Iron Maiden are on the verge of another top 20 hit, but we are not talking about the music they have become famous for around the globe.

Two years ago they teamed-up with Stockport's Robinsons to release a beer of their own, Trooper.

There was fanfare, excitement and lead singer Bruce Dickinson's genuine passion for real ale, but at a time when celebrity brews were popping up with the frequency of a 1990s band reunion tour, nobody expected it to become a major force.

But when it celebrates its second birthday in May, Trooper will be close to becoming a top 20 cask ale brand.

A quick glance at CGA stats shows that Trooper is in heady growth (60 per cent up in the last 12 months) while the majority of leading brands in the ale market are going in, well, one direction - and that's the opposite one.

The band's manager Rod Smallwood told Inapub that he just did not know how Trooper was going to perform.

"It is very difficult to have expectations when you start on a totally new project. Bruce and myself are real beer drinkers and we just wanted to do it right.

"We have had people contact us from 185 different countries – two of which I had never heard of. There has been huge interest in it."

The beer is now available in 50 of those countries, catching up with the 59 where the band have performed live.

It has ensured Robinsons is able to reach places it has never been before, becoming the brewer's biggest beer when bottle and cask sales are taken into account. The American market alone is as at least big as Britain with a recent first order for Trooper in cans reaching 300,000.

It provides Trooper-plus packages which has helped support acts such as Old Tom and Dizzy Blonde reach a new audience.

The brand is carefully managed with Iron Maiden hugely respectful of the fan base that has been with them for four decades.

Rod describes the band and its relationship with the fans using words such as 'real' 'authentic' and 'integrity'. He could be describing a crafted beer, which may be why it has connected with ale lovers as well as Iron Maiden fans.

The plan is to continue growing Trooper rather than launching a range of new products, though another beer might be on the cards in the future.

He adds: "It is possible but we want to become a credible player in the industry and to have a reputation for quality and flavour. It takes time and we don't want to start diversifying all over the place. It works because it is a great beer and the next beer would have to be as good."

Credit for that must also go to Robinsons who brewed the beer with Bruce.

The brewery has been working on a five-year plan for Trooper so it is clear the business sees this joint venture staying the course.

Brand manager John Robinson explains: "If Bruce and the band weren't into their cask beer we wouldn't have done it. It is not just a great brand but a great beer.

"The premium British ale market is flat but Trooper in cask is in growth so it is bucking the trend. Considering we don't have huge marketing budgets it is doing particularly well. It has massively exceeded initial expectations."

The social media element is key, with Trooper having a greater social media presence than any other ale in Britain. The development of the Trooper Tracker, which allows fans to share where the beer is served, has also played its part.

John adds that Trooper has increased cask sales in the pubs in which it is stocked.

"It has driven footfall, which is genuinely unheard of for a brand. People are going into pubs because they have Trooper on."

  • Trooper is availalble through Heineken, Coors, Carlsberg and LWC.