In 2007, James Watt and Martin Dickie set up their first brewery in a shed on a remote industrial estate in Fraserburgh in Scotland. It was just the two of them and a dog, so they named the company BrewDog. Fast-forward to 2016 and the brand now employs 540 people, runs 43 bars across the world and claims to be the number one craft brewery in the country (brewing a remarkable 65 different beers in the last year alone). Success has been down to both the appeal of their products and their radical approach, stridently putting themselves in direct opposition to traditional real ales and industrially-produced lagers.
Watt had a legal career and experience as a captain of a deep sea trawler under his belt before co-founding BrewDog when he was 24 – and something of that unorthodox journey has filtered through into how the brewery conducts its business (Watt’s recent book isn’t called Business for Punks for nothing). No strangers to gaining press through controversy, headline-grabbing antics have included selling a small range of bottled beers stuffed inside dead animals and driving a tank down Camden High Street when their first London bar opened.
Beyond the stunts, however, is a very serious business ethic – just one that comes from a refreshingly creative place. For example, BrewDog’s Equity for Punks shareholder scheme, the fourth round of which resulted in £19m of investment raised in the course of a year, will fund the building of a new brewery in Ellon, a first US brewery in Columbus, Ohio, a ‘sour beer’ facility in Aberdeenshire, a new distillery and a canned beer range. This month also saw the launch of bars in Amsterdam, Malmö and Warsaw.
BELOW: A film introducing BrewDog’s Punk IPA