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All Eyes on Cyclops

As Cyclops celebrates ten years, it’s time to take stock of this beer-tasting scheme and evaluate its success.

Everards Tiger Glass Tasting NotesCyclops was the brainwave of David Bremner, now Marketing Director at Robinsons Brewery, and was an initiative to make it easier for consumers to taste and enjoy beer and to help brewers and pubs sell more beer. Gone were the flowery or technical descriptions of beer which many beer drinkers found so baffling, and in its place were simple, straightforward descriptions of what each beer looks, smells and tastes like, using three to four words next to symbols of an eye, nose and mouth. The descriptions are produced by the independent team working out of the laboratory at Everards brewery and are agreed with the brewers themselves.

The name ‘Cyclops’ started out as a working name which stuck. David Bremner explains:

“I came up with the name Cyclops as we were using a large picture of an eye next to the description of what each beer looked like. As many people know, Cyclops was a one-eyed giant in Greek mythology. The whole concept of our Cyclops scheme was to be very visual rather than wordy, as I thought that this was important when it came to describing beer to non experts and helping to demystify it. Market research that we did at the time backed up this belief.

“Calling it Cyclops proved a bit controversial but I think the industry isn’t worried about what it’s called any more and the most important thing about the scheme is the fact that it works; it sells beer and makes it easier for beer drinkers to choose and appreciate beer.”

To date 418 breweries have had their beers analysed and Cyclops has provided tasting notes for 2525 beers including over 100 keg beers.

Cyclops has become the “go to” description for many of the UK’s main cask wholesalers to help licensees understand more about new beers before they select a guest programme.  This list includes: Punch, Carlsberg, Heineken and Greene King. Indeed, Punch found that brands on Finest Cask which have been accredited by Cyclops outperform the others by 6.9% and have made accreditation a condition of the Finest Cask Scheme.

Many pubs, breweries and pub companies use it for training staff and Cyclops tasting notes are often found on the back of pump clips in pubs. It is also used front of house so that customers can more easily choose a beer. Heineken, for example, use it on the front of pump clips for guest beers to help consumers understand more about what they are about to buy. All related research, such as market research from CAMRA, shows that there is a demand from consumers for a tasting scheme using simplified tasting notes such as Cyclops and the annual Cask Report recommends using Cyclops in pubs as a marketing tool.

The Cyclops website, www.cyclopsbeer.co.uk, lists all the beers and allows users to find breweries near them and to rate their favourite beers and find others with a similar profile. All accredited beers are available on the CaskFinder App which is relaunching in October. Primary ingredients are now included, when provided by the breweries, as consumers demand more information about ingredients such as malts and hops. The Cyclops scheme now also includes keg, canned and bottled beers in response to industry feedback and requests.

David Bremner concludes “The scheme has come a long way in ten years and we have assessed over 2000 beers which is a sizeable proportion of the market. I think that the relaunch of the CaskFinder App will help take it to an ever larger audience and I really hope that more pubs can use it to sell more beer, whether cask or keg, taking advantage of consumer awareness of local breweries and ingredients and the huge upsurge of interest in craft beer.”