Friday 16 November 2018

The Thorny Question

A few weeks back I went into one of Preston's ever-increasing number of micropubs.  Usually this place stocks the uber-awesome beers from uber-awesome breweries.  But this day, it had Thornbridge Jaipur on the handpumps. I commented to the owner that, well, you rarely see that nowadays and wondered why.  I, of course had a pint.  And then another. You know how it goes, right.

About 5 years ago, I was in a craft bar in a different town.  They put Jaipur on while I was in and I thought "This is gonna be good".  I downloaded a counter app for my phone and kept track of how many pints of it were sold in my presence (I dubbed this the "Jaipurotron").  I was there for 4 hours and it got to about 45.  Granted, I did drink 6 of those myself.

Jaipurotron in action
For such a well-regarded brewery, few people seem to be "talking" about Thornbridge now. Whenever I've had their stuff, it's always been a cut above the standard craft sludge that's often seen infesting the bars of the UK.  But it seems to have been increasingly pushed out by the newer and more obviously fashionable breweries.

We sell Thornbridge at the shop I work at, though here I'm using "sell" in the "on the shelves" sense rather than "a lot of it goes through the tills".  We used to sell a lot of Jaipur, but when they switched from 500ml bottles to 330mls, sales collapsed sharply.  I worked out that the customers were being expected to pay 17% less per unit for 35% less beer, and despite what people will sometimes tell you, they noticed.  One guy even told me he switched to Oakham beers because he thought Thornbridge was a ripoff now.  Hell, I even have to date-check the stuff now.

We've recently seen Thornbridge put Jaipur in cans, despite the head brewer being on record as saying he was unconvinced of the merits of canning craft beer.  Either he recently has become convinced, or they've seen their bottle sales tanking in the off-trade and want to move Jaipur to the place on the shelves where those willing to pay more are likely to see it.

Perhaps Thornbridge Brewery should stick to what they've been doing for the best part of their existence.  The "Craft" boom will not last forever, and indeed there are signs it's starting on its way down.  If you have a good product (and they do), you should stick to doing that.  The market will find its way back to you.

Fashion comes and goes, but quality remains.


  1. I'm not sure I've ever seen 45 pints cask while I've been in a pub, Matthew. Perhaps Mudgie's Sam Smiths, once.

    1. I'm sure I've been in the Boar's Head on an award night when a lot more than 45 pints of OBB have been pulled. Probably the case on other Pub of the Month nights, although I haven't been counting.

  2. Thornbridge are a rarity in that they seem the bridge between top-tier but traditional cask and the wider craft scene. A micropub near me is having a bit of a Thornbridge showcase at the moment, so they clearly still have a place in that arena.

    I was really disappointed with the move to 330ml. 500ml just seems the right size for take-home beer. I generally only want one or two bottles, but want them to last rather than disappear sharply. I'd rather enjoy that one beer as opposed to sampling smaller sized bottles/cans over an evening.

  3. Ive seen a whole cask go in 3 hrs in a pub with 10+ casks on so 45pints is certainly possible in 4 if it catches the mood of the crowd right.

    and yes its interesting point on the switch in size, as I used to buy a fair amount of Thornbridge in 500ml bottles to drink at home, when they switched to 330ml thats basically stopped, Ive literally only had just 1 bottle this year and that was just the Great British Home Brew special, which seems like there wont be a 2018 version. Whereas I had been buying their bottles at least every other week previously, and curiously yes its also Oakham who Ive swapped to who get my trade instead in 500ml bottling terms.

  4. I was very fortunate to have Jaipur regularly available in my local 'spoons. Sadly that closed some years ago. I used to regularly buy Jaipur by the case, but when they switched to silly little bottles I stopped buying from them. Anything less than a pint isn't worth the cupboard space.