Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Nice beer, shame about the pubs?

Last week, we were treated to an informative presentation by David Bremner, the Marketing Director of Stockport family brewer Robinson’s, in which he outlined the brewery’s plans for its beer range. These included tweaking the recipes of mainstream beers, more adventurous seasonal beers, short-run one-off “specials” and widening the bottled range, combined with a large-scale rebranding to give a more contemporary and less stuffy image. All music to the ears of the beer enthusiast.

However, he also made the point that focus groups had said that, while they recognised what Robinson’s were trying to do with their beers, all too often the pubs didn’t live up to that aspiration. In general they are either inner-urban and small town locals, or rural pubs that have increasingly gone over to dining. They conspicuously lack the kind of high-profile flagship pubs on sites with heavy footfall that have the potential to do well with an eclectic beer-drinking clientele. Many of them would struggle to sell any seasonal beer (and generally don’t even try), and very few can manage to shift anything more exotic than that. Do the brewery’s aspirations for their beers exceed what their pubs are capable of delivering?

Maybe it has to be accepted that a lot of pubs are, and are always going to remain, just “boozers”, and the scope for selling anything beyond the normal range of standard beers is extremely limited. I get the impression that quite a number of Robinson’s pubs would actually do better if they adopted the Samuel Smith’s business model of low prices, limited draught range and an unashamed pursuit of the traditional no-frills image.


  1. Interesting word "tweaks" -- they don't necessarily need to turn everything into a crackerjack, lychee-infused black IPA, just keep the standard offerings up to spec and competitive with other similar beers.

  2. I must say that I don't like Robinson's beers at all with the exception of Old Tom. They have a signature malty, cloying flavour that isn't to my taste. A pity, because there a few of their pubs which I'd visit more if they sold better beer.

  3. 'Across Britain 25 pubs close every week, with nearly 1,300 outlets closing for good in 2010. According to the British Beer & Pub Association, this represented a net loss of around 13,000 jobs.

    The recession, the ban on smoking in public places, and cheap alcohol sold in supermarkets have been reasons suggested for the decline in the pub trade.'

    From 'This is South Devon'.

  4. I really think Robinsons need to do something about their beer as in the main it's not good.

  5. I make no apology for saying I do like Robinson's beers - and I am not an actual native of Stockport so can't say I grew up on them. I would say they are by some way the best of the four Greater Manchester family brewers.

    There has been a bit of a tendency, though, for some of the seasonal and special beers to all taste a bit the same - the current Elbow beer is an example of that.

  6. The pubs where I live can't even serve a decent pint of ordinary bitter. I finally got fed up with paying 3 quid a pint for flat, lifeless, bilge with a hint of acetone. I now drink Guinness which at least is dependable and resistant to cellar-incompetence.


  7. @curmudgeon

    The Elbow beer is a re-badge of, IIRC, Hartley's XB.


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