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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?