>Highgate History

 

The brewery, in Sandy Mount Road, has been making beer since 1899.

Its Highgate Dark Mild is one of the best-known beers in the region. And in 2002 it revived the famous Davenports brand. The Birmingham beer used to be known for its television jingle of “beer at home means Davenports”, but had disappeared from pubs in 1986 when the brewery on Bath Row, Birmingham was closed.

“It’s business as usual,” he said. “The current orders are being met and their intention is to carry on brewing.”

Highgate used to be owned by Birmingham pub giant Mitchells & Butlers. It came close to closure in 1995 when its owners decided they wanted to close what was then the smallest brewery in their company.

It was saved by a management buyout, and was later bought by the Global Star pub group.

The brewery was also linked with about a dozen pubs around Birmingham, including the City Tavern near Five Ways – the only untouched Victorian pub in the city centre and the only pub still to carry the Davenports brand.

The pubs were owned by a different part of the company, and are not included in the purchase of the brewery.

Highgate Brewery facts and figures:

* Brewing started at Highgate Brewery on July 1, 1899 and the company’s first two employees were Fred Broadstock and Bill Jones. At the time beer cost 2d a pint

* The brewery was established by James A. Fletcher, son of the proprietor of Fletcher Brothers, an old established wines and spirits business in Ablewell Street, Walsall. It was built to to supply the ten licensed houses they already owned

* The brewery in Sandy Mount Road is a grade 2 listed, Victorian Gravity Tower brewery, where the brewing process flows down logically from floor to floor using gravity to do most of the work. Until the 1920s much of the brewery’s machinery including the malt mil was driven by a steam engine on the ground floor. As electricity was unreliable for some time the steam was kept on stand-by until 1935

* In 1903 Highgate absorbed the publican brewery at The Oak Inn Green Lane, and a further publican brewery at The Royal Exchange in 1904

* During the First World War Yardley and Ingram’s Bloxwich Brewery, and John Lords Town Brewery joined Highgate in a pooling agreement concentrating brewing production at Highgate Brewery

* Highgate in 1914 also became famous for employing what was reputed to be the first ever woman head brewer – Agnes Mountfield, who remained until 1939

* In 1924 Walsall Breweries Proprietory Ltd was formed when James A. Fletcher and John Lord agreed to take over Arthur Beebee’s Malt Shovel Brewery and its 11 pubs

* On July 22, 1939 Mitchells and Butlers completed the purchase of the Highgate Brewery, Walsall Breweries Proprietory Ltd, and all premises of John Lord, including the 50 pubs Highgate Brewery and John Lord had been operating

* During the Second World War the local Auxillary Fire Service was stationed at Highgate Brewery, in case there was a direct hit

* In 1956 Butlers of Wolverhampton joined the M&B group, and distribution of Highgate beers was at the Springfield Brewery

* After the 1970s the national trend for lighter bitter ales and the introduction of lager along with a reduction in heavy industry and changes in lifestyle all took their toll on sales

* In 1982 staff were reduced from a level of 65 in the brewery’s heyday to just 22. 1985 saw staff cut further to just 12

* In late 1995 a press release was prepared to announce the closure of Highgate Brewery, which at that time was the smallest brewery in the Bass brewing empire. But on the eve of closure former Bass marketing manager Steve Nuttall, and current brewing director Neil Bain headed a buy out team negotiating the £600,000 rescue