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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.