Off Licence News meets Iron Maiden
In a world dominated by reality TV and YouTube anybody can become a celebrity for five minutes, but to truly be considered a modern icon you need to see your name attached to consumer products.
Heidi Klum ditched the catwalk to promote her Fruit Flirtations Candy, Mr T pities the fool that doesn’t eat his breakfast cereal and Hulk Hogan has lent his considerable bulk to the Hulkster Cheeseburger.
The drinks industry is no different. Dan Ackroyd has a vodka, David Lynch has a dark and brooding coffee and Danny DeVito recently told OLN about his high hopes for his new Limoncello.
The most attention grabbing of the lot has to be Mike Tyson’s Mojito-flavoured energy drink Black Power.
But now a challenger to Iron Mike has emerged – from Iron Maiden.
A merchandising guru said to the legendary heavy metal band: “Did you know Motörhead sells 250,000 bottles of red wine a year. Why don’t we do an Iron Maiden red wine?”
Lead singer Bruce Dickinson told him there was no way Iron Maiden would release a red wine.
But Dickinson – rock god, pilot, expert fencer and bestselling author – has an encyclopaedic knowledge of ale, so he suggested creating a beer.
He met OLN at the White Horse in west London to discuss the project over a few pints.
“They said why don’t you do a lager? I said no! We are a quintessentially British band. If you’re going to start with something and do it properly it should be an ale.”
Dickinson went to boarding school in Northampton and pints of Marston’s aroused his interest in ale.
After a show he likes nothing more than relaxing with some of his favourite beers: Ruddles, Doom Bar, Abbott and Fuller’s ESB.
While some stars have outrageous riders – Beyonce needs rose scented candles at exactly 26C along with £4,000 worth of cigars and alcohol; Mariah Carey demands 20 white kittens, 100 white doves and chilled Cristal; Jennifer Lopez needs her sheets to be Egyptian cotton with a thread count of at least 250 and her room temperature set at exactly 25.5C – Iron Maiden just ask for a few local beers.
The band members then make themselves sandwiches from a spread and enjoy a quiet drink.
When OLN said it thought rock stars were all about mountains of cocaine, orgies and crates of Jack Daniels, Dickinson said: “Fuck off! I am 55. There’s no way I could go out and jump around if I was whacked out on hallucinogenics and I wouldn't enjoy that.
“The nice thing about doing it straight is you can enjoy it.”
But while he may not give Pete Doherty a run for his money in the hellraiser stakes, Dickinson has lost none of the firebrand personality that gives him such a hallowed stage presence.
His views on supermarkets selling slabs of cheap lager? “It’s a loss leader. If I could run my car on it I would but there’s not enough alcohol in it. I’m all for taking on big beer. If I see generic lager in the dressing room I say ‘get that crap out of here’.”
George Osborne’s decision to take a penny off the price of a pint? “It’s a load of bollocks – it's a publicity stunt.”
Music in pubs? “There’s nothing worse. Having people’s music inflicted upon you – it's like someone shouting in your ear.”
As a discerning beer lover Dickinson refused to just slap the Iron Maiden name on a brew and sit back and count the banknotes.
“An Iron Maiden beer is an easy sale to make noise about but the proof is when you drink it,” he said.
“It’s easy to piggyback on someone else’s brew and we turned down many cheap and tawdry offers, people saying that we sell records so we can sell beer.”
It wasn’t until he met with Cheshire brewery Robinsons – which previously brewed fellow rock band Elbow’s beer – that Dickinson decided to take the plunge.
“Robinsons played quite hard to get, which we liked,” he said. “They have a lot of credibility as a brewery so they had a lot to lose and wanted to make sure we were serious about it.”
The result is Iron Maiden’s Trooper, a 4.7% abv ale targeted at all retailers.
“I am very proud of this beer,” said Dickinson, who chose Elvis as the rock star he’d most like to have a pint with.
“I like beers with a lot of body that punch above their weight in terms of flavour without knocking you on your arse.
“Being a little sort of chap if I drink three pints of ESB I know about it the next day. We wanted to make something where you can have a few pints and not be flat on your back.”
The beer is named after one of Iron Maiden’s best loved tracks, which tells the story of the Charge of the Light Brigade, where 600 British soldiers were sent to their deaths in a mismatched battle by a blundering commander.
“Trooper was the blindingly obvious thing to call it,” said Dickinson. “We have a tremendous piece of artwork – it’s one of the world’s most tattooed images. And it’s like Spitfire. It’s in the great tradition of British military prowess – well military disaster in this case.”
Dickinson has come a long way since his first experiences with beer – Double Diamond and Black Label as a young east Londoner – and speaks passionately and knowledgeably about the industry.
OLN had knocked back a couple of Sierra Nevadas while waiting for the multi-platinum rock star to arrive on the Tube, and he compared his beer with its American counterpart.
“Sierra Nevada is my favourite American beer,” he said. “But there’s a conceptual difference between our beer and that. Ours is a cask ale. British DNA in terms of beer is cask ale.”
He added: “There’s going to be a certain amount of sales from the curiosity factor from Iron Maiden fans but the bulk of the long term sales should come from genuine beer fans. We are in this for the long haul.”
When asked why retailers should stock the beer, he was typically forthright: “If you don’t stock it the guy next door is going to sell shitloads. And if shoppers go to buy Trooper they might just do their weekly shop in that other retailer too.”
OLN would advise against arguing with him.