2018 marks a special milestone for Robinsons Brewery, 180 years of brewing beer and running pubs. In honour of their impressive lineage and as a sign of their commitment to the future, the Stockport-based family brewers have announced an exciting review of their beer brands; which includes the launch of a brand-new orange pale ale called One Eye’d Jack in can ‘for all you sea dogs’, a new 3.5% abv hoppy golden ale to address trends for lower alcohol, and plans to modify Dizzy Blonde after 10 years of growth.
This statement comes ahead of the brewery’s 180th anniversary on September 29th 2018.
David Bremner, Director of Marketing for Robinsons Brewery, comments: “Following a careful research phase, we are delighted to announce that we have some new beers joining the family; including an orange canned craft beer, a lower abv hoppy golden cask ale, and a number of new bottled beers. We are currently reviewing our beer portfolio, monitoring sales and trends, and adapting brands at an appropriate time. This isn’t about reinventing the wheel or saying goodbye to traditional cask; which is the bloodline of our brewery. It’s about evolution and innovation working hand in hand, forward thinking with the very best traditions, to give our customers quality, choice, and variety in a modern beer market. Our customers can still expect a great pint in a classic British pub, 7 days a week, but new product development, driven by an innovation team made up of our customers, our licensees and our brewing team, will be key to 2018 and 2019.”
Robinsons, the brewery, the pubs, and the beers, has a harmonious balance of the old and the new, tradition and heritage, evolution and innovation. Some of their family of ales have matured gracefully over the last 120 years such as Old Tom (Winner of World’s Best Ale and World’s Best Designed Beer) and Unicorn (a gold medal winner at the Brewing Industry International Awards), whilst some of their adventurous younger ales – such as Dizzy Blonde, Trooper (which has sold 22 million pints into over 55 countries worldwide)and Light Brigade (created by Iron Maiden in support of Help for Heroes) – reflect recent changes to the market.
Ben Robinson, Director of Sales, comments: “Due to demand from retailers and consumers, cans have undergone a renaissance and are now firmly part of the craft beer world. So, when it came to One Eye’d Jack, we wanted to trial something a little different. The beer market is moving fast and, with the advances in brewing technologies, packaging solutions, consumer preferences, changing palates, and social media, it is an increasingly crowded and challenging market. Fortunately, Robinsons is not averse to change! We are always looking to adapt our brands, and indeed our business, work done in the last year to Trooper, Old Tom and Cumbria Way demonstrates this; as does our significant investment into our brew house. In addition to brewing great tasting beers, we know how to listen to our customers and make shrewd decisions when it comes to market trends. We’ve been doing both for 180 years; we wouldn’t be here today otherwise.”
One such trend that the family brewers are responding to is that of an increasingly health conscious population who desire less alcohol. Robinsons will launch a 3.5% abv hoppy golden ale to address the matter.
“1 in 5 millennials abstain from alcohol,” explains David, “and the rest drink less than previous generations, but cutting down alcohol doesn’t have to mean cutting down on visits to the pub. There’s a misconception that low abv equates to low flavour; this is something we’re keen to disprove. In fact, we’ve already trialled this with great success in Cumbria with a beer called Overhang.”
Continuing the craft theme, Robinsons will also launch 10 innovative limited-edition beers per year; six seasonal ales and four White Label Brews (collaborations with licensees and customers) to provide opportunities for new product development and for their customers to sample something extra special. In addition, Robinsons will venture into the world of Craft Keg, with two new beers yet to be revealed.
David adds: “Craft Keg is a great premiumisation opportunity for licensees and customers. We already offer this via our craft keg club, which rotates more than 25 beers a year with success, so we thought it was high time to show what our brew house can do and launch some craft keg beers of our own in house.”
Finally, Robinsons have confirmed that, after a decade of success, they have plans to rebrand their infamous Dizzy Blonde: David explains: “Dizzy Blonde is our best-selling cask beer outside our own pub estate and 10 years after the launch is still in growth. The current label was designed in homage to the classic 1940’s Memphis belle style pin up ‘nose art’ of WW2 aircrafts which was so iconic of the era. However, it is no secret that, in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the backlash against sexual harassment and abuse, Dizzy Blonde has been the focal point of the sexism debate in the beer industry. Despite the fact that Dizzy Blonde is a much-loved brand by many, we don’t have our heads in the sand. It is time to acknowledge that the presentation is not universally accepted by a society that strives for, and celebrates, equality.”
“As a family business of 180 years, we take our responsibilities seriously, and the last thing we’re looking to do is cause offense or marginalise anyone. We are a strong advocator of equal rights within our business and have been since our company origins. From our female pioneer Emma Robinson, who owned the brewery ‘lock, stock, and barrel’ after her husband and Founder Frederic died in 1890, to female workers who kept the beer flowing during the war years, we have a history of strong women at Robinsons. Women who proudly brew, test, package, sell, market, and drink beer. Women who enjoy beer for the same reasons that men do — for the beer itself.”
“The quality and drinkability of Dizzy Blonde is undeniable; perfectly pitched to hit the spot for a light hoppy golden beer. We hope the evolution of the brand reflects this as we actively seek to engage customers with design options.”
Robinsons is a rare and remarkable example of a business which has been run by the same family for 180 years. With a brewing legacy stretching back over six generations to 1838, 260 pubs under their wing, plus an empire of beer brands and contract customers, Robinsons remain vigilant and aware of the danger of complacency. But, for Oliver Robinson, Managing Director (Beer Division), it’s not a case of looking back but facing forwards: “I think there’s always a risk of doing things the same way as your father did, and his father before him,” admits Oliver. “But you can’t live on past glories – each generation needs to make changes. Robinsons has always worked on the basis of the long term rather than the short term. Our main aim is to build things up, so hopefully we can pass on something better to the next generation to carry forwards. Evolution and change is, of course, all part of running a successful business.”
“We will never be old-fashioned, but we will never let our old-fashioned values slip. If we change something it is not done on a whim. We listen carefully to both our critics and our customers and ultimately act in the best interests of the latter.”
Combining 180 years brewing experience with 21st century thinking, technology and tastes is what differentiates Robinsons and there’s been considerable change over the last six years. Change which has seen Robinsons team up with rock legends Iron Maiden, renovate a significant proportion of their pub estate, and sink some serious investment (£7million) into a modernised brewing plant, which includes the installation of a cereal cooker, an energy recovery system, and a 2.5m “hopnik” (a kind of giant tea strainer that draws out the good flavours of hop leaves that would otherwise be cooked out), accompanied by a £2million award-winning Visitors Centre and Conference Facility. Robinsons’ now enjoy a brew house which is 60% more energy efficient and capable of brewing some seriously tasty and exciting beers for customers to enjoy… a far cry from a sawdust-strewn ale house named after a myth.
Oliver concludes: “When I started in the business twenty years ago, we had two lager lines, Carling and Tennents. Now, we have eighteen pouring lagers, eight core brands, six seasonal ales, four White Labels brews, and thirteen different bottled beers. The emphasis on innovation, and the competition that the craft beer market brings, has helped to push our business forwards for the next generation of beer drinkers. We’re constantly evolving, and we know it will be different today than it is in ten years’ time. The key to future success will be innovation and responding to changing trends.”
“In order to continue to learn and evolve, we must always be in a constant state of self-reflection. However, it’s milestones like our 180th anniversary where we take a quiet moment to step back, reflect on where we came from, acknowledge where we are, and appreciate how far we have come. You don’t become a 180-year-old brewery without creating innovative great tasting beers along the way. I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved since 1838 and we embrace the future with optimism.”