"Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Fresh air or marketing hype?

I first came across Thwaites Wainwright (4.1%) in 2007 when it was put on at the Park Golf Club, Southport, home of our folk club, as an alternative to the usual Thwaites Bomber. It proved very popular with most real ale drinkers there, and the Bomber eventually disappeared for good. It's a pleasant golden ale, named after Alfred Wainwright, author of the famous walking guidebooks, and while it's by no means my favourite, it's quite acceptable and rather better than many of the bland pale offerings some regionals produce. Since its launch, I have been increasingly seeing it all over the place, and it was even a guest beer when I went into a pub in London a few weeks ago (and a pound more than I'm used to paying here in Merseyside). According to Thwaites, it is now the fastest growing top 25 cask ale in the UK and a Top 20 premium bottled ale in the off trade. In short, it's becoming very popular.

I was therefore slightly concerned to read that Thwaites intends to make Wainwright a Top 10 ale in the UK over the next three years beginning with a £2 million investment across the on and off trade. Playing on the brand name’s obvious association with walking and the outdoors, a new slogan "A Breath of Fresh Ale" has been devised. A Thwaites Wainwright Pub Walks App has been created to cross Thwaites' list of Wainwright stockists with Cask Marque's 8000 pubs so you can get pub walks straight on your smartphone. Thwaites will also push the beer through sports sponsorships.

Perhaps I'm being too cautious and should welcome a regional brewery investing heavily in a real ale, but I can't help thinking about other local or regional beers that became national and lost much of their character, such as Boddingtons, Ruddles County or Deuchars IPA. Perhaps times have changed and they can increase sales (or should that be "grow the brand"?) without any loss of quality. I hope so, but as the good Doctor once said, "Time will tell - it always does."

5 comments:

  1. This sounds like exactly what St Austell have been through with Tribute in the last few years. Down here in Cornwall, it tastes better than ever, but it can be a bit variable beyond the Tamar. In business terms, it's done the brewery the world of good.

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  2. Unfortunately I have had a few almost undrinkable pints of Wainwright (in pubs not renowned for beer quality I hasten to add). I can't blame Thwaites for the marketing strategy but unless the quality is consistent some people will always be wary of real ale.

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  3. Sadly Wainwright seems to have become the latest "fad" beer which you find everywhere, including many outlets that don't look after it properly.

    A pleasant enough beer, but can be rather wishy-washy if not in good condition.

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  4. Have to agree that it is becoming a bit ubiquitous-one of those beers which can be occasionally quite pleasant, but rarely more than that-inoffensive perhaps best describes it-it is destined to become a "national bland" like Deuchars, London Pride et al-invariably dissapointing.

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  5. You are right Nev, and the brewery are treading a path which, if they are not careful, will only end in tears.

    Along with the forementioned Boddingtons, Ruddles County and Deuchars IPA I would add Doombar to that list along with what was once one of my favourite beers, but which now seems increasingly bland and a shadow of its former self - Taylor's Landlord.

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