The Secrets of Doom Bar’s Success

Doom Bar on a pub bar in Cornwall.

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How did a beer born on an industrial estate in Cornwall in 1995 become a ubiquitous national brand in just 20 years? And what about it inspires such loyalty, and such disdain?

A few inci­dents made us real­ly start think­ing about Sharp’s Doom Bar.

The first was a cou­ple of years ago on a research trip to Man­ches­ter, hav­ing trav­elled all the way from Pen­zance, when we walked into a pub – we can’t recall which one – to find two cask ales on offer: St Austell Trib­ute, and Doom Bar.

The sec­ond was at a pub in New­lyn, just along the coast from Pen­zance, where we met two exhaust­ed cyclists who’d just com­plete the John O’Groats to Land’s End run. They want­ed one last beer before begin­ning the long jour­ney home to the Home Coun­ties. When we got talk­ing to them, one of them even­tu­al­ly said to us: “You’re into your ales, then? I’ll tell you what’s a good one – Doom Bar. Do you know it?”

Peo­ple love this beer. They real­ly, gen­uine­ly, unaf­fect­ed­ly find great plea­sure in drink­ing it.

Sales sta­tis­tics sup­port that: from some­where around 12 mil­lion pints per year in 2009, to 24m in 2010, to 43m by 2016, Doom Bar shifts units.

So what is, or has been, Doom Bar’s secret? And is there some­thing there oth­er brands might imi­tate?

43,000,000

The Story

There’s a trend in Hol­ly­wood against repeat­ing ori­gin sto­ries and the tale of Sharp’s birth and meta­mor­pho­sis has been told too many times, but here are some key dates, and a lit­tle con­text:

  • 1994 – found­ed in Rock, Corn­wall, by busi­ness­man Bill Sharp
  • 1995 – Doom Bar first launched (a blend of Cor­nish Coast­er and Sharp’s Own)
  • 2002 – Stu­art Howe joins Sharp’s as head brew­er
  • 2003 – Joe Keo­hane and Nick Bak­er buy out Bill Sharp
  • 2010 – c.24 mil­lion pints of Doom Bar per year (SOURCE)
  • 2011 – Mol­son Coors buys Sharp’s
  • 2015 – Coors admits to brew­ing bot­tled Doom Bar in Bur­ton-upon-Trent
  • 2017 – c.43 mil­lion pints of Doom per year (SOURCE)

When we were liv­ing in Lon­don in the noughties, Sharp’s beer was ubiq­ui­tous, espe­cial­ly in pubs whose clien­tele skewed mid­dle class, with Cor­nish Coast­er as like­ly to show up as Doom Bar.

Once we’d start­ed blog­ging about beer, after 2007, we recall Sharp’s hav­ing a mixed rep­u­ta­tion. Beer writ­ers were schmoozed aggres­sive­ly (they once invit­ed us to go for a ride on a speed­boat on the riv­er Camel) and Stu­art Howe was a favourite of the BGBW, being out­spo­ken and enter­tain­ing. Beers such as the strong gold­en Chalky’s Bite, a com­mer­cial tie-in with celebri­ty chef Rick Stein brewed with Bel­gian yeast, stood out as inter­est­ing in those pre-Brew­Dog days.

At the same time, there were grum­blings about the 2003 takeover. First, there was a sense that the new slick­ness of its mar­ket­ing and ever-grow­ing scale of its oper­a­tion was, frankly, uncool. And, of course, the beer wasn’t What It Used To Be. Final­ly, there was the fact that every­one knew, or sus­pect­ed, that the brew­ery was being fat­tened for sale to an even big­ger play­er.

The 2011 sale to Mol­son Coors was the first time we real­ly noticed the famil­iar argu­ments around brew­ery takeovers being played out: it was ter­ri­ble news, it was bril­liant news, what did own­er­ship mat­ter, how could own­er­ship not mat­ter, and so on. Com­men­ta­tors attacked Sharp’s, or defend­ed it, as Doom Bar (already a big brand) gained the weight of a cor­po­rate sales and PR oper­a­tion.

