Asked how the tie-up with Iron Maiden started, Robinsons director of marketing David Bremner told BeverageDaily.com that the band approached the brewer, having learnt about a beer it produced with Manchester band Elbow.
“I think they saw that we had done the deal with Elbow, and decided they wanted to get on board too. I must admit we were a bit nervous – because you need to get the brand associations right,” Bremner said.
Stockport-based Robinsons invited frontman Bruce Dickinson in for blind taste tests ahead of producing Trooper (4.8% ABV cask, 4.7% bottle), and the rocker was able to name three out of 10 beers in a blind tasting session. “So he passed with flying colors,” Bremner said.
Rock singer ‘so involved’ in beer development
“Bruce has been brilliant,” Bremner added. “We’ve probably met him five or six times now, and he pulled the first pint last Thursday. In terms of the beer itself, Bruce has been so involved – he’s chosen the color, the ABV, the ingredients.”
Partnering with Iron Maiden had been a “big door opener”, Bremner said, noting Robinsons’ flag beer, Old Tom, was voted World’s Best Ale 2009, but only has a couple of thousand Facebook likes.
Meanwhile, Bremner said that Trooper (‘Iron Maiden Beer’) already had 53,000 Facebook likes – while Iron Maiden itself has 8.8m fans, 250,000 people talking about them at any one time – and was only just behind Wells Bombardier in the real ale Facebook stakes.
“In terms of helping sales – 120 key buyers turned up to the launch. For instance, we’ve had one export order to South Africa, not just for Trooper but for all our beers,” Bremner said.
Robinsons distribute its beer in 350 UK pubs, and launched Trooper into 30 last Thursday. “We’ve never had so much pre-demand from abroad – we walked in this morning to 300 emails, mainly from the US and Canada,” Bremner said, noting that Molson Coors was one of the interested parties.
So were such musical tie-ups – with the likes of Elbow and Iron Maiden – opening-up real ales to a new generation of drinkers?
Opening-up real ales to a new audience
Bremner noted Robinsons partnership with TV show Something for the Weekend’s Simon Rimmer, “probably the funky chef of the moment” to produce beers that pair with chicken, steak and curry.
“So we are opening-up real ales to a new audience there, people who are perhaps not entirely au fait with beer and food matching into the category,” he added.
“What a partnership with someone like Iron Maiden does is encourage people from Chile or wherever to try English ale. They don’t care if they like it or not. They’ll buy it because of the Iron Maiden link.
“But if they do like it – they might be tempted to buy it again. And that can’t be a bad thing for our industry.”
Robinsons currently produces around 70,000 barrels of beer per annum in total, including its own brands, and asked if the brewer might need to expand to cater for demand prompted by the Iron Maiden tie-up, Bremner said it had just spent £12m on the brewery in 2012/13.
“The only change is that we’re now brewing six days/week, three times/day [to cater for pre-orders in excess of 300,000 pints] We’ve never done that in 175 years,” he said.
Would Robinsons consider a broader partnership with Iron Maiden, other beers? “I wouldn’t want to commit to anything now,” Bremner said. “A lot of work goes into something like this. And I think we’ve probably pushed the music and celebrity associations as far as we want to after this.”