Visitors to Punch Pubs will now find People’s Captain Legend American Pale Ale on tap, with further additions from the five strong People’s Captain craft beer range to follow.
Bateman, who plays for Newport Gwent Dragons and previously played for Leicester Tigers and Exeter Chiefs, began brewing beer as a hobby, but after a difficult period of mental health struggles, he had a life-changing beer with a best mate. The pint with his friend saved his life as it finally got him to open up about his struggles.
“Previously I had been ignoring it and trying to deal with it myself, but it had got to the point where I didn’t recognise who I was,” he said. “When I had that conversation, it was not only the first time I’d told someone else how I was feeling, but also the first time I realised how serious it was.”
Bateman had also found the process of brewing cathartic. “It helped me stay proactive mentally,” he said. “One of the things I’ve learned about being in a difficult place mentally is having other things to focus on is really important.”
Social connections, positive change
The rugby player then set his sights on how beer could be used to build social connections and positive change, with People’s Captain built around the ethos that some of the most meaningful conversations happen over a pint.
“I’m not here to tell people what they should or shouldn’t like [to drink]. What I’m here to do is to give them a purpose to join in with and get behind, and be part of a movement,” said Bateman.
He added: “We want people to feel like they’re welcome and belong, and they’re not on their own.”
Each year, one in four people in England struggle with their mental health, and this was triggered further by the pandemic: in 2020 alone, global prevalence of anxiety and depression shot up by 25%, putting mental health issues strongly in the limelight.
Bateman runs beer tasting sessions, where guests are told about the history of People’s Captain beer, before they are left in groups to chat about mental wellbeing questions, like, ‘what do you do when you feel you need space?’, over a drink. The business also had a channel on gaming platform Discord, which acted as a safe space for users to talk about their feelings, and was developing a mental health and wellbeing app for clients.
A clear purpose
The team behind People’s Captain hoped people would buy into the beer on an emotional rather than transactional level. Bateman did not believe this unusual marketing tactic would negatively impact sales.
“If I made the best beer in the world, what happens when the next best beer comes out six months later? Everybody jumps to that one,” he said. “We’re so focused on our purpose and our vision. We make great beers that win awards anyway, that people really enjoy.
“If we made terrible beers, then this wouldn’t really be a particularly great mission anyway.”
Bateman had encountered a stereotype that lager was only drunk by white men who go to football matches and started fights. This trope was dangerous and false, according to the rugby player. He chose an illustration of a black girl in dungarees for the beers’ packaging, to represent diversity, and show the beer was for all.
Punch Pubs’ marketing and strategy director Russell Danks said: “We couldn’t be prouder to join up with People’s Captain and offer support to our pubs, teams and local communities – especially at such a critical time for mental health in the UK.”