Bar-room wis­dom (which we haven’t been able to con­firm one way or the oth­er) has it that Doom Bar’s ubiq­ui­ty after this point was the result of cyn­i­cal sales tricks such as offer­ing tele­vi­sion foot­ball licences to pub­li­cans in return for tak­ing the beer. It cer­tain­ly became part of the total pack­age of Mol­son beers, often seen along­side Coors Light lager and Wor­thing­ton keg bit­ter in social clubs and pubs.

The shift of pro­duc­tion of some Sharp’s brand­ed beers from Corn­wall to Bur­ton did fur­ther dam­age to the brewery’s rep­u­ta­tion, not least because it took prod­ding for Mol­son Coors to admit it. (Where a beer is brewed doesn’t mat­ter, goes the argu­ment, except for mar­ket­ing pur­pos­es when it sud­den­ly does.)

In 2015 the claim was the only bot­tled Doom Bar was being brewed in Stafford­shire and that cask pro­duc­tion con­tin­ued to take place sole­ly in Rock. When we checked in with Sharp’s in 2017, we were told that con­tin­ued to be the case, but for what­ev­er rea­son, many drinkers, based on con­ver­sa­tions we’ve had in pubs, sim­ply don’t believe this to be true.

So that’s the top lev­el sto­ry, but what was going on behind the scenes all that time?

Pull quote from Stuart Howe.

The Brewer

In our ear­ly days as blog­gers Sharp’s then head brew­er, Stu­art Howe, was a some­what intim­i­dat­ing fig­ure. He was invari­ably pic­tured with biceps on dis­play, or look­ing fit to burst out of a stan­dard issue head brewer’s blaz­er, with a faint­ly men­ac­ing smile.

In his inter­views and writ­ing from the time we detect­ed a cer­tain defen­sive­ness over Doom Bar; how could every­one have so many good things to say about Brew­Dog and so few pos­i­tive words for his award-win­ning, tech­ni­cal­ly per­fect, extreme­ly pop­u­lar cask ale?

Mr Howe left Sharp’s in 2015 and is now the head brew­er at Har­bour, anoth­er Cor­nish brew­ery, where we emailed him in Novem­ber. He was hap­py to answer our ques­tions, includ­ing the big one: what is the secret to Doom Bar’s appeal?

Doom was always char­ac­terised by being sub­tler than most of the cask ales on the mar­ket with a soft­ness on the palate, a gen­tle fruity bit­ter­ness, and a clean fin­ish.

It was a great deal more acces­si­ble than the hard­er, dri­er tast­ing cask beer which dom­i­nat­ed the cat­e­go­ry back in 2002. It used to con­vert a lot of drinkers to ales from lager.

I’ve found that in beer pref­er­ences there is a con­tin­u­um which runs from peo­ple who don’t like beer because it’s bit­ter to peo­ple who like beer that feels like some­one has pulled out your tongue and nailed it to a plank.

Human­i­ty has evolved to avoid bit­ter­ness, rot­ten­ness and dry­ness because sub­stances which have those taste prop­er­ties are often harm­ful. Most peo­ple there­fore are at the end of the con­tin­u­um clos­est to the low bitterness/dryness/rottenness, and Doom Bar appeals to them. Geeky drinkers tend to choose chal­leng­ing beers at the oppo­site end.

When Doom was grow­ing at 40% per year, every pub we sold the beer into ordered more beer each week as more drinkers con­vert­ed to Doom.

At the time we had no one in mar­ket­ing and the mar­ket­ing bud­get just about cov­ered a few bar tow­els and beer mats so there was no manip­u­la­tion of the gullible, peo­ple just enjoyed drink­ing the beer.

(We’ll come back to the point of mar­ket­ing a lit­tle lat­er.)

One com­plaint lev­elled against Doom Bar by real ale purists is that it bare­ly counts as cask-con­di­tioned. That’s because it ships from the brew­ery with rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle live yeast in the cask, mean­ing less exper­tise is required to han­dle it in a pub cel­lar and, cor­re­spond­ing­ly, there is lit­tle of the mys­tique of Bass or Land­lord.

