The returning ‘Fuller’s & Friends’ collaborative six-pack will feature brews from Magic Rock, Pilot Brewery and Tiny Rebel

Fuller’s is bringing back its ‘Fuller’s & Friends’ collaborative six-pack, which it is creating with a raft of global breweries, and rebranding its craft lager, Frontier.

The six-pack will launch exclusively into Waitrose in spring 2019, featuring tie-up brews with Magic Rock, Pilot Brewery, Tiny Rebel, Aussie brewery Stone & Wood, South African brewery Woodstock and Norway’s Mack.

Specific details of the brews themselves are yet to be revealed – last year’s pack included a New England IPA made with Cloudwater, and a red rye made with Thornbridge.

Last year’s had been “a really eclectic mix of styles”, said Fuller’s head brewer Georgina Young. “This year we’re going to work on even more beer styles, embracing trends and flavours from our international colleagues.

“[Waitrose] understand the excitement it creates in all the brewers and that there is opportunity for some wild and wacky brews to be concocted – they have given us brewers free rein on creativity when it comes to beer styles.”

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Meanwhile, Fuller’s’ craft lager brand Frontier has been given a makeover playing up its London heritage.

The lager was “coming of age”, said Fuller’s marketing director Jane Jones. “It’s been in growth since its launch in 2013, but until now it’s been mainly rooted in the craft beer category.

“We know the beer is superb and cuts right across the premium lager market, and we now feel the time has come to raise our game.”

The rebrand is being backed with a promotional campaign across Instagram and Facebook alongside targeted emails, asking shoppers to choose between ‘work or pub’.

After that they are directed to Frontier’s website to receive a code for a free pint in the on-trade from 1pm to 5pm on every Friday from 28 September to 19 October.

New ‘pilot’ brewery launched

fullers pilot

Fuller’s’ pilot brewery will be used to test recipes and create small batch beers

It comes as Fuller’s this week unveiled the first set of limited-run craft beers from its brand new standalone ‘pilot’ brewery.

It has rolled out Beer One (7% abv), a strong ale; Galaxy Pale (4%), a pale ale made with Galaxy hops; Grapefruit IPA (5.7%); Thai Stout (4.8%), which is made with Thai spices; and a New England IPA (5.5%) made with Cryo hops, in 330ml bottles

The facility has a capacity of roughly 40 firkins (10 barrels), and will be used by the London Pride owner to test new recipes and create more experimental, small batch beers than the main Griffin Brewery.

They will be available directly from the brewery’s shop and limited distribution in specialist retailers. It is understood Fuller’s will look to ‘scale up’ brews that perform well.

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“We will be using the new brewery for trial-testing different raw materials such as new malts, hops, herbs, spices and fruit,” said Young.

“We can test out new equipment and procedures before scaling up and we can attempt beer styles that have never been brewed here at Chiswick before.

It marked a “fantastic addition” for the brand, she added. “Prior to this, the smallest batch we could brew was 160 barrels, so we tended always to play safe with flavours.”

Fuller’s isn’t the first regional brewer to open a craft brewery in response to the craft boom. Marston’s opened the doors to its DE14 brewery in 2016, and The Grocer revealed in July that Yorkshire ale powerhouse Theakston was potentially eyeing its own ‘Peculier Brewing Company’.

It comes as supermarket sales of Fuller’s beers have dropped over the past year, falling £1.3m (7.1%) to £16.5m, on volumes down 10.4% [Nielsen 52 w/e 21 April 2018].

Jones previously said the rise of craft had “clearly played a role” in the decline of some traditional bottled ale brands, as drinkers ditched “sessions on low abv” in favour of experimenting with a wider range of products.