MOVIES & BOOZE: Fancy a drink this weekend?

Craft beers inspired by the music of Iron Maiden

This week our resident beer expert, Dean McGuinness of Premier International Beers, introduces listeners to some craft beers that represent collaborations between beer and music:

New beers start with a vision as to what the beer will look and taste like. This vision normally comes from the brewer. Sometimes beers are brewed based on a vision from a partnership of different people – known as a ‘Collaboration Beer’. This partnership can be two brewers coming together, or it can be the coming together of a brewer and another person with a passion for beer (not necessarily a brewer).

Bruce Dickinson – lead singer with Iron Maiden – has always had a passion for ‘real ale’ (the English term for cask or bottle conditioned ale). Working with Robinson’s Brewery (one of England’s longest running breweries), this passion has been translated into the two beers that we are tasting today.

Our first beer – Iron Maiden Trooper – has become one of the most successful craft beers to be brewed in England. Following the success of Trooper, the partnership has followed on with our second, Limited Edition, beer – Trooper 666. These beers combine the iconic artwork of the Iron Maiden album covers on the label with beer inspired by these album covers and by Dickinson’s passion for great beer.

We’ll also be asking the question – Does the music that we are listening to influence the flavour that we perceive in beer?


Most every craft brewer would like to brew a beer that is distinctly unique.

To help beer drinkers understand what to expect from a beer, brewers and people with a great interest in beer have come together to define beer styles. Beer styles work to help beer drinkers understand what to expect from a beer, but also serve to dampen the individuality of beers. In an effort to differentiate their beer, many craft brewers will proclaim that they don’t ‘brew to style’. However, even when a brewer develops an entirely new style, with so many craft brewers brewing different beers, it doesn’t take long for copycat beers to come along, and for the individuality of the original beer to be diluted.

Brewers then look for other ways to make their beers distinctive.

There is no doubt that some craft brewers have developed significant reputations for themselves. The fact that a beer comes from a brewery with such a reputation helps to reinforce the individuality of that brewery’s range of beers. Where brewers come together to brew ‘Collaboration Beers’ the reputation, creativity and distinctiveness of both brewers can be brought together – and if the partnership works, the results can be amazing. In beer terms, collaborations are the equivalent of a ‘duet’, with two solo artists (brewers) combining their individual skills to brew something that can be more than the sum of its parts. Collaborations allow for a matrix of possibilities between brewers.

These collaborations do not have to be between two brewers. Beers have been brewed as collaborations between a person not a brewer and a brewer or brewery. In some cases, these collaborations are simply licensing exercises of some description, or a vanity project for the celebrity who gets his name on a beer. However, if that celebrity has a genuine interest in beer, then this can bring a unique creative input into the development of the vision for the new beer. There is a slight irony to using the idea of a ‘duet’ to describe a collaboration beer where the collaborator is a musician.

Iron Maiden Collaborations – Music and Flavour –

This is the point where I admit to having almost no knowledge of the music of Iron Maiden. As a child of the ‘80’s, it was impossible to not have noticed the amazing artwork on the Iron Maiden album covers – and adopting these album covers as labels for beers is truly a stroke of genius. Iron Maiden brings with it a rich depth of music culture. However, not being an Iron Maiden fan, I am not going to attempt to interpret how this culture has, could or should be translated into a vision for a beer.

What I can say is that this collaboration has resulted in what is not only the most successful musician-beer collaboration that I can think of in the world, it has also resulted in a beer that has meant that brewers Robinson’s have had to move to 24 hour brewing across three shifts to keep up with the incredible demand for the beer. Iron Maiden Trooper has become the most successful premium craft beer exported from England. Riding the crest of the wave of this success, Iron Maiden has worked with Robinsons to brew Limited Edition beers – the first of these is Trooper 666.

As I have said, I will not attempt to expound on the culture of Iron Maiden’s music. My passion is for beer, and the flavours in beer. So, what about combining music and beer? Does the music that you are listening to influence how you perceive flavour in beer?

