Aug 252017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

The two-day pop-up festival is being delivered by the team behind the world-famous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

We’ll drink to that! Countdown on to Speyside food and drink festival.

If you’re looking for beer that promises to be – in the words of a Speyside brewer – a refreshing change from “mass produced mouthwash” or cool ideas like adding a slice of apple, rather than a wedge of lemon, to enhance a gin and tonic, then Spirit of Speyside: Distilled is the place to be.

Keith Brewery and Caorunn Gin feature in the 30-strong line up of exhibitors taking part in the two-day celebration of the region’s gastronomy on September 1 and 2 at Elgin Town Hall.

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled offers the chance to meet the producers – like the chocolate maker from Favour-it Flavours who is isn’t afraid to experiment with new tastes, with crushed Oreo, caramel biscotti and jelly bean being among the most recent trials, and she’s never short of volunteers to help with a spot of new product sampling.

Find out the best cuppa to start the day, with Cairngorm Leaf and Bean and discover how Macleans Highland Bakery add a twist to their oatcakes offering ranges that have a touch of chilli, haggis, seaweed and black pepper or vanilla.

Bartenders, baristas, brewers, whisky makers and foodies will be there so expect to find samples and tastings, demonstrations, food and drink pairings, storytelling and masterclasses.

It’s the second of the new-breed event celebrating the vibrancy of Speyside’s food and drink producers, from artisanal operators to the globally renowned drinks brands.

It seeks to show the region’s wide range of gourmet delights with surprising flavours from alternative producers who, alongside the region’s well-known whisky brands, are keeping the region at the fore of the Scottish food and drink scene.

The craft producers join the big hitters and they all have one thing in common – people passionate about making great tasting food and drink.

The two-day pop-up festival is being delivered by the team behind the world-famous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

Festival chairman James Campbell said:

“A new generation of people want to seek out artisanal products while enjoying the produce of pioneering businesses that placed the region on the food and drink map.

“What makes Distilled stand out is that food and drink producers come together under one roof. There are so many great food and drink companies operating in the region and this event is a good way of highlighting that diversity while making it easily accessible to visitors.

“It’s a chance to discover new tastes and products, and to try some punchy tastes and flavours, some of which may be familiar and some which will be new. Tickets are selling fast and places are limited so pre-ordering them is the best way to ensure you don’t miss out.”

Distilled is sponsored by Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers and runs over four sessions, from 1-5pm and 6-10pm on both the Friday and Saturday. Tickets are priced at £20 and this includes entry, six vouchers for tasting samples of gin, whisky or beer, a lanyard and a Glencairn crystal nosing and tasting glass.

All whisky, gin, beer and foods on offer will have a Speyside provenance and there will be the chance to purchase products from stand holders. Festival merchandise will also be on sale.

For more information and to book tickets, visit www.distilled.scot

Distilled is active on social media at www.facebook.com/distilledscot on Twitter and Instagram @distilledscot. Follow the festival at #distilled17

 

Aug 202017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled is a celebration of the region’s whisky, gin, beer and food.

Glasses are being raised for the return of Spirit of Speyside: Distilled – a celebration of the region’s favourite drams with a dash of food, gin and beer added for good measure.

The mini-festival, which brings together Speyside’s leading distillers under one roof and on their own doorstep, is being held for the second year running.

Speyside is the beating heart of Scotland’s whisky industry: it is home to more than half of the country’s distilleries and a host of internationally renowned brands.

Many of those will be taking part at the event, which takes place from 1 – 2 September in Elgin Town Hall.

Visitors will have the chance to taste whisky from the distillers attending, but Spirit of Speyside: Distilled has much more to offer than malts. It will also feature local gin distillers, breweries and food producers.

The event reflects the broad range of food and drink on Speyside, and global companies will exhibit alongside small producers that are just starting out. There will be an opportunity for visitors to sample all that they have to offer.

In addition to visiting the dozens of exhibition stands, those who go along will have the opportunity to attend masterclasses on a wide range of topics related to Speyside whisky, gin, beer and food – some of which will feature exclusive and rare malts – led by industry experts.

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled is split into four separate sessions taking place from 1pm-5pm and from 6pm-10pm each day. Tickets for each session cost £20 – masterclasses are an additional £15 – and include vouchers for six 10ml tasting samples of whisky, gin, or a tasting measure of beer, a Glencairn crystal nosing and tasting glass and a lanyard.

Tokens, costing £1, will be available at the event and these can be used to taste an extensive range of additional samples.

Tickets are on sale on the website www.distilled.scot

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled is active on social media at facebook.com/distilledscot and on Twitter and Instagram @distilledscot

Distilled is an offshoot of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which has been running for almost 20 years. The Festival takes place over the early May bank holiday weekend each year and comprises around 500 events across the Speyside area.

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled
1-2 September, 2017
Elgin Town Hall. Speyside, Scotland

Entry: £20 per ticket

Aug 112017
 

Food and drink producers blend together to give festival fans a taste of Spirit of Speyside: Distilled. With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Now in its second year, Distilled aims to showcase the region as a true foodie paradise offering so much more than whisky

Beer, beetroot and berry-flavoured gin – it’s an unusual combination but some of Speyside’s best food and drink producers are about to blend together for an event that will tantalise tastebuds. Over 30 exhibitors have confirmed they will be taking part in Spirit of Speyside: Distilled – a celebration of the region’s gastronomy – next month.

