Thursday, 13 August 2015

Dull metal?

I recently came across a post on a US heavy metal website asking Does Anybody Actually Like IRON MAIDEN's Trooper Beer? It’s over a year old, but still makes interesting reading. The author didn’t like it at all, saying it was “incredibly bitter”, a verdict that most British readers will find surprising. There are a lot more favourable views in the comments below, and in the poll 80% of those who had tried it said they liked it.

When it was first launched a couple of years ago, my initial verdict was that it was a bit lacklustre, and several tastings since in both cask and bottle haven’t really changed that opinion. It’s important to remember, though, that Iron Maiden are one of the few rock bands to make a big point of their British identity, and it was Bruce Dickinson’s intention to produce a classic British-style ale like those he enjoyed around 1980, not an international lager or a US-style hop-bomb IPA. Incidentally, Bruce Dickinson is about a year older than me, and has certainly flown more aeroplanes, although probably driven fewer Morris Marinas.

Trooper has certainly been a great success for Robinsons, with the ten millionth pint mark recently being passed, and contributing to the brewery recording its highest production level for fifteen years. It’s good to see a long-established family brewery enjoying such success and exporting beer all round the world.

Unlike some others, I really like Robinsons beers in general. When well kept, Wizard, Dizzy Blonde, Unicorn and most of their seasonals, are some of the most palatable beers around. But Trooper just seems to fall between two stools. It’s not an old-fashioned, rich, chestnut English ale, in the way that Wychwood’s Status Quo beer Piledriver was. But, on the other hand, neither is it a modern, pale, hoppy beer. In the past, Robinsons have brewed an excellent rich “winter bitter” called Robin, which could have made the basis for an English heavy metal beer to rival Hobgoblin. Or they could have made a version of Dizzy Blonde turned up to 11 – light, with distinct hop character, but not overwhelmingly so. But Trooper just seems to be neither one thing nor the other.

It will be interesting to see how the limited edition celebration version, the 6.6% ABV Trooper 666, turns out. Unfortunately Robinsons have said it will only be available as a bottled beer, but it would be nice if they could put some into casks, maybe as part of their White Label series. Also hopefully it will be sold in 500ml bottles, not just 330ml ones.

15 comments:

  1. I haven't tried it, although I bet I could have a good guess what it would taste like. I tend to avoid gimmicky nonsense like this.

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  2. I think the post would be far better if it were full of ironic references to Iron Maiden songs. Something like, "the beer was Running Freely" :-(

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  3. I'll have you know, pal, I've owned and driven 12 Morris Marinas in my time and am honorary President of the owners club.

    And I have my own boring brown bitter.

    Stick that in ya pipe.

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  4. I didn't know Iron Maiden were British. But to be fair I've never heard of Bruce Dickinson.

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  5. The Eldon had this on a week or two back so I gave it a go purely on the basis that I usually drink both guest ales on a visit. It was inoffensive, I'll give it that.

    They missed a trick though in not giving the beer a blackcurrant flavour as the last time I visited a heavy metal bar, it was only a quarter of a century ago so I *know* what's going down in metal town, that appeared to be all the crazy long-haired cats wanted their grog to taste of.

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  6. Trooper is a good (draught) pint when it's fresh, but like all Robbies beers loses its flavour quickly. When I first tried it I was disappointed that it tasted just like the other Robinsons beers (they all taste roughly the same!)rather than something completely different and in keeping with the Heavy Metal image. A rival to Hobgoblin is a great idea.

    To state the obvious, Trooper's massive sales are due solely to the Iron Maiden connection, and not because of the beer itself. Amazing how a brand name can cause such a reaction. I suggest next a Ramones beer or a Rolling Stones beer. This will sell millions to people who don't know much about the Stones or the Ramones, or about beer.

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  7. I've never had a high opinion of Robbies but (and I'm probably going to get booted out of the Crafterati for saying this) I was very pleasantly surprised by the beers of theirs that I had at the Golden Rule when we were staying in Ambleside recently. Maybe very fresh / well kept? (Possibly the same is true for other bigger traditional breweries with iffy reps, come to that...)

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  8. I thought Maiden's was OK, but they were outgunned by the Quo. However, spare a thought for Brian Connolly and Co. http://johnmedd.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/beer-drinkers-hellraisers.html

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  9. Martin, Cambridge14 August 2015 at 11:26

    I do like it, but I've had benefit of drinking it in pubs with high turnover/beer care, including Wetherspoons. There's a Robbie's rock pub opposite Macclesfield station that was doing a good pint too. Also spotted it in off licences in Slovakia recently.

    Still prefer Unicorn or Wizard though.

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  10. It isn't wonderful but is for me the best beer in the Robinson's range.

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  11. The other night we had a CAMRA meeting in the Arden Arms, a Robbies' pub, and the Double Hop was considerably better than the Trooper.

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  12. Unsurprisingly, I find it bland and boring.

    Would it have sold ten million pints if it wasn't associated with Iron Maiden and their iconic artwork? I strongly doubt it.

    Given a boring name, a boring pumpclip and no celebrity connection, it could easily (and perhaps deservedly) have sunk without trace. Without trace, I tells ya.

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  13. I think there is a reason why it's considered pretty dull: it's because it's pretty dull. It lacks even the basic characteristics of a good Robbies pint and I'm sure they know it. However, it flies out in Scandinavia and obviously is a big earner for them, so I'm sure they couldn't care less.

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  14. but equally it could have been a right old mess of a beer, no one really talks about the Madness or Elbow (also originally made by Robinsons) or any other band/celebrity matched up beers with great fondness.

    whilst Trooper might be a distinctly British style of beer, and not to everyones new world hop tastes, it still actually delivers everything it sets out to be, and is always drinkable,which not alot of beers manage, you dont IMO sell 10million pints of the stuff just because of a pump clip or a celebrity association, if the beers no good.

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  15. @Stono - if it had been a poor beer, as opposed to an OK one, then it wouldn't have sold anywhere near as much.

    For export markets it delivers something different from what they're used to without frightening the horses too much.

    The Elbow beer was extremely forgettable.

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