Stu­art Howe con­firms that this ease of han­dling was key to Doom Bar’s pop­u­lar­i­ty with pub­li­cans, which is a key step in its pop­u­lar­i­ty with drinkers:

Doom was pop­u­lar with land­lords because it was racked with a low­er yeast count and the cor­rect CO2 lev­el for dis­pens­ing. This meant you could put the beer on about 4 hours after it was deliv­ered and it would be crys­tal clear and full of con­di­tion. To achieve this the beer was con­di­tioned in the brew­ery before rack­ing and of course the ele­ments which affect how it would per­form in trade were mea­sured and con­trolled. There weren’t many brew­eries in the UK doing this at the time.

If some sub­tle vari­a­tion is all part of the fun for cask ale drinkers – again, that mys­tique – then Doom Bar’s rigid con­sis­ten­cy is a mark against it for that audi­ence, but a sig­nif­i­cant plus for casu­al drinkers. Stu­art Howe describes achiev­ing uni­for­mi­ty from one brew to the next, and from one year to the next, as an exhaust­ing bat­tle:

Doom is a dif­fi­cult beer to man­age because of its sub­tle­ty. The hard­est thing a brew­er has to do is to main­tain a beer’s palate in the con­text of con­tin­u­al change.

Every year the hops are dif­fer­ent, the malt is dif­fer­ent and there are changes in the hops and malt from the day they are har­vest­ed to the day your stocks run out and you change on to the next year’s crop.

Also, yeast varies from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion and can do strange things in response to nutri­tion­al changes in the wort.

As a brew­er you need to con­tin­u­al­ly make small changes to the process to main­tain the con­sis­ten­cy of the beer. The more sub­tle the beer, the greater the impact of change and hence dif­fi­cul­ty in main­tain­ing the bal­ance.

Add to this get­ting the beer to be the same from two entire­ly new brew­eries, the crop of the main hop vari­ety fail­ing, and the bar­ley vari­ety being changed by the sup­pli­er twice and you’ve got a tough job.

That’s why I didn’t take a hol­i­day for five years at Sharp’s and why I’ve got a heart con­di­tion!

Pull quote from Jason Merry.

The Salesman

Jason Mer­ry is now sales man­ag­er for Devon brew­ery Otter but he spent much of the noughties as Sharp’s region­al sales man­ag­er in the West Coun­try, based pri­mar­i­ly in Bris­tol. We spoke to him over a pot of tea at a cen­tral Bris­tol cafe in late Novem­ber, and it was evi­dent that he remains proud of the part he played in mak­ing Doom Bar a star.

He began by offer­ing a use­ful reminder of what Doom Bar was 15 years ago: a hip, upmar­ket prod­uct asso­ci­at­ed with surf­ing and sport, sec­ond homes and music fes­ti­vals:

At Sharp’s, we hat­ed that image of the old man in the flat cap drink­ing warm, flat bit­ter. We were young, we liked surf­ing and the beach, so we had hood­ies and all that. The nation­al appeal of the beer was based a bit on ‘posh Corn­wall’– the Rock crowd, up in Lon­don.

He also believes that the sales team had a cer­tain youth­ful vigour miss­ing from bet­ter-estab­lished rivals which had dom­i­nat­ed the mar­ket:

We were very aggres­sive on the ground, almost to the point of where peo­ple thought we were arro­gant. We were all in our twen­ties and just real­ly up for it. I think some of the old­er local and nation­al brands com­mon­ly seen around the region at that time had got a bit lazy and com­pla­cent, and where­as their sales peo­ple would be in the pub chew­ing the landlord’s ear for half an hour, telling anec­dote after anec­dote, we were more like, ‘Right, let’s do some busi­ness, let’s sell some beer.’ Pub­li­cans are busy peo­ple.

He echoed Stu­art Howe’s sug­ges­tion that the tech­ni­cal qual­i­ties of the prod­uct gave it a leg up…

We held onto it for a few days longer than oth­er brew­eries typ­i­cal­ly might with cask ale, sev­en to ten days, so when it went into pubs, it was ready to go. There was less sed­i­ment so, cru­cial­ly, the yield was bet­ter. They’d always get anoth­er pint or two out of a tub.