Small producers such as Simpson’s Ice Cream, Berry Good Gin, rum distillers Beach Craft Spirits, Spey Valley Brewery and chocolates from Favour-it Flavours will set up alongside globally renowned brands including Baxters, The Glenlivet, Walkers Shortbread and The Macallan for the two-day event.

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled, which is staged in Elgin Town Hall on September 1 and 2, is an off-shoot of the popular annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

Now in its second year, Distilled aims to showcase the region as a true foodie paradise offering so much more than whisky.

Festival chairman James Campbell says the fact that Distilled blends together household names with small one-man operations proved to be a real talking point at last year’s inaugural event, and organisers are delighted to introduce new exhibitors this year.

He adds,

“It is only when so many food and drink producers are gathered together under one roof that people really begin to realise how many fantastic companies we have operating right here on our own doorstep.

“The feedback we got from visitors last year was that they really enjoyed being able to wander around, sampling cocktails, gin, whisky and beer and getting a taste of the food that has also put Speyside on the map.

“And, of course, it is a great opportunity for them to come face to face with the people who are critical to our food and drink industry – the master distillers, distillery managers and innovators – which is also a hallmark of the main Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.”

As well as producers, visitors to the event will be able to enjoy the products served up by some of Speyside’s best bars and eateries. The Copper Dog – part of the Craigellachie Hotel – will be re-created in the hall’s Supper Room and will have cocktails flowing, live music and food.

The Station Hotel, Rothes, will have a team of mixologists on hand to pour its signature range of whisky and gin cocktails – including the specially created ‘Distilled’ in honour of the event – while Elgin-based bar The Drouthy Cobbler will be giving visitors a taste of what it provides along with some Speyside-themed street food.

And – showing that Speyside is not all about hills and glens – the team at Harbour Lights in the coastal town of Lossiemouth will be showing off local seafood by serving up smoked salmon canapes and other treats.

In addition to the wide number of exhibitors, there is a programme of masterclasses giving visitors the chance to enjoy rare and cask strength drams, learn how to pair food, and discover more about Speyside’s other drinks producers. Tickets for masterclasses must be bought in addition to entry tickets.

Distilled, which is sponsored by Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers, will run for four different sessions, one from 1-5pm and one from 6-10pm on each day. Tickets are priced at £20 which includes entry, six vouchers for tasting samples of gin, whisky or beer, a lanyard and a Glencairn crystal nosing and tasting glass.

All whisky, gin, beer and foods on offer will have a Speyside provenance and there will be the chance to purchase products from stand holders. Festival merchandise will also be available to buy.

For more information and to book tickets, visit www.distilled.scot Distilled is active on social media at www.facebook.com/distilledscot on Twitter and Instagram @distilledscot. Follow the festival at #distilled17

Apr 222016
 

BrewDog-AGM-1With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

The AGM of irreverent Scottish brewery, BrewDog, was held at the AECC in Aberdeen this weekend.

6,000 beer fans savoured beers from the world’s leading craft breweries at the day-long event.

The meeting gave young founders James Watt and Martin Dickie a platform to unleash five new brews, and propagate their derision of big industrial beer companies Diageo and AB InBev by announcing an official change in their constitution, entrenching the brewery’s independence by passing a motion to ensure that BrewDog can ‘never be sold to a monolithic purveyor of industrial beer’.

The recently reported 2015 financial results from the craft brewery (an extract from which is included below) propelled it to number 10 in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 companies, with a 3-year annual profit growth of 120%.

BrewDog reported a revenue increase of 51% to £44.7m in 2015, and a gross profit increase of 48% to £17m. Sales in the UK surged by 131%, making BrewDog the number one craft brewery in the UK.

Crowdfunding over the AGM weekend drew more than £600,000, tipping the total over £16m with one week still to go of Equity For Punks IV.

The 40,000-strong army of shareholders will be funding the building of a bigger brewery in Ellon, which will increase capacity fivefold, as well as launching BrewDog’s US brewery in Columbus, Ohio.

James-Watt-at-BrewDog-AGM

James Watt at BrewDog AGM

BrewDog is investing over $30m to build its brand new brewery Stateside to help meet the demand for BrewDog beers in America.

With a focus on expansion, BrewDog has also set its sights on new UK sites along with international ambitions.

Cathedrals of craft will be popping up in Norwich (set to launch this week), Southampton and York in the next couple of months alone.

BrewDog has raised more money through equity crowdfunding than any other company on record, and is famous for its boundary-pushing stunts to further the craft beer revolution. This latest round has raised £16m to date. And closes at 11am on 20th April 2016.

James Watt, company co-founder with Martin Dickie, commented:

“The BrewDog AGM 2016 was off the charts – we introduced our loyal punks to some amazing new beers, we shared our plans for world domination, and we made it an official part of our constitution that BrewDog will never sell out.

“We’ve got so much happening in the year ahead, we’re taking the craft beer revolution across the Atlantic, we’re cementing the craft uprising in Europe, and we’re branching out into spirits and sour beer from our Ellon HQ. And it’s all thanks to our 40,000 shareholders, which is why we put on such a massive music filled, beer-fuelled AGM for them – the biggest in the UK, and definitely the wildest.”

Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly was on hand; she added:

“Watching this company grow from two guys on the Belmont Street Farmer’s Market to the UK’s fastest-growing private company, soon to start production in the USA, has been a pleasure to witness.  It was always clear to me that Watt and Dickie loved what they were doing from day one, and I expected big things. No one really could have expected this big. 

“This year’s AGM sees fellow shareholders come together from all over the world to celebrate beer and great growth. Having the UK Subs as the final act on a great musical programme didn’t hurt either. Thanks BrewDog for a great day and for introducing me to Swedish Death Candy – what a band!”