Perceptions of flavour are complex. As one would expect, the tongue is involved – perceiving five key flavours – sweet, bitter, sour, salty and savoury (or ‘umami’ – a Japenese term that translates as ‘deliciousness’). The perception of these flavours follows a path directly connected to the brain stem, and research suggests that we are genetically hard-wired when it comes to these flavours.

All other flavours are detected by receptors in the nose – either when we smell the beer before drinking it, or through ‘retronasal’ perception – the aroma molecules travel up the back of the throat into the nose allowing us to ‘smell’ the beer after it has been swallowed. This message is sent into the brain through a diffuse pathway – paying a visit to through the memory centres and emotion centres of the brain as it is processed. The sense of touch – or specifically ‘mouthfeel’ is also directly relevant to our perception of flavour. This accounts for three of the five senses – taste, smell and touch. What we see most definitely influences how we perceive flavour (think of how good food in a restaurant would taste to you if you saw a rat scurrying across the floor – but vision and flavour is a subject for another day). Finally there is sound – and again, it would appear that sound influences perception of flavour. Our perception of sound has long been known to trigger both emotions and memories – a direct overlap with perceptions of flavour. Some people are now looking at how sound might directly interact with our perceptions of flavour.

Iron Maiden are heavy metal – and heavy metal is loud. So how does loud music influence how we perceive flavour? There is general agreement that loud music makes it more difficult to identify or parse specific flavours in food or drink – loud music can simply be distracting if one is looking to identify specific flavours in a food or beer. This is more relevant to the person who specifically wants to break down a flavour into its constituent parts – brewery quality personnel or people writing tasting notes for a beer.

Two different studies seem to offer different perspectives on how we perceive sweetness when tasting in an environment with loud noise. One study suggests that we perceive food as being less sweet when we eat with loud music playing (the same applies to our perception of saltiness in food – loud music makes food taste less salty). In contrast, another study suggests that we perceive drinks to taste more sweet when we drink them with loud music playing. Another interesting finding from the same study is that we perceive alcoholic drinks as being less alcoholic when we drink them with loud music playing – that’s the reason why you got drunk that time in the night club. The music was so loud it interfered with your perception of the strength of the alcohol in the drink that you were drinking! 

Another study has looked at the quality of music and our perceptions of the flavour of beer. The study looked at three different qualities of music – firstly light, high pitched music (think music like the soundtrack of ‘Frozen’ or other Disney music), secondly, deep music with lots of bass and thirdly, discordant music (minor keys and/or electro-technic – think the soundtrack from Psycho during the shower scene). These music soundtracks were played while people tasted a number of samples, with samples repeated while different music was being played. The findings were that –

• The ‘sweet’ (Disney-type) music made beer taste sweeter – no surprise there.
• The deep bass music made perceptions of the beer taste more bitter.
• Discordant music made people perceive more sour flavours in beer.

Of course, if the respondents were to have been aware of the sense of the study, it is highly unlikely that the same results would have been obtained. Consistently it has been shown that people are not aware that secondary cues are influencing how they perceive flavour, and they will often deny that these secondary cues have any impact on them whatsoever.

Finally, it would appear that we enjoy the taste of beer more when we are listening to music that we enjoy. Again, this conclusion would seem to make sense – listen to music that puts you in a happy mood, and the whole world seems better! Add beer that you like the flavour of, and what more could you ask for!


Iron Maiden Trooper –

Beer Style - Best Bitter / English Pale Ale
Alcohol by Volume - 4.7% a.b.v.
Brewed by - Robinson’s Brewery (in collaboration with Iron Maiden)
Brewed in - Cheshire, England

The Charge of the Light Brigade, which took place at the Battle of Balaclava (1854) during the Crimean War inspired the Iron Maiden song ‘The Trooper’. Over 600 British cavalry charged the Russian artillery, with massive loss of life. This gallant, but foolhardy assault came about due to a misunderstanding of an order given by the commanding officer – Lord Raglan. It will be interesting in future years to see if the Brexit vote will be described in a comparable way.

This Iron Maiden song in turn is the inspiration for Trooper – our first Iron Maiden collaboration brew. While I normally focus on the liquid, the label for this beer deserves a mention – featuring ‘Robbie’ Iron Maiden’s ‘Trooper’ character – a zombie like British army infantry-man carrying a blood-stained Union Jack. In a world of political correctness run amok, some countries require that the blood on Robbie’s bandages and on the flag is removed from the label so that the label complies with legislation – go figure!