…but also sug­gests, con­tra­dict­ing Howe’s under­dog nar­ra­tive, that the cap­i­tal Kehoane and Bak­er put behind the prod­uct helped enor­mous­ly:

When some­one ordered a tub of Doom Bar, they got the works. No expense was spared on point-of-sale mate­r­i­al. No flim­sy, flap­py card­board pump-clips – prop­er enam­elled ones, and glass­es, beer mats, bar run­ners… I knew once I’d got a pub to take it once, it would stick, and I could move on.

This ‘stick­i­ness’ was a recur­ring theme: Doom Bar was a reli­able prod­uct (crit­ics might say bland) that won cus­tomers’ loy­al­ty, and that of pub­li­cans in turn. That meant a small sales team could dom­i­nate an entire region, get­ting the beer into every free­house in, say, Taunton, and then mov­ing on.

There is an iron­ic kick­er in Jason Merry’s sto­ry as he acknowl­edges, with­out bit­ter­ness, that Doom Bar has become a chal­lenge in his new role: “Now I’m with Otter I spend a lot of time try­ing to undo my own work. Doom Bar is every­where and, like I said, it’s hard to dis­lodge it. Peo­ple are very loy­al to that brand.”

Pull quote: "It's the Devil's vomit."

The Drinkers

We asked our fol­low­ers on Twit­ter for their thoughts on Doom Bar and got some inter­est­ing respons­es.

Giv­en the obvi­ous self-selec­tion – peo­ple who fol­low us are, by def­i­n­i­tion, to a greater or less­er degree, ‘beer geeks’ – it wasn’t sur­prised that many were crit­i­cal:

  • It’s the only [bor­ing brown bit­ter] I won’t drink any­more, even as a dis­tress pur­chase. I had a pint of Hop House lager when last faced with DB as the only ale on.”
  • It’s the Devil’s vom­it.”
  • Nev­er drink it, nev­er have, nev­er will… [because it’s] ubiq­ui­tous, aggres­sive­ly mar­ket­ed, in every pub you go into…”
  • I used to quite like it – when I only got to drink it when I went to Corn­wall. Seemed fair­ly char­ac­ter­ful and tasty. Not cut­ting edge, but respectable. And then… Mol­son Coors. I don’t believe it’s the same beer now, bland even when well kept, and it seems to encap­su­late all that’s wrong with glob­al­i­sa­tion. Will only drink it as an absolute last resort – or last but one, if GK IPA is the alter­na­tive.”

But oth­er com­ments were per­haps sur­pris­ing­ly pos­i­tive, such as this from Michael @bringonthebeer:

The biggest shame for me over the whole issue was that an ale which was an occa­sion­al treat (yes, I like how it tastes – sub­jec­tiv­i­ty rules!) has now become as ubiq­ui­tous a back­ground fea­ture as any oth­er mass mar­ket beer, through no fault of its own… Doom Bar is a mid­dling inof­fen­sive beer in itself and it’s a bet­ter fall back option in mass mar­ket pubs than Rud­dles or Abbott or, ye gods John Smith’s or Wor­thing­ton. I do have qualms about a cer­tain % of my £ prop­ping up ‘big beer’ but I try to remem­ber that there’s a small Cor­nish brew­ery under­neath all the hype and hos­til­i­ty.

Steve (@untilnextyear) point­ed out Doom Bar’s suc­cess in broad­en­ing the appeal of cask ale:

I remem­ber 10+ years ago it being the sav­iour of a pub I went to fre­quent­ly that pre­vi­ous­ly didn’t serve real ale and had said it had no demand for it. Sud­den­ly, there was a dif­fer­ent crowd and hap­py real ale drinkers who had in the past steered clear.

Jour­nal­ist Tom David­son used to like Doom Bar, but doesn’t any­more, and puts for­ward an inter­est­ing argu­ment for why that might be:

The ale… is often stocked at pubs which don’t spe­cialise in beer but want some­thing to offer the beer-drink­ing punter… Sad­ly for a beer I once cher­ished, I’ve gone off Doom Bar so entire­ly due to poor pints I make almost every effort to avoid it.

