Ten years in the past, barely anybody had heard of BrewDog, the self-styled “punk” brewery based in Aberdeenshire and named in honour of its co-founder’s chocolate labrador.
Today, it’s a beer behemoth with 2,000 workers, annual gross sales of £215m, greater than 100 bars in far-flung cities corresponding to Tokyo, Brisbane and Berlin and its personal resort the place the faucets dispense draught ale.
Its flagship label, Punk IPA, may be discovered on the bar in pubs across the nation and on the cabinets of most main supermarkets.
Backed by a cult following of 130,000 small crowdfunding shareholders, generally known as “fairness punks”, BrewDog has grown at a charge of knots to turn out to be the standard-bearer of the so-called “craft beer revolution”.
Amid the tons of of modern startup breweries which have emerged in recent times to problem international purveyors of mass-produced lager, corresponding to Carlsberg and Heineken, BrewDog is by far probably the most profitable.
However its speedy progress, fuelled by controversial publicity stunts, has usually examined the corporate’s adopted picture of the plucky challenger upsetting the company apple cart.
And by co-opting the phrase “punk”, BrewDog left itself open to expenses of being something however.
In 2017, the Guardian uncovered how BrewDog’s pitbull attorneys aggressively pursued two small companies that it felt had been infringing on its mental property.
One in every of its targets was a venue in Leeds that had plans to open below the identify Draft Punk, the opposite a family-run pub in Birmingham that had wished to name itself Lone Wolf. BrewDog already had a spirit below that identify, however determined to drop the case after producing destructive publicity.
Its co-founder James Watt hit again angrily through a weblog and his Twitter account earlier than finally issuing an apology.
Later that yr, the sale of a 22% stake to a personal fairness agency raised additional questions over whether or not BrewDog was actually standing other than the company world or had begun to affix it.
Undoubtedly, BrewDog does issues otherwise, overtly denouncing massive beer corporations, inviting its fairness punks to raucous, beer-fuelled annual conferences, and loudly partaking in progressive points such because the local weather disaster and LGBTQI+ rights.
However a few of its extra eye-catching gestures have performed as a lot to amplify the BrewDog model as to garner consideration for good causes.
A so-called “transgender beer” raised cash for LGBTQI+ charities however drew criticism from Stonewall for the language used. A “protest beer” mocking Vladimir Putin’s homophobia deployed uncomfortable tropes about homosexuality.
Pink IPA – a mock “beer for ladies” launched on Worldwide Girls’s Day 2018 and supposedly meant to problem stereotypes – went down like a cup of heat ale. It merely gave gasoline to the “BroDog” moniker that some on social media already used for the corporate, whose senior staff is 72% male. Watt conceded that the concept had been “misplaced in translation”.
Different stunts have appeared crass with none obvious moral upside.
In 2015, meaning to ship up their very own crowdfunding efforts, Watt and co-founder Martin Dickie filmed themselves begging and posing as intercourse employees. 1000’s of individuals signed a petition calling the caricatures offensive.
A webpage launching BrewDog TV adopted the fashion of a pornography website, full with beer-themed movie titles corresponding to Two Amateurs Go Brewdogging. A number of the beer business’s most revered feminine figures didn’t discover the joke in any respect humorous.
Then there was the time BrewDog employed a dwarf to advocate for two-thirds pint measures, or used taxidermy animals in kilts to market what it claimed was the world’s strongest beer.
Watt has discovered himself apologising for stunts greater than as soon as – however with the good thing about the eye they generated already banked.
Allegations of poor situations skilled by the employees who helped BrewDog obtain its extraordinary progress could also be tougher to spin.