You know you’ve hit the big time when you’ve got your own brand of ale. Cue Manchester’s favourite bearded sons: elbow. The question is: has it been a one hit wonder like so many other commercial acts who are increasingly ‘selling’ their names in increasingly odder ways? Or, has this new wave of diversification created an everlasting classic?
The only way to tell apart the treasure from the trash is to see if it still shines as the years go by. And in today’s fast-moving brewing world, a lot can happen in a year!
Take Robinsons Brewery for example: nearly 175 years old and 12 months ago they had an inefficient Victorian brew house, an antiquated brand image, and they had about as much in common with the music industry as David Milliband has with David Beckham.
One year on however and the ‘sleeping giant’ that was Robinsons has now awakened and with it a brand new brewery – one of the most efficient in the country – boasting the world’s biggest Hopnik (basically a 2.5 metre tea strainer), a bag full of pioneering brands, each with its own new look, feel and personality, and the Cheshire family brewers have also done a collaboration with one of Manchester’s best-loved rock bands: elbow. What a difference a year makes!
Despite the differences between the two industries, Robinsons immediately understood the potential of brewing a beer with elbow and when the northern band met the northern brewery there was an instant affinity.
“Robinsons are an old family company,” says band drummer Richard Jupp, “they’re from the region. And we’ve been together 20 years, always with the same line-up. It fits nicely.” 
Named after elbow’s 2011 hit album, ‘build a rocket boys!’ beer was initially created as a Limited Edition ale but this golden nectar was destined for higher heights. Twitter and facebook immediately set alight as elbow and beer fans alike embraced the brewing of ‘build’ and demanded to know more – from the mash tun, to fermentation, beer tasting, labelling, bottling and launch.
Much to the delight of fans at the Manchester food and Drink Festival 2011, the official launch, elbow not only appeared behind the bar but they also started pulling pints and giving them to the adoring crowd.
Backstage, popular beer writer Pete Brown later interviewed the band and quizzed them on the ‘new’ love affair between the British pub and the music culture.
However it soon became apparent that this relationship had been going on for some time:
“All our best ideas were formed over a drink. For many bands, the pub is how you jump from the bedroom to the stage. I’d say 50 per cent of Elbow’s lyrics are written on beer mats [...] we used to refer to it as the office.”
One year on and the beer-band-bond is still going strong. Demand for the brew has seen sales of ‘build a rocket boys!’ go into orbit with over a quarter of a million pints and nearly 75,000 bottles provided to Robinsons outlets and other accounts across the country in just 12 months. ‘build a rocket boys!’, now Robinsons fourth bestselling beer, remains in national demand as it continues to sell out shelves in 394 Morrisons stores across the UK and 61 North West Tesco stores. And – with global testimonials coming in thick and fast from the USA, Canada, Devon, Singapore, Belgium, Scotland, Netherlands, Spain, London, Germany, Italy, Australia, Minnesota and Gibraltar – it’s clear ‘build’ isn’t doing too badly abroad either.
This is all great news for the Oxfam East Africa appeal, which receives a share of all profits made on the beer – a share which currently stands at an impressive £25,231.00.
It is plain to see that the unexpected joint venture between Robinsons and elbow has been an unprecedented success. The sixth generation of the Robinsons family are keen to make their mark and this revolutionary partnership was an authentic method of making friends with future ale drinking generations. The question is what will be the next ‘hop hit’