When Dickie and Watt were just 24 years old in 2007, they opened a brewery in Fraserburgh, Scotland. After some initial financial setbacks, the two friends persevered because they saw an opportunity to cash in on the rising demand for craft beer. To keep the brewery viable, they did everything from consolidating their money and taking out loans to moving back in with their parents.
The youthful brewers set out to make a statement in the beverage industry with Punk IPA, hoping it would spark as much controversy as punk rock did in the music industry.
Since the company’s beginnings, BrewDog has been at the center of numerous debates. Founded on the premise of being a “post-punk, apocalyptic, motherfucker of a craft brewery,” the company’s guiding principle has always been the promotion of deliberate disagreement.
The ‘punk’ approach taken by BrewDog has brought them both widespread popularity and criticism.
However, the success of BrewDog has not come without its fair share of criticism. the brewery’s unusual promotional strategies, finances, and allegations of a terrible work environment.
James Watt, the Ceo of Brewdog, Has Been Accused of Inappropriate Behaviour.
Twelve former Brewdog USA employees accuse Mr. Watt engaged in inappropriate behavior and abusing his position of authority in the workplace in the documentary The Truth about Brewdog. Among the assertions made in the doc are:
- Employees at the pub on the rooftop saw Mr. Watt kiss an obviously intoxicated customer.
- Female bartenders were given tips on how to avoid Mr. Watt’s unwanted approach.
- When Mr. Watt would come by, managers would try to schedule particular women off.
- A bartender complained that she was “powerless” to stop Mr. Watt from approaching her inappropriately.
- When Mr. Watt visited his bars in the United States, he often took women on private brewery tours late at night, which made the workers uncomfortable.
- Mr. Watt was caught on camera chatting up a coworker and then taking her up to the roof of the Brewdog building.
Additional Claims Include:
There was a lot of pressure on Brewdog employees to bring beer from their Ellon, Scotland brewery to the U.S. swiftly, so they lied to their import partners to get through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau quickly (TTB)
After suggesting that purchasing their Lost Lager would result in the purchase of a tree, BrewDog asked for government funding to pay for trees to repopulate a forest in Scotland;
After years of criticizing the Dutch brewer and banning its subsidiaries from BrewDog establishments, Watt now owns almost £500,000 in Heineken stock.
From public relations missteps to accusations of a “toxic” work environment, BrewDog has a long history of controversy.
Bottles of Taxcide
Animal rights and anti-alcohol groups condemned BrewDog in 2010 for selling a limited edition of 11 taxidermied roadkill bottles for £500 each.
Three stoats, four squirrels, and a hare were used in the creation of the bottles.
Despite the uproar, they continued to experiment with dead animals by using a deer’s head as a beer dispenser the next year.
Elvis’s Court Case
BrewDog lost a lawsuit it filed against Elvis Presley’s estate in 2017 because of a dispute over the beer’s name.
They were pressured to rebrand their IPA as something other than “Elvis Juice” by attorneys representing the late singer’s estate.
To counter this, BrewDog co-founders James Watt and Martin Dickie legally changed their names to Elvis through a deed poll.
After a lengthy hearing, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the agency with the last say in trademark disputes, sided with the Elvis estate.
Women-Friendly PINK IPA
After releasing a “new,” cheaper beer aimed at women in 2018 to highlight the gender pay gap, the company received widespread criticism.
BrewDog’s management has announced a 20% discount for customers who identify as women while purchasing this beer, which is a repackaged version of their flagship Punk IPA.
The alcohol conglomerate claimed it had good intentions and that the branding was meant to be humorous. They eventually admitted to giving women 2.8% less than men.
Feedback from The Watchdog
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) reported receiving 25 complaints about two tweets and a Facebook post, leading it to conclude that the content in question violated the ASA’s code of conduct.
Further, the regulator stated, “We told BrewDog plc not to state or imply consumers would receive a solid gold can when this was not the case.”
A second freebie, The Sequel: A Gold-Plated Apology, was announced after the initial one caused a stir for all the wrong reasons.
The brewery advertised a chance to win one of ten diamond-encrusted cans, each valued at $25,000.