The History of Iron Maiden’s ‘Trooper’ Beer: 5 Years, 20 Million Pints
For most people, selling millions of records would be enough to stay busy without starting up a side hustle, but the guys in Iron Maiden are different — as evidenced by the ongoing success of their line of Trooper beers, now celebrating its fifth birthday by marking the sale of 20 million pints.
According to the Trooper website, the idea for a Maiden beer didn't come from the band. They were approached by Robinsons, a U.K. brewery with roughly 200 years of experience and enough of a reputation to not only demand being taken seriously, but to trigger a bit of stage fright in their new business partners. "I'm a lifelong fan of traditional English ale; I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when we were asked to create our own beer," singer Bruce Dickinson recalled. "I have to say that I was very nervous: Robinsons are the only people I have had to audition for in 30 years."
The venture was first announced in March 2013, with Trooper ale — named after the classic Maiden track and boasting "malt flavors and citric notes from a unique blend of Bobec, Goldings and Cascade hops" with a "subtle hint of lemon" — reaching stores two months later. Despite a few bumps in the road (including a label change for the Swedish market, where its depiction of band mascot Eddie as a British soldier violated a prohibition against "elements of war, weapons or aggression"), the brew proved a quick success, with sales soaring in the millions of pints almost immediately.
In fact, by March of 2014, Trooper had already crossed the 3.5 million-pint sales mark — an impressive number that inspired at least one of the group's British metal peers to try getting on the bandwagon. Announcing the sales milestone, Robinsons also let it slip that they'd been approached by Motörhead about establishing a similar partnership, but turned it down; as the company's director of marketing pointed out at the time, "Bruce is considered knowledgeable and fanatical about beer, so there was a truly authentic relationship."
As craft beer enthusiasts are aware, bottled brews have begun falling out of favor in recent years, with cans back on the rise after decades of being seen as the less desirable alternative. Trooper was at the vanguard of that movement too, expanding to cans in January 2015. "There are many reasons for the rise in canned beers," noted a Robinsons rep, "but ultimately it boils down to the fact that there’s something rather cool about a premium beer in a can."
Even wider availability certainly didn't hurt Trooper's sales. In July 2015, just six months after the canning announcement and a little over a year after reporting they'd sold more than 3.5 million pints, Robinsons revealed the beer had crossed the 10 million mark — and they celebrated by unveiling a limited edition "666" brew, which bumped Trooper's 4.7 ABV up to (you guessed it) 6.6. "I think it tastes tremendous," enthused Dickinson, "and I personally prefer this straight from the fridge."
At this point, the demand for Trooper beer was clearly more than a single ale could handle, so after conquering the market, Robinsons and Maiden set about expanding their empire. In March of 2016, they added a limited-run porter — dubbed "Red 'N' Black" — to the Trooper line, promising drinkers "a roasted malt and caramel backbone" with "hints of both liquorice and honey." While admitting he was "tasting outside the box" by helping craft a brew outside his ale-driven palate, Dickinson described it as "a new take on a classic beer and one which I hope will tickle the taste buds of ale fans in a pleasantly unexpected way."
The following summer, Trooper expanded its lineup again, adding a limited edition Belgian-style brew dubbed "Hallowed" to the mix. "I’m a big fan of Belgian beers, so I jumped at the chance to brew my own," said Dickinson. "While I get very excited about experimenting with new formulas and ingredients, the thing about Belgian beer is that it’s as much a way of life as it is a drink. We’ve tried to bottle that philosophy in Hallowed, albeit with a British twist."
And in early 2018, Robinsons added a session ale called "Light Brigade" to the Trooper line — and tied the new lower-alcohol brew to a good cause, pledging a portion of the proceeds to a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans of the British Armed Forces who are coping with "complex wounds and injuries — both physical and mental."
It's been an incredible run, and unsurprisingly, neither Robinsons nor the members of Iron Maiden seem to have any plans to slow it down anytime soon.
"To sell over 20 million pints in five years is something that we couldn’t have imagined when we started out with just the simple plan to make a great session ale that didn’t compromise on flavor, and the quality of the end product speaks for itself," said Dickinson as Trooper's anniversary approached. "I’m delighted that our fans and beer lovers worldwide have enjoyed them so much, and who knows what we will come up with next. Cheers!"