to jot down OGs, FGs, hopping rates and so on?

Tom said...

It would be interesting to know what kind of volumes Cape Hill was producing in order to make it the largest cask ale brewery in the world.

Ron Pattinson said...

Bailey,

possibly, but from what I've seen I think breweries just bought the beer and analysed it in their laboratory. Simpler, and you know that you're not being lied to.

Ron Pattinson said...

Tom,

no idea. I'd be interested in finding out, too. There were other breweries - tetley, for example - that were brewing large volumes of cask beer.

Phil said...

Only problem was, outside of the occasional appearance at beer festivals, you had to go to the Black Country

That reminds me - have you turned your attention to Batham's? I wrote about it the other day & am now quietly jonesing for a pint of the stuff - I haven't tasted anything quite like it.

Willie said...

Thanks for all the great stuff on mild, this is from the Express and Star http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2012/06/26/why-mild-ale-is-enjoying-a-revival/beer5a/

you have to love John Clarke