More information on BrewDog can be found at brewdog.com

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Dec 252015
 

Aberdeen sees a second BrewDog bar open, and long-time devotee, beer lover Suzanne Kelly is there to report; photos by Julie Thompson.

The old Athenaeum is the newest BrewDog bar. We shareholders were asked what we wanted for the Aberdeen bar, and we got it.

brewdog castlegate opening nov 15Shareholders such as me were invited for the opening festivities; old familiar faces and newer shareholders mingled in the large space which still had the distinctive BrewDog feel to it.

For me, jostling my way through the crowds and entering the Bottle Shop was the highpoint of the night.

The walls from floor to ceiling are filled with some of the world’s greatest craft beers, and veritably all of Scotland’s finest brews. Some are in chiller cabinets; most are on shelves, interspersed with books, notebooks, badges and other goodies.

The book of the moment is founder James Watt’s bestselling book, ‘Business for Punks’.  I’ve got one, but have been too busy to read it yet. It’s my Christmas reading, or so I intend.

james makes a toast at brewdog castlegate nov 15James was on hand to welcome us all with a speech and a toast. The crowd fell silent when he spoke of being passionate about fantastic beer:

“As equity punks, you guys have done this. Thanks!!”

This to the Brewdog shareholders, now about 11,000 strong, give or take.

Someone else yells “F*** yeah!” Watt also talks about the music and live entertainment there will be in the basement: Underdog is lining up a variety of acts.  He continues

“Our AGM will be on the 9th of April and again it’s going to be in Aberdeen. This is Hinterland,  our 10% chocolate coffee imperial stout. Tthanks for coming to the opening, thanks for being equity punks and God Bless America.”

 We all drink the chocolatey rich beer we’ve been given and then applaud. Then it’s back to the important business of drinking.

Early on, I’m talking to Nathan who only recently started working with BrewDog; he’s had a week and a half of training.

I said “this is absolute madness,” and he said “yes, but  it’s beer madness and that’s the best kind of madness there is.”

He said this is the best job he’s ever had, with the nicest people he’s worked with, and he’s very happy.

Chris is the manager of the new bar; it’s now three months that he’s been with the company. He stresses how passionate he is about beer.

“We are really happy, so nice to see the building full of our equity punk shareholders. Beer is absolutely my passion, we’re evangelical about it.”

Later during the evening James tells me:

“Yeah, it’s amazing we opened our first Aberdeen site 5 years ago. Since then we opened 44 other sites around the planet.  It’s amazing to be back in Aberdeen. So many people in Aberdeen asked us for a bigger bar, a bottle shop, more food. So we listened and we’ve hopefully given the people what they want. We have so many equity punks in Aberdeen as well, and they’ve been the heart and soul of our business. Great to have so many equity punks come out; it’s a special night.”

I’ll give him that. Cheers. I didn’t know this yet, but BD was soon to do its open letter to Donald Trump. Let’s just say that cheered me no end. That, and a menu filled with things like Bavarian pretzels, oreo cookie shakes with beer, vegetarian hotdogs, and a bottle shop that makes me want to go back soon.

Feb 172015
 

Last week BrewDog invited its shareholders – over 14,000 of us – for a day at the Ellon Brewery, DogTap & bottleshop. The hundred or so who attended enjoyed a great day out. Shareholder Suzanne Kelly reports.

beer_chandelier

Beer Chandelier

BrewDog opened up the newly-expanded Ellon brewery to shareholders on 7 February; it was to tour the brewery, see the new  DogTap & bottleshop, taste beers and have fun.

The day’s main event was to help create a new beer – Bounty Hunter. This will be a chocolaty, coconutty stout (lactose, coconut chip and chocolate). We were invited to take part in the ‘mashing in’ (mixing the grains into the heated water, the early stage of the brewing process) and to help design the stout’s label.

You can’t say that shareholders aren’t appreciated by the company. A full programme of events saw us meet at BrewDog Aberdeen for coffee before taking a coach to the Ellon brewery (we all chipped in £5 each for the round trip).

On the way I sat with Chris who tells me he’s been with the company for 6 months. In the course of talking we discussed how the spent grains are sent to local farmers for their animals; he seemed very up on the company’s sustainability credentials (something I care about as well).

On arrival we were welcomed by Becky. We waited in the bar for a second busload of attendees. The inimitable artwork associated with BrewDog adorns the walls; the chandelier is made of BrewDog bottles. The artwork you’ll see at the brewery and many of the bars is mainly down to Fisher, a BrewDog employee who was general manager at the Aberdeen bar, worked at the Edinburgh bar & Leeds bar, and led beer tasting sessions as well as creating this art. More on the art later.

A blackboard explains the basics of brewing. Nearby is a poster advertising a chocolate and beer evening on Friday 13 February. If you don’t think chocolate and beer belong together, you might want to think again.

We were shown through to the newly-extended brewery where we talked and enjoyed a few beers. I spoke with friends Andrew and Michael (his brother-in-law had got him interested in the company) and Simon from Southampton, himself a brewer (his outfit is Rusty Prop ). Then we got down to the brewing.

Master brewers James and Bowman got the cacao nibs, grains and coconut chips together, and pretty soon the scents of malt, roasted grain, chocolate and coconut seemed everywhere. (The beer will be called ‘Bounty Hunter’ – no doubt the chocolate bar’s taste will be evoked by the finished stout in due time).

