In response to Martin Doherty's guest blog, BrewDog shareholder and blogger, Ian Prise tells us why the beer world is a far better place for having BrewDog around.
"I don’t actually remember how my love affair with BrewDog started. I wasn’t in there right when they started. I don’t remember ever seeing James and Martin selling beer at the farmer’s market, but then I used to work almost every Saturday, or if I had been off, I would have been out on the Friday Night. I must have read something in the press about them, I “liked” them on Facebook and I started reading their blog. I liked their style. I liked their sense of humour. I bought a few bottles of their beer from the supermarket, chilled them in the fridge, drank them, and liked them. I liked them a lot.
Equity for Punks was announced in late 2009. I’d been toying with the idea of buying BrewDog shares for a while, but with the cost of Christmas I didn’t really have the cash. A combination of a Gas bill rebate, and the extension of the deadline for buying shares solved this problem.
In October 2009 they bought a Bar in
and hoped to have it open by February. Aberdeen
In Early 2010 I became an Equity punk.
The problem was that I couldn’t at this point find any pubs in
selling BrewDog. I was still drinking the mass market keg beers I’d been drinking for years, and had never really liked. Aberdeen
The Pub they had bought was in a lot poorer condition, than they had anticipated. With planning, licensing and all the work needed February came and went without a grand opening of the
bar. I only drank it at home, or if we were celebrating, we occasionally ate out in Musa, which at the time was about the place in town selling Brewdog. Aberdeen
Finally in October BrewDog Bar Aberdeen opened. I was introduced to an exciting new world of craft beer.
On probably my first visit, James, who I recognised from the press and the blog, came in to the bar with his girlfriend. We were sitting at one end of one of the tables, a group of three other people were sitting at the other end. James and Johanna squeezed into the space in between. One of the people on the other end of the table obviously, didn’t have “the taste or sophistication, to appreciate the depth, character and quality of his premium craft brewed beer”. When he left, I said to James I think he’s gone back to drinking “mass marketed, bland, cheaply made watered down lager” We got talking, we said we were shareholders, that we liked the beer, we liked the pub. James went to the bar and came back with a 4 glasses and a bottle of Bashah Imperial and Tayberry reserve. I was blown away. This was beer in a different class. I was hooked.
So here is why I think BrewDog matters.
They Brew Great Craft Keg Beer
I like my beer cold. Brewdog beers are mostly designed to be served cold. Granted with some styles like stouts and porters, the flavour develops as you let it warm up a little. Hops, did someone say hops? These guys use a lot of hops, and not just any old hops either. Bucket loads of aromatic hops from around the world. Not just in the kettle either. Some beers are dry hopped too. That’s why the beer tastes and smells as good as it does. Lets not forget malt. Unless it says wheat beer on the label, it’s all malted barley in there. Ok so they do use some types of sugar in some of the higher strength beers. They don’t want the yeast to starve to death and die. The longer the yeast lives and eats the more alcohol it excretes. Additives, preservatives, and isinglass finings are not used in the making of a Brewdog beer. Their beers are suitable for vegetarians. They do lightly filter, but they don’t pasteurise. They want to leave the flavour in the beer.
BrewDog craft beer bars are great places to drink. In my local, BrewDog Aberdeen, most of the BrewDog core range is usually available on keg. Alice Porter and
* are on keg fairly frequently too. Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismark are available in 25ml measures, allowing people to try them without having to spend serious money on a whole bottle. Tokyo
We usually see the special beers on keg when they are released, even the Abstrakts. The Guest board changes regularly. Mikkeller, Stone, Flying Dog, and Port Brewing/Lost Abbey are only a few of the great names that have featured on the guest boards. I’m looking forward to seeing some beers from some of the other British Craft keg brewers in the near future There is even a customer tap. If you buy the beer on this tap, you get to vote for one beer from a choice of three. When the keg finishes the beer with the most votes goes on next.
