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Bruce Dickinson and John Robinson: Iron Maiden involved in development of beers right down to C02 levels
 

Robinson’s scores huge success with Iron Maiden-backed beers

When, four years ago, Stockport-based family brewer Frederic Robinson announced it was going to brew beer with rock legends Iron Maiden, some observers might have dismissed it as a marketing gimmick. But that’s not possible any longer.

Trooper, a 4.7% abv ale inspired by a song about the Charge of the Light Brigade, is now Robinson’s best selling beer. A total of 15 million pints have been sunk. The brand is stocked nationwide in pubs and supermarkets, and in 55 countries around the world.

It has spawned two limited edition spin-offs under the Iron Maiden banner, Trooper 666 and Red ‘n’ Black porter. The third, a 6% abv Belgian-style beer called Hallowed, will be available in bottles for four months from October.

The unlikely relationship has, indeed, become very important to the Robinson’s business. According to brands manager John Robinson the extra volumes help to improve efficiency and bring down costs at the brewery.

And excitement over Trooper has raised awareness of Robinson’s: “It’s put us on the map in places that wouldn’t have heard of us otherwise.”

Yet John Robinson admits the family were a little sceptical when they were first approached by Iron Maiden’s management about doing a beer with them. It had already had some success brewing a beer for another rock band, Elbow, “but that made sense for us because the band drank in one of our pubs.

“Originally, we were a bit wary about the idea of a heavy metal band linking up with a sleepy brewery in Cheshire. It didn’t sound like a match, but once we’d delved into it we saw that Iron Maiden’s fan base was our perfect target market.

“People think all their fans have long hair and tattoos and are a bit grungy, but that’s absolutely not true. They span three generations from late teens to late 60s – the market is whopping!”

From the beginning, though, the brewer wanted to make sure the band was serious, and the project wouldn’t end up as a short-lived gimmick.

Reassurance came in the shape of lead singer Bruce Dickinson.

“He’s not only a massive ale fan, he seriously knows his stuff,” said Robinson. “We did a blind tasting of our beers and he successfully named seven out of the 10 - so we thought we’d give it a stab.

“It’s not just liquid merchandising, a name on a label, Bruce gets involved. The band has a say in the beers right down to the CO2 levels, and they really push them to their fans.”

The instant popularity of Trooper caught the brewery by surprise at the beginning, with it quickly becoming the fastest selling beer in the Morrisons supermarket chain.

John Robinson explained, “We didn’t quite appreciate how many and how widespread Iron Maiden’s fan base is. To keep up with demand we were soon brewing three times a day, five days a week, for the first time in the brewery’s history.

“It drives footfall into pubs, too, as fans seek it out. On our own estate pubs that stock it sell twice as much beer as those that don’t, and we’re trying to do research to show that’s true generally.

“And it isn’t just the fans, now. Another reason for Trooper’s success is that it’s a good beer and it doesn’t clash with other brands in our portfolio. People who aren’t Maiden fans are definitely drinking it.”

The limited edition brews reflect a beer market in which people want to try something different, Robinson explained, “and it creates a bit of excitement.”

Hallowed will be followed by another special beer in 2018, “but we don’t know what that’ll be yet. Bruce will decide, and the band’s touring plans will have an impact on exactly what we do.

“Iron Maiden just wants to keep the idea going, and who knows, the beers could well outlast the band!”

Phil Mellows
18th August 2017

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