Art & Craft Beer 

I went to the main bar to seek vegetarian fare. I ran into Fisher, and we got talking about art. He’s more than happy to talk about the opportunities BrewDog has created for him. Over the entrance is a painted mural of two dogs facing each other; I note their gums seem to be in fluorescent paint. Across from them is neon lettering proclaiming ‘without us, we are nothing’. When the rest of the bar is dark, the neon shows up the florescent paint in the murals.

We discuss all things paint and design. He shows me a remarkably striking Welsh red dragon he’s done for the  Cardiff bar which opened late 2014; I adore it, and will be making my way to the new Welsh location when next I can. The pie is taking a long time to come – I’m expecting someone will just be reheating some pre-made pie.

Fisher had recommended the flavour; sweet potato and feta.

shareholders_pour_over_pie_chaBrewDog’s pies come fresh from Pieminister.

The pie eventually comes: it’s well worth the wait, and must have been freshly made; I feel guilty for trying to hurry it along and for my assumption it was just going to be a case of reheating something in a microwave.

Apologies. It’s also in biodegradable packaging with biodegradable cutlery.

The reason for my haste was that I didn’t want to miss a thing going on in the brewery. I arrive back at my table just in time for the business end of today’s events: Martin and James are about to give an overview of their company’s – our company’s – performance.

Share And Share I Like 

“The truth is that unless you drink in their pubs or buy a lot from their website then it it [sic] probably wouldn’t count as a good ‘investment’.”

“Their success is entirely due to hipster popularity. Once all the “cool dudes” stop being interested in beer, BrewDog will slip back into obscurity.” – forum comments from http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=4665869

“If BrewDog continue to brew excellent beer whilst growing as they have done, then you should make your money back and more, but that is missing the point. If you believe in what BrewDog are doing, and believe that they are genuinely in it for the love of beer and not simply financial gain then you should invest. If you think the numbers don’t add up and it’s not a ‘good investment’ then you shouldn’t.

“The decision is up to you, and BrewDog have been extremely open and honest about what they are offering, and what they’re not.” http://www.eatingisntcheating.co.uk/2011/07/is-brewdogs-share-offer-taking-us-for.html

From market stall to first small share offering to the present, there has been absolutely no slip in BrewDog’s passion or in their attention to detail.

In 2011 the company raised £2 million with a second release of shares, Equity for Punks II; they also raised £4.25m in Equity for Punks III in 2013. They then spent £6.5 million on the Ellon brewery. Their profit margins continue to escalate to dizzying levels – yet compared to the big boys like Diageo (who you may remember tried to cheat the BrewDog team out of an award), they are still comparably small.

We wondered what James Watt and Martin Dickie would tell us today. We are getting very used to hearing good news from them, and today we got more. The good news includes:

• BrewDog is a Living Wage Employer (more info here http://www.livingwage.org.uk/employers )
• BrewDog is now in 52 countries, with a Barcelona bar opening next week opens Tuesday 10th for Equity Punk launch, open to general public Wednesday 11th
• BrewDog Brighton will open in June of this year all being well, and Southampton soon.
• Idlewild will play the AGM again this year on 6 June (Martin and James promise that there will not be the long lines of people queuing for beer they had last time – over 4,000 people attended, and getting a beer was a long process it must be admitted)
• There will be a shareholder beer club featuring limited edition craft beer
• More canned beers will be produced (including personal favourite Jackhammer) – enabling export without losing quality

What do they want? To keep making great craft beer and to ‘be the best employer ever’. The shareholders are with them on both points, and any staff member I’ve ever spoken with seems to think BrewDog already is top dog in terms of employment.

Brewdog_Beatnik_event_by_Sam_BMartin’s mentioned that American giant Coors cut production by 600,000 barrels in 2013/14 – this is about the amount the entire craft brewing sector gained.

The brewery here in Ellon has greatly grown, it aims to produce some 172,000 HL of beer this coming year – still making it a small player compared to the likes of the American brewers.

What makes a company too big?

There’s big and there’s too Big

Some of BrewDog’s detractors claim the company is now ‘too big’. Should the company start acting like a monopoly seeking to control production, distribution – and making political donations – I’ll consider it too big. But that seems to be how at least one multinational drinks company is carrying on. News broke this week of the behaviour of brewing multinationals in Canadian politics, and if I were a shareholder, I’d be selling up. As the Globe & Mail put it:

“The Beer Store’s corporate owners have funnelled more than $1.1-million to Ontario politicians in the past decade, as they successfully held on to their lucrative private monopoly.

“The company – owned by foreign brewing giants Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Molson Coors Brewing Co. and Sapporo Breweries Ltd. – enjoys a government-protected stranglehold on beer retail, codified in a secret deal with the province.” – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/beer-stores

I wonder whether BrewDog detractors will put as much energy into complaining about brewery giants and their retail arms donating hundreds and thousands of Canadian dollars to politicians.  No doubt those who think the Watt Dickie company is ‘too big’ will be quick to jump on this important story.

In the early share offering days, some internet investment gurus warned that this was nothing more than ‘a beer club’ – some had less kind things to say. Other pundits were all in favour of their style and their business model. I ask one of the staff about the share value. She advises that when people were first allowed to trade/sell shares in October 2014, the price wound up being £125.

It also seems that many people were willing to part with one or two shares, but few if any people completely divested. Everyone here today seems to have a shared vision based on a passion for beer.

A Matter of Taste

It’s time to taste some beer. We start with India Pale Weizen , made in collaboration with one of the world’s oldest breweries, Weihenstephan. It’s a delicious wheat concoction with the bitter elements of Jackhammer. The hops are Simcoe and Centennial. My table is happy. We’ve also been joined by two more craft beer lovers, and we are all literally comparing notes.