The range of rare and unusual bottled beers is extensive. Some of these beers have travelled a long way to be here. Others are made in small quantities, but because BrewDog has a good relationship with the brewer, and I’m thinking about Mikkeller here, they can get these beers behind their bars. Perhaps some are a little pricey, but still cost less than the price of a round if you share a larger bottle between four friends. £10-15 may seem like a lot of cash for a bottle of beer, but it is a pretty fair price when compared with what most people spend on a bottle of wine with a comparable ABV.
The bars also host some special meet the brewer nights, when all the taps are given over to the visiting guest brewers’ beers. I was lucky enough to be able to go to the Mikkeller/Nogne O, and Port Brewing/Lost Abbey nights in
Aberdeen and The Stone Total Tap Takeover in . Edinburgh
We have also had some of the BrewDog brewers coming down from Fraserburgh to do a shift in the
bar. It’s great being able to talk to these guys about the beer, and have some of the finer points about brewing, hops and how they filter explained to you. The Brewers I met are all really approachable (despite in some cases looking a bit scary), guys who are passionate about what they do. Aberdeen
The Aberdeen Bar also sold a Beer/cheese tasting deal on Groupon. What a great way to introduce people to craft beer. They sold 601 in a day. I bought one, and spent an enjoyable couple of hours in the company of “Inappropriate Dan” tasting various beers, having hopping and dry hopping explained, and totally failing to identify
. I thought it was like Hardcore without the mouthfeel. Nanny State
The bars are well run venues. I have seen very little trouble in the
bar, and what trouble there was, was dealt with firmly and swiftly. The bars are safe places to drink. A lot of this is down to the very sensible policy of limiting the serving size of higher ABV beers. Aberdeen
I’m lucky that I live in
only a short bus journey from the original and best Brewdog bar. As the bar empire expands more people will be able to enjoy these beers in the way I do. Aberdeen
The Bar Staff
The enthusiasm of the bar staff for Craft beer starts right at the top with Bruce. Bruce is the former Aberdeen Bar Manager and now Area Manger of all the bars. This guy is passionate about great craft beer. His passion is infectious and I have tried styles I probably wouldn’t have on his recommendation.
Brewdog educate their Bar staff in the product they are selling. Part of the training programme involves spending time working at the brewery, learning about the entire brewing process.
If you are new to craft beer, visit a bar and talk to the staff. They know about the beer. They care about the beer. They are enthusiastic about the beer. They will pour you a few free samples. They will help you choose a beer you will like.
Abstrakt series, high abv freeze distilled beers,
, numerous collaborations, with other craft brewers, barrel aged beers, visiting Gypsy Brewers. Nanny State
The Craft Beer industry (American Definition) seems to be unlike any other industry, in that the different players get together now and again and collaborate. Some of the best Craft brewers in the world, have visited Brewdog, and brewed beer there. Stone came and brewed Bashah, Three Floyds came and brewed Bitch Please. Lost Abbey came and brewed Lost Dog, which is still ageing in a rum cask.
BrewDog seem to spend a lot of time and effort brewing some pretty unusual and special beers. These guys are not content to sit back and churn out nothing but their core range. They like to experiment. Brewdog in common with many other craft brewers, like to mix up styles, use unusual flavourings, “turn everything up to eleven” and brew some spectacular beers as a result.
Equity for Punks
“Like the beer, own part of the brewery”.
“Drink your beer in your bar”
“Drink your beer in your bar”
Selling shares in the company directly to the people who like the beer. OK, they needed the money to grow the business. They could have gone to the bank, but banks need to be paid back with interest, and then want to run your business for you.
