Bone Up on BrewDog Now

Probably no craft breweryBrewDog image has been so talked about by so many people who have never actually tasted their beer, myself included. But BrewDog, the Scottish brewery famous for its break-the-rules zeitgeist, is on track to start production just outside Columbus, Ohio this summer. So, my fellow craft-loving Americans, it’s time to bone up on BrewDog.

By the way, in his newly-released-in-America Business for Punks, BrewDog’s co-founder James Watt advises to “get forgiveness, not permission.” In that spirit, all photos and video in this post were borrowed without permission from BrewDog’s website.

Back in 2007, when Watt and his good friend Martin Dickie opened a little craft brewery in Aberdeen, Scotland, it was just them and the dog. By the close of 2015, according to the company website, in addition to the dog there were 540 employees, 32,000 shareholders, 44 bars and a brewery that produced 134,000 hectoliters (approximately 114,000 US barrels) of beer last year. Not bad for 8 years in business.

BrewDog comingNo date has yet been announced for the opening of BrewDog’s 100,000 square-foot brewery currently under construction on 42 acres in Canal Winchester, Ohio, which will include a 100-barrel brewhouse and provide over 100 jobs. See the Columbus Dispatch article from yesterday, March 15, for more information.

Business for PunksAsk American craft fans what they think of when they hear, “arrogant bastard,” and they’ll probably say, “Stone’s ale.” Ask UK fans, and more than a few would probably reply, “James Watt” or “BrewDog,” especially after Watt’s appearance on a three-part BBC show, Who’s the Boss, that ended last week with even Watt declaring it a disaster. But an occasional disaster doesn’t slow Watt down.

Probably the most remotely similar craft beer personality in America is Tony Magee. If you know much about Lagunitas (which is also fond of its dog), you probably know Magee’s irreverent approach to business. This is the brewery that named one if its beers Lagunitas Sucks, and Magee’s So You Want to Start a Brewery? begins with a Fauxword.

But Watt and Dickie take outrageousness far beyond Magee. (See video at end of post.) In Business for Punks, Watt writes, “At BrewDog our business is built on the punk mentality. At its core punk is about learning the skills you need to do things on your own terms…Our approach has been anti-authoritarian and non-conformist from the word go.” And that’s just part of the first paragraph in the prologue.

BrewDog glassSection titles scream their message IN ALL CAPS!

  • Be a Selfish Bastard and Ignore Advice
  • Don’t Waste Your Time on Bullshit Business Plans
  • Cash is Motherfucking King
  • Defend Your Gross Margin Like a Junkyard Rottweiler
  • Interviews Suck
  • Steal and Bastardize
  • Win Win Win
  • Being Reasonable is for Ambitionless Wimps

But read one chapter of Watt’s book, and it’s clear his IQ must be pretty much off—or way beyond—the charts and that he knows a heck of a lot about how to run his business. After getting an honors degree in law and economics, Watt spent time as a sea captain before he and Dickie opened BrewDog at the ripe old age of twenty-four. Seven years later, in 2014, he was named Great British Entrepreneur of the Year.

BrewDog IPAsThese guys really do break old rules and make new ones. Back in 2009, around the time Kickstarter was being born, BrewDog was offering fans Equity for Punks, run through their website. Now in its fourth phase, the crowdfunding platform has raised more than £15 million ($21,385,500 US). And all of those 32,000 shareholders who own a piece of BrewDog, make great company ambassadors. No surprise, fellow Americans, Equity for Punks USA is in the works. You, too, will be able to claim your very own stake.

By the time I finished Business for Punks, I was following Watt and BrewDog (91.1K followers) on Twitter, and checking BrewDog Blog and BrewDog TV, so I could continue to keep up. Example: last Friday, March 11, they announced their newly named USA head of production: Tim Hawn, Dogfish Head’s former Brewmaster.

You can bet the last bottle of beer in your fridge that folks in the US craft community will be keeping a close eye on how BrewDog’s business model and practices fly here. And that could ultimately be BrewDog’s biggest impact in America.

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