From a difficult start to becoming one of the most trending topic on Facebook today, BrewDog (Twitter: @BrewDog) has come a long way in such a short span of time. Through a unique approach and a strong belief in their product, childhood friends James Watt and Martin Dickie were able to successfully change the fate of BrewDog.
BrewDog’s latest news about giving their employees with new puppies a week of paid leave while others still struggle to get past the paid maternity leave, immediately captured my attention and compelled me to research a little about the brand’s interesting and not-so-aged history.
Watt and Dickie launched their upstart brewery in April, 2007 in Fraserburgh, North-East Scotland with an aim to provide better alternative to the industrially brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominated the UK market and to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as they were.
Starting with scary bank loans, they brewed small batches of US-style craft beer, filled bottles by hand and sold them at farmer’s market from the back of their vans while still losing money.
Entering a bottled beer competition organized by the supermarket chain Tesco where BrewDog managed to bag first, second, third, and fourth place along with a contract of 2,000 cases a week of their Punk IPA (India Pale Ale) which would be put in 500 Tesco stores around the world helped BrewDog take the big plunge. This however, required installing a bottling line and expanding production and another investment of £150,000 which was firmly declined by the bank due to their failure to meet payments on their existing loans. The partners however, cleverly persuaded another lender to finance their expansion.
From then on, the growth has been on an unstoppably positive slope.
Their most controversial and the UK's strongest ever beer, Tokyo resulted in a huge media storm in 2008. In fact, The Portman Group pretty much banned all of their beers and that’s when BrewDog started exporting to Sweden, Japan and America only to became Scotland’s largest independent brewery. BrewDog also launched ‘Equity for Punks’ that offered people the opportunity to buy shares in the company online starting from as little as £95 ($150), giving rise to their anti-business business model. Perks ranged from lifetime discounts in its bars to cases of limited release beers delivered to your home. Equity For Punks, which is now open for a fourth round of investment, has since gone on to become one of the largest and most successful crowdfunding schemes in the world.
2010 saw the opening of BrewDog’s first craft beer bar in Aberdeen and today, 7 years later, BrewDog operates 47 beer bars, 1 BrewDog beer on wheels called ‘Truck Norris’, owns a 5.5-acre state-of-the-art brewery, brews 65 different beers and ships them to 55 different countries and has bagged some of the most prestigious awards in the industry and received mention in the fast-growing companies list along with special recognition to the owners.
They have successfully developed some of the most innovative and interesting yet the strongest beers over the years. From the 55% abv beer packed in roadkill, making it the world's most expensive beer ever to brewing beer at the bottom of the ocean (seriously) and dispensing a 28% beer from a modified deer's head helped grow their business over 200%.
BrewDog has produced progressively stronger beers of very high strength, and has laid claim to the title of the 'strongest beer ever brewed' on more than one occasion with the strongest one being the 55% ABV freeze-distilled beer called The End of History, with the bottles packaged in small stuffed animals, priced at £500 and £700 each and also ‘the world’s strongest canned ale’, Black Eyed King Imp which is 12.7% ABV Vietnamese coffee-inspired imperial Russian stout, matured in bourbon casks and aged on vanilla pods and coffee beans. The title for world's strongest beer has since changed again though, allegedly to Brewmeister's Snake Venom at a reputed 67.5%.
From projecting themselves naked onto the houses of parliament, making a special beer for the Olympics, holding a funeral for generic beer in the centre of the Swedish capital and launching the phenomenal Dead Pony Club, they have done it all.
Their unique in-your-face and proactive marketing style has attracted a lot of controversies over the years but has at the same time brought in all the necessary limelight. To state one such instance was in 2008 where BrewDog was challenged by UK drinks industry social responsibility body, the Portman Group that claimed BrewDog to be in breach of their Code of Practice. In response to this allegation, along with denying these allegations BrewDog also countered that Portman was impeding the development of smaller brewing companies. After an 8-month long dispute, BrewDog was cleared of all breaches of the Code of Practice and were permitted to continue marketing their brands without making any changes to the packaging. In protest, BrewDog introduced "Speedball", saying "...we thought we would give them something worth banning us for...". Speedball was promptly banned by Portman before being renamed as Dogma.
Quoting Jon Henley from his article titled ‘The aggressive, outrageous, infuriating (and ingenious) rise of BrewDog' that featured in ‘The Guardian’ last year as he aptly puts the scenario into words stating that “The opinions of BrewDog tend to go one of four ways. ‘The evangelists’ think the company can do no wrong. ‘The haters’ cannot get past the relentless self-promotion, and loathe everything BrewDog stands for. ‘The compromisers’ argue that yes, they might on the whole be happier if BrewDog toned down the language and cut the stunts, but hey, they brew such great beers you have to forgive them. “Buy their Beer and Not their Hype,” as one beer blogger put it. The final group, ‘the sceptics’, reckon the beer and the hype are, in fact, inseparable. BrewDog’s particular form of hype, they argue, is such an intrinsic part of the package that without it, we probably would not see – still less drink – the beer.”
After the success of first TV debut in 2013 called BrewDogs TV show in the US where amazing beers were brewed with some of America’s best craft brewers, BrewDogs is ready to hit the screens for a third season of Brew Dogs and has plans to debut for the largest venture in BrewDog history – taking on the USA with BrewDog Columbus.
In February 2016, BrewDog open-sourced its beer recipes to the public, making them a form of Free Beer.