Brewdog_Beatnik_event_by_Sam_B (1)Next we get to taste how the beer we’ve come together to brew is progressing: we drink the wort (the wort is what you get from mashing in- so just the dark sugary liquid you get from the malts- this is before adding hops/other ingredients). It’s delicious – my table asks for more.

This wort is hinting at a very great beer to come in a few weeks’ time.

The third tasting comes a bit late for my table; we’d already enjoyed a pint (or so) of Bourbon Baby, a dark, oaty chocolaty strong drink aged in bourbon casks. It’s another success.

Finally we taste a new version of BrewDog’s Paradox Paradox Compass Box – the staff member talking us through this whimsically suggests it should be drunk by a fire place while sitting in a wing chair, with a fluffy cat nearby. I wonder whether she’s been looking through my flat’s window of a winter night?

Too soon it’s time to go back; the traffic is awful. The heartier shareholders head to the BrewDog bar.

I am heading home for that comfy chair by the fire, my cats, and a final small drink of the night; a ‘Dog B’. I think to myself, ‘the boys have done it again’ – then I realise, having seen their wives and beautiful babies at the today, maybe they’re not ‘boys’ any more. I think instead – well done to James, Martin, their growing families and to all of us who’re on this successful, wild, delicious ride. Same again please.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Feb 072014
 

By Suzanne Kelly.

February 4, 2014 – BrewDog launches the world’s first protest beer – ‘Hello My Name is Vladimir’.  Within 24 hours the flagship Aberdeen bar had completely sold out of its stock of ‘Vladimir’ both bottled and draft beer. 

“Hello My Name is Vladimir mocks Putin’s discriminatory legislation ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi”

Brewdog Vlad sqScottish craft brewery, BrewDog has today launched Hello My Name is Vladimir, a craft beer apparently ‘not for gays’ that carries an image of the Russian premier wearing make up on the label.

The ale is the world’s first ‘protest beer’, aiming to support LGBT communities by undermining the potential of the Winter Olympics to deflect attention from Russia’s recent law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’.

  • 50 per cent of profits from the sale of Hello My Name is Vladimir will be donated directly to charities that represent oppressed minorities around the world.
  •  BrewDog has also sent a case of the limited edition beer to President Putin himself.
  • Hello My Name is Vladimir is a 8.2% ABV double IPA containing Limonnik berries, an ingredient regarded by some Russian hunters to enhance sexual performance in men.
  • As well as claiming the beer is ‘not for gays’, the label carries a garish Warhol-style image of Putin wearing eye shadow and lipstick and suggests the beer ‘may contain traces of sarcasm’.
  • The Putin-inspired double IPA is the latest in a long line of BrewDog beers making an impact during major events. In 2012, the brewer launched Never Mind the Anabolics, a beer laced with steroids, mocking Heineken’s sponsorship of the Olympic Games in London, whilst in 2011 BrewDog’s Royal Virility Performance beer was laced with herbal Viagra to mark the Royal Wedding and ‘take the wheels off the bandwagon’ being ridden by breweries manufacturing saccharine celebratory beers.
  • Hello My Name is Vladimir will be available for £2.89 per bottle in all BrewDog bars and brewdog.com from 4th February 2014.
  • BrewDog is trying to mount global social media pressure on Putin using the dedicated hashtag #NotForGays

James Watt, BrewDog co-founder commented:

Vlad-Label-copy-3“We sincerely hope that when Vladimir Putin is tired from a busy day riding horses with his top off, grappling with burly men on the Judo mat or fishing in his Speedos, he reclines on a velvet chaise longue and has one of his handsome helpers wet his whistle with a glass of Hello My Name is Vladimir.”

“As Hello My Name is Vladimir is clearly marked ‘not for gays’ we should bypass the legislation introduced by Putin outlawing supposed ‘homosexual propaganda’, so Vlad shouldn’t have an issue with it.

“He might even invite us to ride bareback with him in the Siberian mountains.”

“It’s been our mission at BrewDog to upend the status quo in whatever form it occurs.

“Whether it’s the stranglehold the mega brewers have had on beer production in Europe over the last 50 years, or in the case of Russia, the sick legislation that discriminates against millions of its citizens.

“Our core beliefs of freedom, integrity and passion drive all our actions. Since we started in 2007, we’ve always striven to strike fear at the heart of the gatekeepers and establishment, the launch of Hello My Name is Vladimir is simply a continuation of that tradition.”

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Jul 052013
 

BrewDog’s annual general meeting on Saturday 22 June in the AECC came on the heels of a new share offering, impressive financials, and yet more awards; Aberdeen Voice contributor and card-carrying BrewDog shareholder Suzanne Kelly and Voice photographer Julie Thompson were on the spot.

A very sombre AGM was held in north Aberdeen fairly recently. The men at the helm of the business in question visibly squirmed as they addressed a small number of unmoved shareholders about their 2012 failures and shattered plans. In a speech peppered with jargon, the board spoke of ‘customer-facing businesses’ and so on, knowing they had turned in yet another poor year’s performance.

Following the gloomy AGM, the press called the business ‘down in the dumps.’  The controversial management continues to ignore calls for its resignation, despite a catalogue of failures, and investors have little to look forward to in the foreseeable future.

Thankfully, I’m not an Aberdeen Football Club shareholder.