Precision engineered for the mainstream.

Consistent, easy, available

On bal­ance, then, it seems Doom Bar was suc­cess­ful because:

  • It required less care from pub­li­cans, and less wait­ing, with each cask yield­ing a lit­tle more beer.
  • Its own­ers invest­ed in mar­ket­ing, espe­cial­ly at point of sale, con­veyed a sense of qual­i­ty and reli­a­bil­i­ty to con­sumers.
  • It remind­ed peo­ple of hol­i­days, and an aspi­ra­tional lifestyle of sand, surf­boards and pic­nics.
  • It became a name brand, like Guin­ness, to which pub­li­cans and drinkers are extreme­ly loy­al.

In our expe­ri­ence, Doom Bar doesn’t taste any worse now than it did a decade ago. If any­thing, we’ve found our­selves enjoy­ing it a lit­tle more – does it seem a touch dri­er and lighter these days, per­haps?

At the same time, the argu­ment that beer geeks are some­how unable to appre­ci­ate Doom Bar’s sub­tle­ty doesn’t ring true either: even peo­ple who like low octane, sub­tle brown bit­ters find this par­tic­u­lar exam­ple rather bland. And that’s the down­side to con­sis­ten­cy – the inevitable result of tech­ni­cal per­fec­tion and ease of han­dling.

We cer­tain­ly don’t buy into the nar­ra­tive that Mol­son Coors ruined a once decent beer; rather, we think they were drawn to a beer that was already suc­cess­ful because it was pre­ci­sion engi­neered for the main­stream.

Note: through­out, where we’ve quot­ed emails or Tweets, we’ve made light edits for length and clar­i­ty.

18 thoughts on “The Secrets of Doom Bar’s Success”

  1. This is a great piece of work, a real­ly enjoy­able read packed full of infor­ma­tion.

    Thanks and well done.

  2. Inter­est­ing read, but you missed out the real rea­son Mol­son bought Sharps. It wasn’t because they want­ed to sell ale, it was so they could sell more car­ling into the South East. Doom was just a vehi­cle to shift more lager, by mak­ing any­one want­i­ng doom take car­ling as well.

    1. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, there’s rarely a sin­gle, sim­ple ‘real rea­son’.

  3. As a young lad I can’t real­ly speak to any change in qual­i­ty over the years, hav­ing only start­ed drink­ing it in the ear­ly 2010s at a local that didn’t take IDing too seri­ous­ly. It was a go-to drink for me, since it was tasti­er and cheap­er than all the big name lagers and I’m not a cider fan (heresy grow­ing up in the South West). I don’t drink it often any more but when I do it brings up a nos­tal­gia for those days spent in the pub with all my mates before many of them moved away for uni, for that I think there will always be a place in my heart for Doom Bar.

  4. I sup­pose I come into the cat­e­go­ry of “peo­ple who like low octane, sub­tle brown bit­ters find this par­tic­u­lar exam­ple rather bland.” But I don’t real­ly find it bland – there’s def­i­nite­ly some­thing there, but some­thing a bit mud­dy and cloy­ing that I don’t much care for.

    I can cer­tain­ly vouch for peo­ple say­ing “Oh, you like real ale, then? Tell you what I’ve had – that Doom Bar. I real­ly liked that.”

    It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that all the adver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion in the world will only sell a bad prod­uct once. Doom Bar wouldn’t have achieved the suc­cess it has unless it was some­thing that peo­ple want­ed to make repeat pur­chas­es of. The his­to­ry of British brew­ing is full of heav­i­ly-hyped launch­es that have fall­en flat on their face.