Trooper presents with a distinct amber colour. True to the classic Best Bitter style, it has a biscuity and toasty malty character that is balanced with bitterness – though this bitterness does not come through distinctly on the flavour. Fruit flavours – lime and blackcurrant – develop in the flavour of the beer. Aniseed is evident in the finish, and Trooper rounds out with a bready yeasty character. The combination of toasty malt and lime gives this beer the suggestion of key lime pie flavours – lime and lime zest combining with biscuit, graham cracker crust.

It is clear why this beer is enjoying success. Robinsons and Iron Maiden have walked a fine line between building character and flavour into the beer to allow it to appeal to craft beer drinkers, while making sure that the balance delivers an incredibly drinkable beer.

Trooper 666 –

Beer Style - Best Bitter / English Pale Ale
Alcohol by Volume - 4.7% a.b.v.
Brewed by - Robinson’s Brewery (in collaboration with Iron Maiden)
Brewed in - Cheshire, England

Trooper 666 is a Limited Edition beer. In style terms, this beer is brewed according to what is called a ‘Ladder’ system – the base ingredients for Trooper form the base of this beer, but the beer is brewed to a higher alcohol strength 6.6% a.b.v. (or 6.66% a.b.v. if you accept what Iron Maiden suggests was their target alcohol content).

Fundamentally, the same flavours are present in this beer as are in Trooper, but the change in alcohol changes the balance of flavours and also the perceived character of the beer. Toasty malt flavours are still in evidence, but in Trooper 666, these malt flavours come through more as boozy alcohol-coaked sponge combined with toasty biscuit. English earthy, minerally hop character is more in evidence in Trooper 666. The fruit flavours are a touch more subdued, with blackcurrant fruitiness coming through ahead of the lime citrus that was in evidence in Trooper. A distinct spicy character – in the form of black and white pepper, combining with dark liquorice – provides a tingly mouthfeel and a balance to the malt character of the beer.

Trooper 666 brings all the elements that one would hope for from a limited edition beer to the party. As an above average strength beer, it is bottled in a 330ml bottle (versus 500ml for the more standard strength Trooper).