No, I attended my second BrewDog AGM at the AECC, which was more like a party with a few hours devoted to business matters, and very successful business matters at that.  What a swell party (well, AGM) it was:

There is nothing like a BrewDog AGM, yet six years ago, you would have found BrewDog’s founders James Watt and Martin Dickie flogging small quantities of their beer at the Aberdeen Farmer’s market on Belmont Street.  Times have changed.

Hundreds of fellow shareholders from across the world (Belgium, France, Germany, Singapore) converged on the AECC to celebrate all things BrewDog.  Representing all ages, sexes shapes and sizes, BrewDog shareholders and their guests settled down to the serious business of drinking beer, talking beer, thinking beer and of course tasting beer.

The attendees also enjoyed great bands, great food, a wide range of discounted merchandise and beer, and they found time to address a little bit of financial business, too.

BrewDog’s AGM mirrors the company in many ways.  Both are growing bigger and better every year.  Both put a high premium on engaging with the public, and do so with a huge degree of success which professional PR moguls only wish they could bottle and sell.

In terms of bottling and selling, BrewDog is now Britain’s fastest-growing food and drink brand.  Not bad.  The company are serious about beer and the business of beer, and here are some facts and figures which show how that seriousness is made manifest:-

BrewDog has achieved an average annual growth of 167 per cent over the past five years and the company is valued at over three times the value it was given during the last Equity for Punks scheme in 2011.

The company made 42,000 shares available to anyone to buy at £95 each, ignoring traditional methods of funding to support its continued rapid growth. The brewery plans to use the funds raised to further expand its new brewery, its burgeoning bar division and a new series of bottle shops across the UK.

  • BrewDog now hires 187 staff and is on track to turnover £20m in 2013.
  • BrewDog’s biggest success in the past year has been the growth of its bar division, opening 12 bars since 2010 – largely funded by Equity for Punks investment – including its first international location in Stockholm, Sweden.

There is much to look forward to; the team have been taping a programme in America.  They’ve won yet more awards for business performance; they plan more expansion and a visitors’ shop.

Seeing as how they sold £1 million worth of shares of the new offering in 24 hours, another bumper year is
expected.

Can world domination be far off?

Looking at how this company started, how it deals with its staff, investors and the beer-drinking public, I wouldn’t be surprised.  This is the space to watch.

I’m not telling anyone to invest in anything; I’m just proud to be part of a local success story that’s employing people and reintroducing the world to chemical-free, innovative, tasty beer.  And why not?

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Jun 072013
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Interesting times in the Granite City of Culture; there have been two notable photography exhibitions.

On Friday 1st June a group show of hundreds of images of Aberdeen was launched in the City of Culture HQ (formerly known as One Up).  It was a good event; the Lord Provost made an upbeat speech and promised we would have a year of culture, regardless of the city’s city of culture bid.

A show of photography work at St Machar’s Cathedral by the River Don group was very impressive.

With the help of award-winning photographer Alicia Bruce, the group spent time shooting along the Don; the results are stunning (more on that elsewhere in Aberdeen Voice).

The only fly in the ale was last week’s outing by local CAMRA group, holding another real ale festival in Pittodrie.  I’d been several times over the years, going on different dates, but never experienced the shortage of cask ales that my friend and I encountered Saturday afternoon.    Paying full price to get in with no warning they’d run out of nearly half the advertised beers, disappointment was in the air and then some.

“Every beer I’m getting tastes the same” John said

“… as a token gesture I’d have accepted a £ reduction” Stephen said

“*%£!!”N S £”!~*$%%^*!!” Paul said.

Well, the beers that were left were, er – probably not stored or shipped very well.  They were the last turkeys in the shop for a reason.

Without shaming the breweries involved, one was immediately spat out, the others bar one half (we got half measures in more ways than one) were poured out.  And for comic effect, one with a ‘citrusy hint’ was so acidic that I gave a few people a good laugh as they watched my face as it hit my taste buds.

Hint of citrus?  It was as much a ‘hint’ of citrus as the scene in Public Enemy where Jimmy Cagney smashed a grapefruit into Mae Clark’s face.

I was wearing a Brew Dog teeshirt, having just left their alternative beer festival.  80% of the Pittodrie crowd commented that they’d be heading to the dog soon.  The thing is, I genuinely respect CAMRA; they helped me a decade ago stop some small pubs from closing.  I feel like a favourite pet has bit me.

The first five minutes were spent poring over the long list of available beers; we decided what we’d have.  Rounding the corner to where the casks were, we saw disappointed faces and hardly any casks.  The word ‘FINISHED’ hung on signs on at least 40% of the casks.

We’d gone back to the guys who sold us full price admissions less than 10 minutes after we arrived.  We explained we were not happy.  They explained they usually drop the admission price when the stocks get low.  What they were waiting for remains a mystery.  They told me I could ‘write an email’ if I wasn’t happy.   I told them I’d write an email and a bit more.

 The original newsletter for Councillor Owen is no more to be found!

By way of contrast, a meal in Golden Square’s Granite Park took an overly long time.  A talk with the manager about this and a minor issue or two, and the matter was amicably settled there and then.

The beer wasn’t the only disappearance last week.  Alas!  The original newsletter for Councillor  Owen is no more to be found!

Visitors instead receive a message ‘This user has elected to delete their account and the content is no longer available’.  I understand that copies of the lovely photo of the Councillor with Donald Trump senior and his hairpiece can be obtained by ebay, or at the Snappy Snaps near Little Belmont Street – feel free to ask.  If only there were some way to see the cached evidence of this newsletter.  Hmmmm.