    1. Worth remem­ber­ing the dom­i­nant cause of bad beer is bad beer­keep­ing and a depress­ing num­ber of licensees con­tin­ue to sur­vive by sell­ing bad beer more than once. When DB start­ed push­ing eas­i­ly cel­lared beers that would make a mas­sive dif­fer­ence to mediocre licensees for­tunes. Most licensees seem to be mediocre at best…

      We did won­der in those ear­ly years how a beer we took pot luck on find­ing an inter­est­ing pint of between pints of Skin­ners had tak­en over entire towns in Corn­wall then Devon, now it’s obvi­ous.

      What I sim­ply don’t believe is the claim DBs ear­ly suc­cess was by some­how being a less harsh beer than it’s peers. Most Cor­nish and Devon beer back then had a well earned image of being near­ly hop free and the dry malt edge I love far from uni­ver­sal. It was sim­ply designed to be con­sis­tent­ly bland and the pints we liked back then were in pubs that let it get past that bland­ness.

    2. It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that all the adver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion in the world will only sell a bad prod­uct once”

      That’s not true. There are plen­ty of beers I don’t real­ly like but still pur­chase over and over again because I fre­quent­ly vis­it pubs that I know will offer only very poor beer. I very much doubt I’m an excep­tion­al exam­ple.

      Doom Bar isn’t ter­ri­ble, but it isn’t ter­ri­bly nice, either. Its main sell­ing point seems to be that its cheap­er than lager, more alco­holic than water, and mar­gin­al­ly less vis­cer­al­ly unpleas­ant than GKIPA/Pedigree. The pres­ence of Doom Bar isn’t quite enough to make you walk out of the only pub in the vil­lage.

      The real les­son here is that brew­eries’ pun­ters are not drinkers, they’re land­lords. If you can keep the land­lord vague­ly hap­py, then it doesn’t mat­ter whether or not peo­ple actu­al­ly enjoy the beer; they’ll drink it because they have no oth­er choice.

  5. Big dis­counts were always avail­able on Doom­bar. When they opened their dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­tre in Bris­tol (1999? 2000?) it was on offer in the Mid­lands at 3 firkins for £100 when oth­er “small” brew­ers need­ed £50 or more at the same ABV. I have also been assured, by an ex-Sharp’s employ­ee, that every sin­gle ingre­di­ent was changed for a cheap­er option after Mol­son Coors arrived. I know that it works as a gate­way from beers of zero flavour to more sat­is­fy­ing, robust beers. I’m con­tent to see it as a beer for every­one else but the rest of their mass mar­ket port­fo­lio suf­fers from a “will this do?” ethos too . An IPA that is unmem­o­rable, a lager that has tilt­ed at low­est com­mon denom­i­na­tor etc etc. Doom­bar itself is now ammu­ni­tion in the bat­tle between Mol­son Coors, Greene King and Marstons for the cash chest of British beer, if not the heart or mind

    1. ” know that it works as a gate­way from beers of zero flavour to more sat­is­fy­ing, robust beers”

      Is there any evi­dence that this is actu­al­ly true though? The reac­tion of most young peo­ple to Doom Bar is nor­mal­ly one of “eur­rgh foul”. Its very much an old man’s drink.

      You have to remem­ber that young peo­ple are prob­a­bly used to the taste of fizzy pop, fruit ciders, lager, red bull, espres­so. They are used to big bold flavours; fruiti­ness, sour­ness and bit­ter­ness are per­fect­ly nor­mal flavour for drinks. A pint of Punk IPA prob­a­bly tastes pret­ty acces­si­ble and famil­iar to their palates. Some­thing earthy and malty like Doom Bar is going to be far more of an acquired and off-putting taste.

      Its no coin­ci­dence that the ubiq­ui­ty of Doom Bar cor­re­sponds to a huge reduc­tion in cask ale drink­ing amongst the young.

  6. Inter­est­ing that Doom is the sin­gle best-sell­ing ale across ‘Spoons 900 branch­es.
    But it is prob­a­bly the only ale (maybe exclud­ing Abbot) that is per­ma­nent­ly on in every branch.

    1. I’ve long argued that a more mean­ing­ful (hypo­thet­i­cal) sta­tis­tic would be sales *divid­ed by* avail­abil­i­ty. That would give us a bet­ter idea of gen­uine pop­u­lar­i­ty.

