Doom Bar and the Question of Origin

Doom Bar bottles on a supermarket shelf.

It’s official: thanks to Lucy Britner at Just Drinks we now know that Sharp’s Doom Bar — the bottled stuff, at least — has been being brewed outside Cornwall since 2013.

From the moment Molson-Coors bought out Sharp’s in 2011 people down here in Cornwall have been wondering how long it would be before production moved to Burton-upon-Trent. Others assumed it had already happened and that there was slyness afoot. One local source even told us they’d heard a Sharp’s brewer dropping big hints about it last year.

Now the cat’s out of the bag, what does it mean?

In a part of the world where the act of buying local is highly politicised it might create opportunities for other Cornish brewers to supply restaurants, supermarkets, delicatessens and bars which have, until now, been happy with bottled Doom Bar.

In reality, though, we suspect it will take months for most people to clock this news and, even then, many won’t care — it’s a popular beer which presumably sells to the trade at a competitive price and it’s still Cornish-ish, right?

But if we ran a business and had for the last two years been buying those bottles on the understanding that the beer was Cornish-made — and probably pitching it to our customers as such — we’d be pretty annoyed.

We came to this story via the Western Morning News and are grateful to Kev Head for pointing us to the original source.

UPDATE 01/07/2015

We asked Sharp’s the following question on Twitter but have yet to get a reply despite prodding:

15 thoughts on “Doom Bar and the Question of Origin”

  1. They don’t go big on the beer being brewed in Cornwall, though. Something I discovered the other week – on a trip to Bath – is that Bath Ales are brewed in Bristol; nobody seems particularly bothered, apart from a couple of small operations which do brew in Bath.

    1. Who’s the ‘they’ in this? Sharps/MC, you mean? The front label says in big letters (or did last time we looked) ‘Rock, Cornwall’ (without specifying that it’s actually brewed there) and there’s this on the website:

      ‘From our brewery in Rock, we create beer that’s alive with Cornish energy. Every drop we brew harnesses our passion, creativity and adventurous spirit….’

      But, no, they don’t go as all in these days on the Cornish lifestyle angle like they used to, and as St Austell increasingly do.

      At point of sale, though, in Cornish restaurants, it’s usually sold as ‘Cornish ale’, presumably because the proprietors of said restaurants think it is.

      Funnily enough, we’ve always known about Bath Ales and never clocked that it might confuse people, even though we thought it was a bit weird. Too late for them to change it to Bristol Ales, I guess, but they could perhaps make it more obvious on the packaging and at point of sale.

      1. To stand up for Bath Ales, the brewery is not in Bristol or in Bath. It’s in North Common, South Gloucestershire, traditionally part of Kingswood borough, not within the boundaries of Bristol but now (but only relatively recently) part of the contiguous metropolitan area.
        The main brewery is about 2.5 miles from the Bristol city and county border, and about 1.5 miles from the border with Bath & North East Somerset county. So Bath Ales is fair enough really.

      2. How about Ascot Ales – who are in Camberley, Surrey, rather than Ascot, Berkshire? I’d always assumed they started in Ascot and moved to Camberley when they needed bigger premises (not that I can see anything on their website to that effect.)

        That also seems different to me than the Sharps thing, but it may be because (other than the occasional horse-related naming on the beers) Ascot don’t seem to make much of a thing about their location.

      3. Sounds exactly the same approach as MC takes with Franciscan Well Brewery “Cork”. Almost all of the beer is from Burton too, I understand. Sharp practice, no pun intended.

    1. Don’t think a mention in the Special Secret Brewers’ Club fan newsletter counts as the cat being out of the bag, though…

  2. Otley Brewery is in Pontypridd, north of Cardiff and rather more than a stone’s throw from the town of Otley in West Yorkshire.

  3. Where it’s brewed matters far less than how it tastes and last bottle I had was bloody dire. I hear claims that the cask in Cornwall can taste decent but bit far to check out and frankly bottle was dire enough I wouldnt cross the road to try cask never mind travel to Cornwall

    1. Obviously the taste is important but to people who have been choosing it over other similar beers because they believed it was Cornish, then this matters too.

  4. Absolutely bizarre that Doombar is reputed to be ‘Spoons best selling cask ale nationally. And they even charge a premium price for it when compared to the ordinary guest ales.

  5. I’m Cornish, and whilst the taste of any beer is the most important priority, I always like to support any product emanating from my place of birth.
    I feel a bit cheated that such a strong impression is given that this bottled beer is Cornish – as Cornwell has been given ‘Nation’ status by the EU, then surely unless the bottle clearly states the beer comes from Staffs, the brewers are breaking trading laws?

  6. If where it’s brewed is unimportant, why didn’t Molson Coors announce the move of their bottled production? At least that would have been honest. They’re guilty of deception.

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