So far, at the time of writing, they have raised from both issues £1.7 million. So what do you get for your money. Well admittedly right now a share of the company that is worth only a fraction of what you paid for it. You do how ever get discounts in the online shop, discounts in the bars, when they issue, the shareholder ID card, first dibs on the special beers, and an invitation to the “Soon to be Legendary AGM”. I’ve been to all three AGMs, yes three inside of eight months. The first one was in early December last year, and consisted of a business talk, lunch in Musa, some free beer, a beer and music pairing in the
bar, a trip to the brewery with some more free beer, and a party back in the bar at night. Aberdeen
The second AGM was the shareholder brewday in May, when the 60 or so of us who could be there made “Equity For Punks 2011”, tasted loads of free beer, had an update on the business side of things, ate some tasty burgers, put Lost Dog into rum casks, and generally had a good time.
This was followed by a School Dinners themed beer dinner at Musa and some pretty special beers being on in the
The most recent AGM was held in the
bar, and was a required formality to do with the existing shareholders agreeing to some legal stuff concerning the new share issue. Again some free beers to taste, and pizza. Edinburgh
At all the shareholder events I do get the impression that James and Martin, genuinely appreciate our investment in Brewdog, and what our money and faith in them has allowed them to achieve.
I have met people with a shared interest in beer and have made new friends by becoming an equity punk, and the web based forum is a great place to ask questions, share information, or just bitch about when things go wrong.
Some have speculated that BrewDog will sell out to a multi-national brewer in the future, and I met a guy in the bar this week, who bought shares across the bar, in the hope of just this happening. I would like to think that there is more chance of Bracken being sold to a Korean butcher, than this ever happening. These guys have worked hard to get where they are, and I don’t think retiring to a Carribean island is on their personal agendas just yet. I hope Brewdog become The Baxters of Speyside of the brewing world. Baxters have rejected somewhere in the region of 200 takeover bids.
Online Shop and Punkdog.com
Admittedly the standard of service from the online shop isn’t what it should be, and with the poor standard of service from Parcelforce only adding to the problems, things need to improve. At the Edinburgh AGM, James apologised for this. Measures are being put into place to improve this, and the online shop is in the process if being outsourced, which should hopefully improve standards.
But hey, when it works the way it is supposed to, it’s a great thing. quality craft beer, delivered right to your door, and not just Brewdog’s own beer either. They also sell some of the bottles they stock in the bars.
Punkdog.com This is a website that allows you to design your own personalised labels for beer bottles, with photographs and text. I’ve used it twice for gifts. It’s easy to use, and comes with a choice of Trashy Blonde, 77 Lager, or Punk IPA in the bottles.
Supermarket listings/Craft Beer in Cans/ Growlers
Unlike Real Ale which is more or less confined to the pub or a beer festival, Brewdog beers can be enjoyed everywhere.
Their beers are available in most supermarkets. Some have accused them of selling out on their “Punk Ethos” because of this. Wake up and smell the hops. They are in the business of brewing and selling beer. They are Capitalists. They are in it to make money and grow the business, and maybe even pay the shareholders a dividend in the future.
Craft beer in a can, or as I like to call them nanokegs. Lighter, cheaper and easier to transport than a bottle. Perfect for festivals and camping trips. They take much less energy to recycle, and the beer tastes just as good. (I have heard that, there have been some pretty manky cans of Punk on the go and I hope this is just a minor blip.) They also take up less space in your fridge which means it can hold more.
Growlers have been introduced recently. An idea imported from the U.S. Buy a growler, take it to your nearest Brewdog bar and have it filled with the draught beer of your choice to take home and enjoy.
Craft Beer and Food
BrewDog are active in the movement in the
, to raise the profile of beer and its relationship with food. They have produced a guide to beer and food matching, and have along with many others in the beer world, raised the profile of beer within the restaurant industry. UK
They hold regular themed beer dinners in Musa Aberdeen, which sell out very quickly. People are interested in drinking good beer, with good food. The vast array of beer styles, mean that there is a beer that goes well with any dish.
