Robinsons, the 180-year-old brewery, best known for its reputation for cask ale, is to launch its first ever craft keg lager, Helles (pronounced ‘Hell Es’), at the end of February.
Followed by Robinsons Stout at the beginning of March, brewed using all British ingredients, and designed to give a certain stout from Dublin a run for its money in the North West.
Like a Jedi (Brew) Master, Robinsons explores both the light and dark side of premium keg beer; asserting their brewing credentials, versatility and local provenance in the process.
Helles (meaning light and bright) is a traditional German pale golden lager bier, originating from Munich, with a premium abv of 4.6%. Easily distinguishable from a Pilsner or a Bock, Helles (a lager style that’s barely a century old) is regarded by many as the pinnacle of brewing science and art.
“It’s all about the brewing process,” explained Martyn Weeks, Head Brewer at Robinsons. “Our Helles is triple hopped; meaning the hops are added in three stages. We begin with a specially selected premium European lager yeast and a mix of classic Bavarian Noble, Hallertau and Mittelfruh hops. We throw in some Perle for a little bittering, then Tettnang and Hersbrucker hops to add character.”
“During fermentation, we add some Saaz for an earthy and floral hint. Finally, the Mandarina Bavaria hop is added to give an extra subtle kick of lemon complexity to the taste and aroma. Sweetness balanced with a light hop bitterness, bright and effervescent, clean and crisp, it’s the epitome of a thirst-quenching lager bier. Expertly crafted, effortlessly smooth.”
With customers increasingly drawn to higher value craft and premium lager options, Helles is perfectly pitched for today’s discerning lager drinker. CGA stats show that while total volume sales of lager are down by 5.6% in the past four years, value in the same period is up by 5.5%. Premiumisation put simply: customers are drinking less, but better.
Inspired by the success of their monthly, rotational Craft Keg Club, launched in August 2016, Robinsons has taken another large step, for a family brewer, to move the tenanted model forward by launching their own premium keg lager and stout.
“We’ve worked with numerous brewers throughout our history,” explained David Bremner, Director of Marketing at Robinsons, “and while craft isn’t anything new to us – we’ve been experimenting with exciting beers such as Mojo, Beardo, our new bottle range, our innovative White Label Brews, not to mention brewing the original craft beer, Old Tom, for the past 120 years – this is the first time we’ve been able to offer a true in-house keg solution to our 260 pubs and free trade customers.
'Our Craft Keg Club has helped us to understand exactly what our pubs, and their customers, want in terms of premium keg beers. We’ve also learnt that those pubs who do offer premium and craft keg sell on average 46 barrels (26%) more per year than those who don’t. That’s an extra 13,248 pints! So, keeping production in the family just makes sense.”
While nitro is usually associated with a certain Brewery of Irish descent, more and more breweries are embracing the nitrogenised method and adding independent nitro taps to their line-ups. This is certainly the case for Robinsons who want to write a new story for stouts from Stockport.
“In our industry, we’re so lucky to have such choice and variety when it comes to beer,” continued Bremner, “but one brand has dominated bar tops across Britain when it comes to dark beer. As an independent family brewer, we will always champion local beers, but what the brewing giants have shown is that you don’t need a sky-high abv to make a great tasting dark beer popular. So, we invite you to take a walk on the dark side and try a local product instead.”
Robinsons Stout is rich and full bodied, perfectly balanced, with a silky texture and a smooth creamy head thick enough to float a bottle cap. The ebony coloured stout, served chilled with a 4.2% abv, has a distinct aroma and taste of roasted malt, and a touch of coffee and peppery hops leaves a clean but robust after bitterness, balanced by a hint of sweetness.
Driven by demand for provenance and quality, Robinsons hope to bridge the gap between heritage and modernity with the design of the new keg ales.
Gill Yates, Robinsons Brand Manager, said, “Rather than using a traditional illustration style, our new look uses block colour, bold fonts, and contemporary design to create striking standout on the bar. Geometric patterns and the dynamism of the lines hint at the process behind the beer; the movement of the water, the ingredients, the change in temperature.
'These geometric graphics are built around a central illustration that closely links to the brew. For Helles it’s the grumpy devil of Bavaria, the voice on your shoulder, echoing the brew’s heritage with Bavarian Monks and the Helles style lager. Then we have the silhouette of the brewery skyline; our quality stamp. As we look to the future, it’s a great reminder of our humble beginnings.”
Like many, Robinsons believe there’s a strong link between premium and provenance. It’s a trend that’s rapidly transforming the food and beverage industry. ‘Made In’, ‘Made By’ and ‘Made Since’ matter more than ever before and have become synonymous with all thing’s consumers care about. In short, provenance equals confidence and customers are happy to pay more for better.
Martyn concludes: “Robinsons started life in 1838. Our reputation is built on quality and consistency, but this longevity hasn’t stopped us from evolving and innovating. Our commitment to listening to our customers and being willing to adapt and move our business forward, for the mutual benefit of our licensees and drinkers, means that Robinsons is always moving in the right direction.
'Helles and Robinsons Stout have been crafted with 180 years of passion, skill, and provenance. We’re over the moon with their balance, flavour and presentation and we hope our drinkers enjoy discovering them as they start to appear in pubs and bars across the North West.”
Supported by glassware, bespoke tap handles, 3D lens, and a full suite of POS, Helles and Robinsons Stout will be available in keg to Robinsons pubs, free trade customers, wholesale and national accounts from March, and officially launched at Robinsons annual Trade Show at the end of March.
For further information on how to stock Robinsons’ beers please contact: 0161 612 4000.