Beers Available In –

On draught –
Bruxelles, 7-8 Harry Street, Dublin 2

In bottles –
Jus De Vine Off-Licence, Portmarnock, Dublin
Egan's Food and Wine, Portlaoise, Co. Laoise
Fibber Magees Parnell St
Joe Smith Bar, Navan, County Meath
The Hole in the Wall, Blackhorse Ave, Dublin 3
The Cross Bar, Georges Street, Drogheda, Co. Louth
Carry Out, Tyrellstown, Unit 7, Tyrellstown Town Centre, Tyrellstown, Dublin 15
Hollands of Bray, 79 Main Street, Bray, Co. Wicklow
Whelans Wexford St, Dublin 2
Deveneys, Rathmines, Dublin
The Comet, Santry, Dublin
The Vintry, Rathgar
Kelly's Wine Vault, Vernon Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin 3
The Lord Mayor Pub and Off-Licence, Swords, County Dublin
Martins Off-licence, Fairview, Dublin 3
McCabe's Off-Licence, Blackrock, County Dublin
Drinks Store, Manor St, Dublin 1
Redmond's of Ranelagh, Dublin
The Winewell, Dunboyne, County Meath
Callans Off-licence, Dundalk, County Louth
Sweeney's Wine Merchants, Phibsboro, Dublin
Round 'O' Off-Licence, Navan, County Meath
Against the Grain, Wexford St
D6/Peggy Kellys, Harolds Cross
The Wine Shop, Perrystown, Dublin
Holland's, Bray, County Wicklow
Eurospar, Dalkey, County Dublin
Ice Box, Balbriggan, County Dublin
Probus Wines, Fenian Street, Dublin 2.
The Malthouse, Trim, County Meath
Chill Inn, Ongar, Dublin
Spar Rathoath
Mitchell's Fine Wines, CHQ Building, IFSC, Docklands Dublin1
Next Door, Harolds Cross, Dublin 6 & outlets in Phibsboro, Ringsend
O'Dwyers Bar, 118 Lower Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin
The 12th Lock
T/A The Coach House, Ballinteer Avenue, Dublin 16
Acheson's Off-Licence, Crumlin, Dublin 12
Deveney's of Dundrum, Dundrum, County Dublin
O'Donovan's Off-Licence Group
McHughs O/L, Malahide Road, County Dublin
Molloy's Liquor Store, Tallaght, County Dublin
Molloy's Liquor Store, Clondalkin, County Dublin
Molloy's Liquor Store, Nutgrove Shopping Centre, Dublin
Molloy's Liquor Store, Crumlin, Dublin
Molloy's Liquor Store, Finglas, Dublin
Molloy's Liquor Store, Ballyfermot, Dublin
Molloy's Liquor Store, Clonsilla, County Dublin
McHughs O/L, Kilbarrack, Dublin
Molloy's Liquor Store, Leopardstown, County Dublin
Molloy's Liquor Store, Francis Street, Dublin
Next Door, Wicklow Town, County Wicklow
Next Door @Donovan's Hotel, Clonakilty, Co. Cork
Worldwide Wines, Dunmore Rd, Waterford
Dicey Reilly's Bar and Off-Licence, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal
J & A Barry, Carry Out Head Office
Coolers Off-Licence, Swords Village, County Dublin
Next Door South Circular Road Dublin 8
Bradley's Supermarket, North Main Street, Cork City
Next Door Hollyhill Liquor Store, Cork
Castle Street Off-Licence, Tralee, Co. Kerry
Matson's Off-Licences, Douglas and Bandon, Cork
The Harbour Bar, Kinsale, Co. Cork
No. 5 Off-Licence, Waterford
The Abbott Ale House, Devonshire Street, Cork
Desmond's Next Door, Fr. Russell Road, Raheen, Limerick
Number 21 Off-Licence, Coburg Street, Cork
Myles Creek Next Door Off-Licence, Kilkee, Co. Clare
Hands, Clonmel
Cooper's, Cahir
Number 21 Off-Licence, Ballinacurra, Midleton, Cork
Matson's Inns, Douglas, Cork
Eldon's Off-Licence, Clonmel, County Tipperary
Next Door @ Shannon Knights, Skycourt, Shannon, Co Clare
Number 21 Off Licence, 2 Park Mews, Charleville, Co. Cork
Number 21 Off-Licence, Ballincollig, Co. Cork
Number 21 Off-Licence, Ashdale House, Blarney, Co. Cork
Sheahan's Off Licence, 14 New Street, Killarney, Co. Kerry
Number 21 Off Licence, The Glen, Waterford, Co. Waterford
Number 21 Off Licence, 2 Upper William Street, Listowel, Co. Kerry
Next Door Youghal, O'Briens Place, Youghal, Co. Cork
Punchs Bar & Next Door Off Licence, Main Street, Patrickswell, Co. Limerick
Tom Ryan's Bar, Waterford
Timothy Crow Next Door
Dwan's Spar, Ballycullen, Dublin 16
Next Door Off-Licence, Athy, County Kildare
Next Door, Kilcoole, County Wicklow
Foleys Off-licence, Sligo
Baggot Street Wines, Baggot Street, 17 Upper Baggot Street, Dublin 4
Blackrock Cellars Off-Licence, Blackrock, County Dublin
Desmond's Next Door, Sundrive Road, Kimmage, Dublin 12
The Wine Centre, U 12 Kilkenny Retail Park, Springhill, Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny
Griffin KCR, 140 Terrinure Road West, Dublin 6 W
Mace SCR, 578 South Circular Road, Dublin 8
Nicholas & Simon Lambert, Simons Place, 37 South Main Street, Wexford, Co. Wexford
Sine E, 14-15 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7
Kavanagh's Off-Licence, Dorset Street, Dublin 1
Sky and Ground Wexford
Healys Wicklow
Bruxelles, 7-8 Harry Street, Dublin 2
The Swagman Bar, 4 Wine Street, Sligo, Co. Sligo
Select Supervalu stores, nationwide