Craft beer brand Rascal London Porter, which celebrates its first birthday this month, is making a big splash with beer lovers and the trade. And the best bit? With little marketing and facing a crowded sector, the cheeky Rascal is succeeding against the odds.
Winner of an award before it was officially launched, critics’ favourite, and the stuff of impressive sales, Rascal is enjoying success thanks to its clever positioning and a few drops of good luck.
With limited marketing, it has sold the equivalent of 100,000 pints to date and will hit the USA next month. Meanwhile, supermarket chain Aldi has picked it to be part of its Scottish Beer Festival, an in-store showcase of Scottish breweries beginning on March 10th and available while stocks last.
It’s what you might call the perfect product launch, says craft brewer Inveralmond Brewery. And with such a success on its hands, the Perthshire brewer is keen to share its secrets with the food and drink trade.
Bob Hogg, Commercial Director at Inveralmond Brewery, commented:
“Little did we know when we named this beer Rascal just what a cheeky rascal it would turn out to be. We knew we were onto a winner with this product, the latest from our Inspiration Series of beers, but its rapid rise in popularity – and in an already crowded sector – has surprised all of us. It has cemented itself with a strong fan base, and it’s a hit with critics too.”
Here, then, are Rascal’s 5 Steps to Success:
Step 1: Have a fantastic product
Rascal first started to hit Britain’s pubs and off-trade in February 2015 as part of Inveralmond’s Inspiration Series. A rich dark beer with notes of silky mocha flavours, it has a spicy aroma and a complex, mellow finish. In other words, there’s mischief lurking in those dark mahogany depths. In his beer column in The Herald, Colin Campbell described Rascal as “full of life and character… [with a] long, amiable bittersweet finish that hugs you and asks, very persuasively, for more. A brilliant beer.”
Step 2: Stand out in a crowded market
Why the name Rascal? For a start, it’s a mischievous beer – a 5.6% ABV with a combination of a spicy aroma and silky palate. For another, it’s streetwise. In developing it, Inveralmond Brewery was inspired by the mighty brewing styles of 18th century London, a place where rascals prevailed. “Our new product development team felt that it summed up the rugged rascals that were around in London at that time,” says Hogg.
Step 3: Launch yourself at exactly the right time
No doubt about it: British beer is undergoing a revolution, with craft beer outperforming the rest of the market. The number of breweries is skyrocketing and is now higher than at any time since the 1940s. The UK now has more breweries per head than any other country, opening at the rate of one every two days.*
The London Porter dates back to 18th century and 19th century London. Named after the porters who moved goods on and off ships and around London’s city streets, London Porters are seeing a steady rise in popularity. And while some would say it’s foolish to dive into a crowded market, Rascal is proving that it can compete. Sales are 40% to 50% more than anticipated, says Hogg.
As well as being sold in the UK on-trade and off-trade, Rascal has been shipped to Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and Italy. The next step is to dip a toe into the U.S. market. Starting at the end of March, Inveralmond will export the brand to pubs and retail stores in the USA via U.S. importer Iron Horse Beverage. Rascal will get an extra marketing boost in March when it hits the shelves of Aldi in Scotland as part of the supermarket chain’s Scottish Beer Festival. Starting on March 10th, Rascal will be available in Aldi stores while stocks last.
Step 4: Get a competition win under your belt
Rascal London Porter won Champion Beer at the 2015 World’s Biggest Ale Festival, run by JD Wetherspoon, before it was even officially launched. After winning the Dark Ales Class, Rascal progressed to the final and won the festival’s overall Champion Beer award, which JD Wetherspoon customers voted for online. The result? It was featured on JD Wetherspoon’s national guest ale list during July and August 2015.
David Aucutt from East West Ales explained what made Rascal stand out from its beer contemporaries to be crowned Champion Beer: “Rascal won the Dark Ales Class initially as it was considered the beer with the most balanced flavour. Rascal won the overall Champion Beer award for the same reason, but also for being the beer the judges considered to be the most distinctive. Of all the beers tasted, it was the one they would most like to drink again.”
Step 5: Be a lucky rascal
A little bit of serendipity goes a long way. Just as Rascal was gathering steam for its nod to 18th century beer making, so interest was growing in that whole era of British history.
Dickensian, a new TV series that reimagines Charles Dickens’ novels into 20 half-hour episodes for the soap-loving generation, has taken off on the BBC. The elaborate set even features The Three Cripples pub, featured in Oliver Twist. And the London Porter just happened to be Dickens’ beer of choice.
Meanwhile, Series 2 of Poldark, set in late 18th century Cornwall, comes our way in the Autumn, with a third series already in the works.