And while ‘this user’ expunged her newsletter, making it disappear, a new Register of Interests appeared on Aberdeenshire’s website.  The Snappy Snaps job is now registered.  I couldn’t find the previous version on the Shire’s site, but happily I do have a copy saved.

Last week said councillor took time out from their busy life to comment on my column to say:-

“I object to the serious implication you make that I have or will receive or accept bribes. I refute entirely your allegations and put you on notice that I consider these defamatory and therefore actionable. I request that you desist from repeating them with immediate effect”

Old Susannah is a little confused at Gillian’s mode of attack.  She seems to be telling me that I’ve been a bad girl and could be in trouble, and is backing her statement up by…. taking down her newsletter and updating her register of interest.  Of course, this potential threat of my writing being ‘actionable’ is deeply distressing to me.

So much so that I’ll have to calm my nerves with a half or two of Jackhammer, Dead Pony and AB13.

Finally, spare a thought for 62 year-old Isle of Wight woman Dawn Martin.  She either lost or ended a short-term lease and somehow wound up with nowhere to go.  The Council are investigating, but the story is that she was given temporary accommodation in…. a tent.  I think there will be a tax issue – it is a three-person tent.  How this will sit with the bedroom tax officials remains to be seen.

This week the beer at Pittodrie was gone despite my paying full price to taste it; Gillian’s newsletter faded into the ether; and there have been other disappearances and losses to related to these .  Time for some topical timely definitions on the things that have disappeared

Sense of  Humour Loss: (compound English noun) a failure to find humour in a joke, prank or situation.

They can’t say we don’t have a great sense of humour in Aberdeen.  We’ve elected kerb-crawlers, teenagers, plumber’s mates and embezzlers to Council – and they were the more serious element.  The latest Aberdonian stunt to hit the nationals will no doubt impress those City of Culture judges.

Merry pranksters Jack Hearns, 20, and Owen Petrie, 21 played a hilarious joke this week; they attacked HazelheadAcademy during a school day with paintball guns.  How teachers, parents and pupils would have laughed as two strange men drove to the school and started brandishing guns and firing.

Alas, some crabby parents, teachers and law enforcement officials seem to have lost their sense of fun, and arrested our pranksters.

I can’t for the life of me see what’s wrong with making kids and adults think they were under a gun attack at a school; it’s not like that could ever happen.  Perhaps we’ll see another sly joke from this pair when they appear in court, probably pretending to be filled with remorse, telling tales of how tough their lives have been and that they’ll never do anything like this again.

Now that would be funny.

Evidence: (noun) tangible proof indicating an event or crime has definitely or likely taken place.

Spare a moment for the Scottish Police; they have managed to lose evidence in a few instances which hit the news this week.

Firstly, evidence seems to have gone walkies in the case of Seal slayer Graham McNally.  He was found guilty of using nets designed to drown seals near his salmon cages (some would define this as a salmon farm; these installations are as much a ‘farm’ as a cage in the zoo is a lion or tiger farm).

At the end of May, evidence proving such acts occurred must have existed, but now:-

“John Robins, of the Save Our Seals Fund, said that McNally originally pled not guilty to setting illegal nets between August 2009 and August 2011, based on evidence that seals had been entangled and drowned in such nets.

“Robins has written to the COPFS asking if the charges were amended in return for a guilty plea or for any other reason, asking why the reference to the killing of seals was removed from the charges.”

See: http://www.shetnews.co.uk/news/6885-court-challenged-over-dead-seal-evidence

Could this be a case of plea bargaining?  Quite possibly.

Next we have claims from one golf course owner, one Mr Donald Trump.  He told the media on several occasions that there had been acts of vandalism and theft at the Menie Estate.  Did the protesting rabble had damaged Mr Trump’s property.?

Interestingly the police were keen to arrest film- and trouble- makers Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney; they were charged with breach of the peace on the say-so of Trump’s site manager.  The calm, reasonable, level-headed arresting officer was caught on film.    However, the police  were keen to make photographer Alicia Bruce’s complaint against a member of Trump staff disappear.  Bruce had called the police while being threatened – but the police seemed  more interested in getting her to forget the incident, saying a prosecution would be hard on the accused.  Again, evidence of wrongdoing seems to have gone astray.
 
In a Freedom of Information request (more details of this FOI in the future), the police revealed the number of cases of vandalism against Trump.  That number is – zero.

Evidence of damage to property belonging to David Milne and to Michael Forbes exists, but alas, the police have problems finding it.  This includes a videotape of vandalism taking place which Milne offered to them.

To lose one piece of evidence is unfortunate.  To lose a half dozen or so pieces looks like carelessness.  To refuse a piece of evidence of potential crime on film looks like something altogether different.

Here is part of a recent exchange between the police and Old Susannah (my questions in bold):-

How many claims/complaints of vandalism, theft, trespass and/or damage have been made by the Trump Organisation and/or its employees since 2010 involving the Menie Estate?

Vandalism (Damage) – 4
Theft – 3
Trespass – 0

How many of these claims/complaints of vandalism, theft, trespass and/or damage made by the Trump Organisation and/or its employees were dropped due to lack of evidence?

No crime report has been ‘dropped’ – however, the figures in brackets below indicate those that are currently closed, having been investigated to their conclusion.

