Friday, 10 October 2014

What Does Doom Bar Tell Us About Cask?

Almost 20 years ago as a Greenall's Regional Manager based in Cornwall, I went to see a chap called Bill Sharp. He had started his little brewery a couple of years before in Rock, over the estuary from Padstow....... Greenall's, having bought the Devonish Pub Co, owned the Golden Lion in Padstein........... the tenant here had been badgering us for this locally brewed ale and having a longstanding love of real ale I did not hesitate to make a visit.......in the full knowledge that persuading the Company to stock it would be virtually impossible............. Greenall's, whilst no longer a brewer at that time sold cask Bitter, Mild, Thomas Greenalls Original, Shipstones and Davenports range and having now inherited pubs in the South had access to Flowers IPA and couple of others....... Their new guest ale policy allowed the tenant to purchase from a painfully small range from mainly regional brewers, like Tim Taylors........by paying a £25 surplus per 9 gal firkin on a full list price...CRIMINAL!

Anyway, back at Rock, Bill Sharp was a wonderfully ethical gentleman........he already had a decent range, with Sharp's Best the biggest seller.........and was keen only to sell to one or two outlets in any town, barely venturing beyond the Cornish borders.
I managed to agree with the marketing automaton at Greenalls HQ in Warrington that having a local brew would culturally endear us to Cornish folk and Bill chose a couple of pubs in deepest Cornwall for a trial.......Cadgwith Cove inn and the Roseland Inn Philleigh.........

Roll on about five years..... Sharps grew dramatically and Bill had begun to focus on a secondary dark beer at 4% called Doom Bar, which was destined to be the company's vanguard product....a malty, quaffable ale. Production, sales and distribution had accelerated. No longer a hobby, Doom Bar was in huge demand way beyond Cornwall..........things were moving fast.

The man from Dolmio Italian sauces spied this and bought Bill Sharp out...........then spent around 8 years developing the Doom Bar brand and in 2011 Molson Coors bought them for a whopping £18m.........

So would Doom Bar simply disappear into the swamp of other Coors brands and replicate the journey of Deuchars IPA? Or was there a longer term plan to establish the product as the successor to the likes of Draught Bass and Marstons Pedigree......in the branded sessionable medium coloured cask ale market. Emma Bebbington, Pub People's Coors Account Director was put in charge as General Manager........ so jealous!!!

In 2014 the brewery in Rock, over seen by Emma, has seen £3m worth of capital investment and  is forecast to brew 350 000 barrels of Doom Bar going forward.......this is about a tenth the size of Carling... and already Doom Bar is the biggest selling cask ale in the UK.....recently overtaking Greene King IPA.

Doom Bar as a brand is here to stay.... Coors have remained true (ish) to the Cornish heritage by investing in the local brewery and generating more jobs. Doom Bar has meaning (it is a sand bar at the mouth of the Camel Estuary) and credibility which has been subtly and successfully communicated....... further entrenched by local Doom Bar boating related sponsorships and then the Boat Race sponsorship........ together with associations with the Padstein culinary fraternity and now their own pub, The Mariners at Rock

All of this knits well with the new breed of customer wanting the taste of cask ale coupled with the reassurance of a brand with a name and a story........before and alongside trying all the wonderful local microbrews that will be available at the Nottingham beer festival this weekend.............. here at the Lion Draught Bass is still one of our best selling ales........it has been on permanently since the Lion opened in around 1996 and we have very very loyal customers for it.............. there won't be many pubs in the East Mids that can say that....... in reality though it is us that has kept it going. The Bass owner has just milked the product and it is unlikely younger or female drinkers would give it a second glance.

Doom Bar has broken through that ceiling and whilst the beer snobs may turn their noses up.........customers awareness of the overwhelming number of micro brands is low......so a solid anchor point product with high credibility and consistency will be a winner with new drinkers of cask ale along with those who want to be loyal to a top pint.

Our range at the Lion today does not include Doom Bar (Hop Pole, Waggon and Horses, Bunkers Hill, Keyworth Tavern all have it on) but the choice is excellent........Bass, Harvest Pale, Scarlet Macaw, Red Baboons, Legend, XXXB, White Squall, Bradfield Stout, Grainstore, Pheasantry, Equinox.

See you at the Lion for a Friday tea time beer and a few pork pies!!

Andrew Crawford
Operations Director
Pub People Co

The Rock n Roll Christmas Burger menu is on the website. www.thelionatbasford.co.uk..... if you have not tried our excellent range of handmade burgers, then what are you waiting for??....... we have carnivores and herbivores fully catered for with luxury burgers at a realistic price!!..... all served by our team of executive chefs from midday to 8pm every day

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