Profile: On an upward trajectory

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There were many high-flying new entries into The Publican's top 200 Brands Report this year - but one that really stood out was St Austell Tribute,...

There were many high-flying new entries into The Publican's top 200 Brands Report this year - but one that really stood out was St Austell Tribute, entering just outside the top 100.

It has been nine years since the Cornish brewer launched a seasonal beer called Daylight Robbery. Little did it expect that the beer would come to dominate its future so completely.

The story is well-known - so successful was Daylight Robbery that the company renamed it Tribute in 2001 and launched it into national trade.

While not quite an overnight success, Tribute is nevertheless one of the big success stories of the past 10 years in the cask ale category.

It has spearheaded the growth of St Austell as a regional brewer. In the time between head brewer Roger Ryman joining the company in 1999 and the end of last year, St Austell's brewing volumes have grown from 15,000 barrels a year to 40,000. Tribute has been mainly responsible for that - it represents 70 per cent of the company's overall volumes.


Tribute has also won a number of awards, including the 2004 Campaign for Real Ale's Best Beer of Cornwall and the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA's) 2007 Best Beer in South West.

Added to this, in 2006 Ryman was named brewer of the year by the British Guild of Beer Writers - due in no small part to the work he has done on Tribute.

Today, despite the tough trading conditions in the industry, St Austell has set off down an ambitious marketing path to establish the brand as the number one in the South West.

In September the company signeda deal to become the official beer of South West rugby. This has led to a number of new deals across Devon and Cornwall, not least new-found popularity in local rugby clubs. This is just part of a £1m brand investment over the next two years.

"So far the signs are good not just in the tied estate but especially in our wholesale business," says marketing director Jeremy Mitchell.

"St Austell Brewery is the South West's largest wholesaler to the licensed trade, supplying national brands of lager, beer, spirits and wines.

"This business accounts for more than 40 per cent of our £100m turnover and is a good barometer for the licensed trade as a whole.

"We've seen a drop in demand for lager, spirits and national beer brands over December and January. However, our own beers, led by Tribute, are bucking the trend and are continuing to see strong profitable growth across South West England."

Trying to achieve the named ambition of being the South West's number one beer is no small aim. Tribute has some serious competition. Skinners is a well-liked and respected brewer and has created some award-winning brews, such as Cornish Knocker.

Major investment

Another competitor is Sharps, which despite courting controversy over its extremely competitive pricing policy, has a consumer favourite in flagship beer Doom Bar. Whatever anyone may say, Doom Bar is a cracking pint.

But St Austell is nothing if not serious in its mission to continue to grow Tribute and so is backing up its marketing spend with major investment behind the scenes. According to Mitchell the company is investing in the plant and casks to meet growing demand and has just increased its brewing capacity from 45,000 barrels to more than 60,000 barrels - this follows a 33 per cent expansion of capacity in 2007.

Combine all of this with the recent launch of Proper Job to national distribution and you sense a company that from a brewing perspective is really moving with the times and modernising.

What price would one give on Tribute aiming to be number one cask beer of the South in a few years time?

I'm sure one Jonathan Neame, a non-executive director at St Austell, might have something to say about that…

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