Vandalism (Damage) – 0 (4)
Theft – 0 (3)
Trespass – 0 (0)”

All of which is a bit odd. The Trump organization claimed in 2010 that £50,000’s worth of vandalism occurred – to vehicles, fences and the all-important marram grass, which is stabilizing the dunes so effectively and ‘preserving them’ in such an environmentally friendly manner.

in June of last year the Evening Express wrote:-

“VANDALS caused thousands of pounds of damage at Donald Trump’s Menie golf course just weeks before it is due to open, the Evening Express can reveal today. A police investigation was launched after gardening equipment on the Menie estate near Aberdeen was targeted.  It came after a vandal attack last month when paint was thrown on to part of the course. 

“A spokeswoman [but presumably not the chief spin doctor Malone] from Grampian Police said up to £10,000 of damage was caused as a result of the latest incident.  The vandalism of equipment used to cut the grass on the estate took place between May 30 and June 4.”

Well, we’ve got fences, grass, grass cutting equipment, trucks vandalised and items stolen.  But no evidence to bring to trial.  Presuming any of this was reported to insurance companies, as would normally be expected possibly required, it does make you wonder where the evidence has gone.

Surely you wouldn’t cry vandalism or theft without evidence?  As to the allegations of paint spilled on the course, I wonder if anyone will be charged with the turquoise colour now evident on most of the greens.

Unfortunately other than Michael Forbes being accused of stealing the white border flags worth a staggering eleven pounds or so, I can’t find any news items relating to anyone stealing from the Donald. Perhaps we can charge the North Sea with vandalizing the course at Blairton Burn early this year.  Other than that, the claims of crimes against the course have, well, disappeared.

More on evidence of crime at Menie will be coming in the weeks ahead….

Time to disappear down to BD.  Tally Ho!

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Jan 242013
 

19th January 2013, the winds are blowing; the snow is on and off again, and it’s brass monkey weather.  Perfect for a BrewDog barbeque and party. Suzanne Kelly reports.

The opening of the shiny new BrewDog Brewery near Ellon was marked by one of those types of events Martin and James, BrewDog’s founders, are now famous for.

Around 200 shareholders (Equity Punks as they are known) were chauffeured from the eponymous Aberdeen bar to the factory and back again for four hours of factory tours, music from The Little Kicks (an act which is really getting stronger all the time), speeches, a great but cold barbeque, and of course, beer.

On the way up, one of the passengers, Curtis, explains that he’s come up from Glasgow for the day to be here.  Like virtually all Equity Punks, he bought shares because he loves BrewDog beers.

“I love BrewDog.  It’s not about getting hammered on cheap lager.” – a sentiment many echo.

The success of the brand was explained one month ago by James, who spoke to shareholders up and down the country at small venues; his presentation on the company’s growth was impressive and reassuring.  At these meetings shareholders demonstrated great enthusiasm for the new brewery – a project undertaken because demand has far outstripped supply.

The old premises are being kept for ‘experimentation’, something this firm excels at and clearly revels in.

As to the new factory and its equipment – I can’t tell you how it all works.  However, massive quantities of water meet massive quantities of quality hops in massive stainless vats, turning into beer.

Dials whirred; computer touch screens flashed, some valve was emitting bubbles.

One man turned to me and said with a huge smile:

“It’s all a bit Willy Wonka, isn’t it?”

It definitely is.

It seems that experimentation is built into the new factory; there are bespoke pieces of equipment including a ‘hops cannon’.  The factory is in part painted with an undersea motif, and a neon sign proclaims:  “Love Hops And Live The Dream”, which is just what founders James and Martin are doing.  Their dedication to craft beer brewing continues to win fans and new partners the world over.

There are frequent competitions, give-aways, experimental new beers, publicity happenings and events.  The marketing is punk, friendly, and filled both with enthusiasm and a genuine, infectious passion.

The brewers were on hand to explain their craft; hops experts were on hand to discuss the finer points of choosing hops.

The heroic efforts of the outdoor barbeque crew cannot be underestimated; long queues for the barbeque never abated through snow, snow, rain, snow and rain.

The tour ended with a visit to the warehouse end of the building, where walls of cases of beer and golden kegs stamped with the BrewDog logo were met with awe.  It was a cathedral of beer to me.

If you have not noticed over the past decade, the demographic of who drinks craft beers has radically changed.  It is not just blokes in thick sweaters with glasses and beards.  I spoke to three women, one who had chosen to spend part of her birthday here.  They, like me and many others, enjoy tasting different beers.  As they put it:

“I did not drink beer before they opened their bar in Aberdeen.  It feels so friendly.  They have opened my eyes; I did a food tasting – who would have thought that blue cheese and beer would be a great combination?“

“We used to only drink wine.  Now we love trying new beers.  It’s (the Aberdeen bar) a place where you can go in as a woman, go in alone, and feel perfectly comfortable.”

Very true indeed.

The highlight was the cutting of a hops-laced red ribbon by a shareholder named Winston Hamilton (he asked me to thank BrewDog for a great day out for him).  He had been selected to cut the ribbon for his participation in a BrewDog competition.  James and Martin each said a few words before the ceremony, and the crowd was delighted.

Martin told me:

“For us this is just the beginning; we’ve worked very hard these past five and a half years to get here.  We’re excited not about what we’ve done, but about what we’re going to do.”

So, congratulations to this creative local success story, and here’s to the next chapters in its future.

Note:  I own shares in this company, which I have always been very open about and proud of.  I’m not extolling the virtues of this company to get others to invest.  In fact, you can’t invest now, anyway.  I bought the shares not for any hope of rolling in money (I have the smallest amount of shares that you could buy, worth less than £100), but to support a local fledgling business, one with a great product and great people.  I think it’s safe to say that many other shareholders feel as I do.