I ate in a branch of Byron Hamburger, in
recently. They have Punk IPA, on their drinks menu, along with some other great craft beers, thanks to beer blogger and writer Mark Dredge, who was asked to come up with a choice of beers for them. The Gaucho restaurant, I ate in, had 3 Meantime beers on the menu and the restaurant in the Tate Modern sells Trashy Blonde as well as a range of Kernel beers. London
The Proposed Carbon Neutral Brewery
Let’s face it. Beer is a luxury item. It along with other alcoholic beverages is something we could all survive (unhappily) without. Millions of acres worldwide are planted with crops grown just to feed our love of an alcoholic beverage. This land would probably be better put to use to feed the starving. It’s a compelling argument, and radical vegans will trot out a similar argument, about how wasteful it is to feed grain to livestock to produce meat, eggs and dairy products. I love beer and I love meat. I’m selfish that way. Such arguments don’t sway me one bit, but despite this I do give a shit about the planet I live on and realise that some things could be done in a better way.
A carbon neutral brewery is an innovative step forward. A brewery that produces all of its own energy. deals with all of its waste onsite and doesn’t pollute the environment, sounds good to me.
Of course this comes with an increased initial cost, but if it’s done right it will work. It will be a showcase for a better way to brew beer, as well as an example of how any manufacturing industry can do things in a better way for the environment.
BrewDog bars are a destination in themselves. I have met several Danish, Norwegian, and Dutch visitors, who have visited
, specifically to visit the Brewdog Bar. A short break, spent drinking quality beers, but with the added economic advantages that come with what they are also spending on hotels, meals, and travel. You could add the Equity Punks, who visit the Aberdeen area for the AGMs, into this category as well. They could just have easily spent the money they pay for travel and accommodation, on a short break to Aberdeen Dublin or . Paris
The visitor facilities proposed for the new brewery site, will be yet another good reason to visit the
The Craft Beer Revolution
What is the Craft Beer Revolution? Is it marketing? I choose to drink better tasting more interesting flavoured beers brewed in a variety of styles.
We are all susceptible to advertising and marketing. Choices we make in our daily lives are constantly being influenced by marketing and advertising in all its forms. It is rammed down our throats we cannot escape from it, it is everywhere.
BrewDog are just as guilty as any other brewer large or small in using marketing to sell its product. I as a consumer am just as guilty for falling for the hype. I first bought the beers because I saw the name somewhere and wondered what the hype was all about. Turns out I liked them. However they are sometimes just a little bit more clever about how they go about this. Remember no publicity is bad publicity. Whatever you think about the disputes with the Portman Group, the high abv beers, the text on the bottle labels, the taxidermy, their facebook page, multiple twitter accounts, the Brewdog Blog, the hilarious/purile/informative video blogs and the CAMRA baiting it has got the BrewDog name out there.
They are prodigious users of social networking to reach their target audience. This also allows interaction and debate.
They have the beer to back it all up as well. Any brewery, which can sell more beer than it can brew, despite contract brewing elsewhere, must be doing something right.
My only hope is that the negative marketing tactics are consigned to the backseat in the future. They have achieved their aim. It’s time to start concentrating on what is good about Brewdog. I don’t want to hear that Stella is shit, and real ale is boring anymore. Tell us what is great about your beer.
BrewDog have also opened/kicked in the door for other breweries in the
brewing quality craft keg beers. I recently met James and Andy from the Summer Wine Brewery. They are also brewing some Keg beers with huge amounts of American and UK hops. They have taken their inspiration from Brewdog, just as BrewDog took theirs from the likes of Stone Brewing in New Zealand . These guys are just as passionate about great tasting beer as BrewDog are and I’m looking forward to trying their beer. America
Brewdog arrived in 2007. In 4 short years what started as two young men, a dog and some big ideas has grown to become
’s largest independent brewery. They are opening successful Craft Beer Bars at a time when the pub industry is suffering unprecedented decline. Scotland
They are one of the most exciting and innovative young breweries in the
today. They brew beer for flavour first and foremost. They have achieved much in a short space of time and have the potential to achieve so much more. UK
I am proud to be an Equity Punk.
Vive le Revolution."