BrewDog: from the ‘punk’ brewery to the beer giant | Food industry
Ten years ago, hardly anyone had heard of BrewDog, the self-proclaimed ‘punk’ brewery founded in Aberdeenshire and named after its co-founder’s chocolate Labrador.
Nowadays it’s a beer giant with 2,000 employees, annual sales of Â£ 215million, over 100 bars in remote cities such as Tokyo, Brisbane and Berlin, and its own hotel where the taps dispense. draft beer.
Its flagship label, Punk IPA, can be found at the bar of pubs across the country and on the shelves of most major supermarkets.
Backed by a cult of 130,000 small crowdfunding shareholders, known as’ equity punks’, BrewDog has grown at a breakneck pace to become the flagship of the so-called ‘craft beer revolution. “.
Of the hundreds of innovative start-up breweries that have emerged in recent years to challenge global suppliers of mass-produced lager beer, such as Carlsberg and Heineken, BrewDog is by far the most successful.
But its rapid growth, fueled by controversial publicity stunts, has often challenged the company’s image of the courageous challenger upsetting the corporate basket of apples.
And by co-opting the word “punk,” BrewDog exposed himself to accusations of being anything but.
In 2017, the Guardian revealed how lawyers for BrewDog’s pit bull aggressively sued two small companies they said infringed its intellectual property.
One of his targets was a place in Leeds that planned to open as Draft Punk, the other a family pub in Birmingham that had wanted to be called Lone Wolf. BrewDog already had a mind under that name, but decided to drop the deal after generating negative publicity.
Its co-founder James Watt fired back angrily via a blog and his Twitter account before finally apologizing.
Later that year, the sale of a 22% stake to a private equity firm raised new questions as to whether BrewDog really stood out from the corporate world or had started to join it.
Without a doubt, BrewDog is doing things differently, openly denouncing the big brewing companies, inviting its equity punks to boisterous, beer-fueled annual meetings, and loudly engaging in progressive issues such as the climate crisis and the LGBTQI + rights.
But some of his most eye-catching gestures have done as much to amplify the BrewDog brand as they have garnered attention for good causes.
A so-called ‘transgender beer’ raised money for LGBTQI + charities, but drew criticism from Stonewall for the language used. A âprotest beerâ mocking Vladimir Putin’s homophobia has displayed uncomfortable tropes on homosexuality.
Pink IPA – a fake ‘beer for girls’ released on International Women’s Day 2018 and said to challenge stereotypes – fell like a hot mug of beer. It just fueled the âBroDogâ nickname some on social media were already using for the company, whose senior team is 72% male. Watt conceded that the idea had been “lost in translation”.
Other stunts have appeared crude without any apparent ethical benefit.
In 2015, intending to send their own crowdfunding efforts, Watt and his co-founder Martin Dickie filmed themselves begging and posing as sex workers. Thousands of people signed a petition calling the cartoons offensive.
A webpage launching BrewDog TV adopted the style of a porn site, with beer-themed movie titles such as Two Amateurs Go Brewdogging. Some of the beer industry’s most respected female figures didn’t find the joke at all funny.
Then there was the time BrewDog hired a dwarf to advocate two-thirds of a pint measures, or used kilted taxidermy animals to market what he claimed to be the world’s strongest beer.
Watt has apologized more than once for stunts – but with the benefit of the attention they’ve already generated.
Allegations of poor conditions faced by the staff who have helped BrewDog achieve its extraordinary growth may be more difficult to voice.