I lived in Liverpool for nine years or so and still have huge affection for this city which has seen both ups and downs. I was there in the "Militant" and Derek Hatton years and am pleased to see it seems now firmly headed into a bright future. One blot remains on my Liverpool reflections. My beloved Higsons Brewery is gone. Well more precisely, my beloved Higsons Bitter has gone, though the magnificent red brick brewery still brews at Stanhope Street, now the home of Cains who once owned it many moons ago. It is a complicated story.
Higsons, local legend and the cask beer I cut my teeth on, was taken over by Boddingtons, who sold their breweries to Whitbread, who sold Higsons to some Danes, who sold it to the Dusani Brothers, who now run it very successfully as the Robert Cain Brewery. But what of Higgies Bitter? It was moved round various Whitbread breweries, bastardised and ruined, before being de-listed. Complete shits were Whitbread. Latterly they couldn't run a piss up in a brewery and rightly they got out of it. They are not missed.
I knew that there had been an attempt to revive the beers and the recipes and though I'd tried a fairly revolting test brew at the Liverpool Beer Festival a couple of years ago, I'd heard little more until recently. Higson's Brewery has now moved back to Liverpool and are brewing there. I'm told the outfit is run by an ex Higson's Head Brewer who has both the original recipe and, more importantly, he has the yeast. While performing my duties at the NWAF, I came across two casks which made my heart leap. They are pictured above. As soon as the beer was available, I shot over to try it. I was amazed. It wasn't quite there, but it was recognisable. This taste was imprinted in my mind and there it was. I hadn't tasted it since they stopped brewing it in Liverpool in 1989. It was Higgies. Perhaps a little more subdued, but very much on its way to being my lost pint. I am enthralled. Good luck to these lads. I know there are those who say once a brewery has gone, its gone. It's a point of view, but isn't there something exciting about recreating something from the past? This was a classic beer. Uncompromisingly bitter and very, very drinkable. Something as good as Higson's Bitter didn't deserve to be lost in the first place. Maybe, just maybe, it is found again.
The sign above is from my own collection. Each Higson's Pub had one outside the door. Sorry about the grainy picture quality.
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