History and Information on Mitchell's and Butler's Brewery Limited of Cape Hill at Smethwick in the county of Staffordshire.

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Mitchell's and Butler's Limited

Despite being associated with Birmingham, this brewery started life in Smethwick and remained across the boundary in Cape Hill rather than in Birmingham. Not that Black Country folk claim the brewery for themselves as it was located in one of those grey areas where it was not quite in the traditional boundaries of the Black Country and yet not geographically in Birmingham.

The closure of the Cape Hill Brewery of Mitchell's and Butler's marked the end of a brewing epoch in the Birmingham and the Black Country. Trading for more than a century, the company rose to become one of the region's largest breweries. Mitchell's and Butler's was founded in 1898 following the merger of Henry Mitchell & Co. Ltd and Butler's Crown Brewery Ltd.

Born on November 9th 1837, Henry Mitchell entered the brewing trade at the Crown Inn at Oldbury Road, Smethwick, a homebrew pub kept by his father. The early Victorian period was the era of the privately managed homebrew house rather than brewery-owned establishments. These became widespread following the Duke of Wellington's Beerhouse Act of 1830. The Act, designed to curb the rise of gin consumption and to by-pass local magistrates' legislation, allowed any householder or ratepayer, on payment of two guineas to the Excise, to sell beer from their property. The majority of beer houses produced their own ales in the back yard. However, the beers varied considerably from brew to brew, due in part to the lack of training, cleanliness, poor quality malt, hops and contaminated water. Some publicans opted to employ a visiting brewer for one or two days of the week. Quite often it was a practical consideration, for the publican was generally overstretched in terms of working hours. The policy of employing a visiting brewer brought brewing expertise to the premises and consequently the beers produced had a level of consistency. An alternative was to buy beers from a common brewer. These were brewers whose ales developed a strong reputation and sold, not only in the homebrew house, but to other public houses and beer shops in the locality. It was as a common brewer that Henry Mitchell made a name for himself in the 1860s. Henry took over the Crown Inn from his father in 1861. As a common brewer, he produced beers such as Light Mild Ale for the Crown Inn and other pubs in the surrounding area. The beers proved highly popular and increased demand led to the construction of a large purpose-built brewery next to the Crown Inn. The building was erected in 1866 but within just a few years was unable to produce the quantity of beers required, such was the meteoric success of Henry Mitchell's business. In the early months of 1877 the growing company acquired a fourteen acre site at Cape Hill, then open fields. In March 1877 an Artesian Well was sunk and work started on the construction of a new brewery. The first brew at Mitchell's Cape Hill Brewery took place in July 1879.

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