  7. The thing is, one might as well write 2000+ words on why cheap, low qual­i­ty fried chick­en is so suc­cess­ful; after all, there are now a great many chick­en places on vir­tu­al­ly every high street, there­fore it must be pop­u­lar and, on some lev­el, ‘good’. One could equal­ly analyse the endur­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of swill amongst the pig pop­u­la­tion.

    (Yes, I’m an unashamed elit­ist with a dis­mis­sive view­point. But it’s a sense of dis­mis­sive­ness that I’ve long con­sid­ered, not just on a beer lev­el, but a philo­soph­i­cal and soci­o­log­i­cal one also.)

    I just feel that seek­ing to explain the suc­cess of Doom Bar in terms of the actu­al beer and brew­ing process is to miss the point. It’s a com­mod­i­ty prod­uct and a few folks got lucky in that it was their prod­uct that suc­ceed­ed where oth­er near-iden­ti­cal ones failed. There may be mar­gin­al edges that result­ed in *it* being Doom Bar and not some­thing else, but the chances us most of us wouldn’t have cared much for what­ev­er the some­thing else was. What­ev­er it was.

    Most of the econ­o­my – indeed, most of *life* – isn’t dri­ven by craft beer or fine din­ing or art­house cin­e­ma or high fash­ion or any­thing else that those in the know con­sid­er objec­tive­ly good. It’s peo­ple know­ing what they like, lik­ing what they know and stick­ing with it. Occa­sion­al­ly that ‘cir­cle of know-like’ expands to include some­thing new or con­tracts to squeeze out some­thing now con­sid­ered passe, or which the pow­ers of pro­duc­tion nom­i­nate for decline-man­age­ment. Doom Bar effec­tive­ly fills the space in the mar­ket that was occu­pied by Tet­ley Bit­ter, John Smiths cask and oth­ers in the 1990s.

    I know it’s a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent beer – but that’s real­ly not the point. It’s con­tem­po­rary Strict­ly to 90s Noels House Par­ty. Peo­ple care so much less about this sort of thing than us beer enthu­si­asts that it’s some­times impos­si­ble for us to under­stand. Stuff needs to be con­sumed; the stuff changes but the ratio­nale behind the need for con­sum­ing it does not.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble to make this point with­out com­ing across like a com­plete snob­bish wanker. Maybe I need to binge on Doom Bar and fried chick­en and Cad­burys and Man Utd until I’m forced into see­ing things from their point of view…

    1. It’s rel­e­vant to explore the suc­cess of Doom Bar as a par­al­lel to what’s hap­pen­ing in craft beer at the moment.

      It’s not explic­it­ly stat­ed in the arti­cle but doesn’t a lot of what hap­pened in the sto­ry of Doom Bar reflect what’s hap­pen­ing to Brew Dog or Beaver­town at the moment?

    2. What IS the mag­ic ingre­di­ent in Ten­nessee fried chick­en that makes it so appeal­ing to the drunk stu­dent at 2am when its the only take­away still open?

      Prod­uct is not the only “P” in the mar­ket­ing mix…

  8. Inter­est­ing arti­cle. The empha­sis on con­sis­ten­cy and ease of serv­ing reas­sures me I was right to dis­miss friends claim­ing that a pre­fect pint of doom bar was out there and id obvi­ous­ly only bought it in the wrong bars . Last time I was in my local and a sharps sales­man came in i sug­gest­ed to the bar staff “if he tries sell­ing you doom­bar shoot the #### ” , maybe I’m just a grumpy old beer snob. Still an inter­est­ing blog.

  9. I occa­sion­al­ly buy a pint of Doom Bar, just to see if it’s still as dull as it was the pre­vi­ous times I have tried it. It always is. Doom Bar is the James Blunt of beer: pop­u­lar with peo­ple who can­not cope with any sort of chal­lenge.

  10. I find it to be too sweet with a taste rem­i­nis­cent of Cara­mac. How­ev­er, as in a pre­vi­u­os com­ment, I will always drink it in pref­er­ence to GK IPA if that’s the choice.

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