An interview with BrewDog: discover the art of Scottish craft beer in Aberdeen
With a rise in the interest of craft beers globally, BrewDog certainly joined the market at exactly right point. Find out how one of the world’s most innovative brewing companies emerged from humble beginnings in Aberdeen to become international superstars of the brewing industry. Together, James Watt and Martin Dickie cofounded BrewDog. We asked James to tell us their story.
What was the inspiration behind creating BrewDog?
“BrewDog was born out of a frustration with the state of beer in the UK. Our mission was simply to make others as passionate about great beer as we are. That is still our mission today. The ‘why’ was more of a ‘why not?’. Really, the feedback on our first batch of Punk IPA cemented our futures. It simply made sense to share this with the world”.
So, where did it all start?
“I’ve known Martin most of my life, he had just completed a degree in brewing and so, naturally most of our conversations revolved around beer. After one such passionate discussion, we set up a makeshift brewery in Martin’s garage in Aberdeen and began experimenting. This garage was where Punk IPA was born. We quit our jobs and launched BrewDog full time.
Martin and I decided to take our brew to various open tasting events. Our beer eventually got into the hands of the late beer legend Michael Jackson in Glasgow. He was very impressed with it and told us to quit our jobs and start brewing full time. That was all we needed for us to finally decide that this is exactly what we were meant to do”.
© Ellon Brewery / BrewDog
Has it always been smooth sailing?
“We’ve had the odd brew go wrong, and obviously have created a lot of first batches that never saw the light of day. One of the first batches of Punk IPA we ever made was ruined after I dropped my phone, my car keys and a mercury thermometer in it. This was at a time when we couldn’t afford to waste a single drop so it was pretty catastrophic”.
What was the goal with setting up BrewDog?
“The challenge when we started was to help people realise there was an alternative to the preconceived idea of beer; that notion that beer was something you drank ten pints of before eating a kebab and ticking Saturday night off your to-do list. We needed to re-define beer in the UK and media attention helped us gain traction when customers weren’t willing to take a risk. Similarly, our website, blog and social media profiles have been a way for us to create a community around BrewDog so that has always been a focus for us.
Anything we do is always just a natural extension of the way we work. Sticking to the status quo is boring and we break conventions at every opportunity, so that mentality also runs through how we market the business”.
Did you ever imagine BrewDog would become so global?
“We did imagine it…did we think it was actually going to happen? That’s another question”.
Why do you think people respond so well to the brand?
“On a fundamental level, we’ve noticed a change in the tastes of British beer drinkers in the last couple of years, people are now becoming increasingly aware that there are options beyond the brands they see on billboards and expensive ads. Great craft beer is also one those things in life where it’s hard to go back to your old ways once you realise what you’ve been missing.
Our brand is built around what we believe is a great product. When you put true passion and hard work into a product, the reception from the public is often positive. We also believe that we are nothing without the input of the people that drink our beers, that’s why we involve them in a lot of decision making for the company. They can own shares in BrewDog through Equity for Punks, they can vote on creating a new beer through #Mashtag, and they can select which city we open our next bar in. We want everyone who drinks BrewDog to be as passionate about great beer as we are”.
The marketing and labels are unique. Can you tell us a bit about that?
“From the start, we wanted our branding to reflect our mission. That mission was to stand up against homogeneous mass produced beer that was dominating the UK market. This meant our labels, our messaging and merchandise had to reflect that.
We were certain of the standout quality of our beer, the challenge then was to translate that into a visual identity that will attract a person in a bar or in the supermarket aisle and I think we were pretty successful with that”.
What will you experience when you visit the bar in Aberdeen?
“Like our beers, our bars should reflect our mission. They are havens for experiencing and indulging in the eclectic, humongous world of beer. We make a point of stocking the best craft beer from around planet earth. We want to champion great brewing, regardless of origin. You should leave a BrewDog bar satisfied and happy, enriched and eager to return”.
If this post has inspired you to learn more about the art of creating craft beer then make sure you visit BrewDog’s bar on 17 Gallowgate. This unique deconstructed bar features their own and guest beers from across the globe. It’s the perfect way to impress business clients after a day of meetings and conferences, or if you are looking for something memorable to do when in the Granite City with your travel companions. Your new found brewing knowledge is not far away from the Park Inn by Radisson Aberdeen Hotel, it is in fact just a 15 minute walk.