Jun 242020

By Suzanne Kelly.

Rob Scott’s ‘Zombie Cake’.

March 17 – a day that is usually given over to a stereotypical but good-natured outbreak of beer-drinking to honour St Patrick.

This St Patrick’s Day, the UK was poised to go in a lockdown to slow the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus. James Watt, co-founder of Ellon’s BrewDog, tweeted:

“At BrewDog we are doing all we can to make it through & protect as many jobs as we can. But we, like so many businesses have lost 70% of our income almost overnight.”

The growth of Brewdog is without precedent in the UK craft beer world, possibly without precedent anywhere.

In the beginning they were Watt, Martin Dickie, and a dog, selling 4 different brews at Aberdeen’s farmers’ market. They now employ thousands and have breweries in Columbus Ohio, Australia and Germany as well as their Ellon home.

From one Aberdeen Castlegate bar sprouted scores of bars on four continents. These bars are a key point of revenue – and just like that, all the UK’s hospitality sector was faced with the lockdown and all it implied.
This dog was not going to just roll over.

Sanitized News:

BrewDog first decided they would use their distillery to provide free-of-charge sanitizer for the NHS which had announced a shortage. They worked with the NHS and while the very first batch wasn’t quite strong enough (a BrewDog first), they’ve been pumping out sanitizer and packing it into any and all bottles and packages they can get. An NHS spokesman said:

“It’s heartening that firms like BrewDog are choosing to play their part, and helping protect our NHS workers on the frontline across Grampian.

“This serves as yet another example of the phenomenal support we’ve received from a number of businesses in the local community. By working together, and continuing to follow the government advice, we will get through this pandemic.”

The sanitizer is not for sale; BrewDog are now delivering some of it to North East Scotland’s nursing homes, and over 100,000 bottles have been distributed free.

Funding this initiative’s costs, and commenting on a government covid-19 scandal, BrewDog recently released a new product…

Barnard Castle Eye Test – Cummings’ Comeuppance:

While many of us were doing our part and following lockdown orders created by Boris Johnson and his advisers, he and his advisers seemed immune to these regulations they created.

BoJo shook hands with Covid-19 patients – later denying it- he caught the disease and passed it to others.

His unelected guru, Mekon-lookalike Dominic Cummings, decided that despite lockdown, despite being ill, and despite not able to see straight, he’d drive his family to stay with his dad (staying in a cottage on the property that seems to have no planning permission and for which no tax seems to be paid by the way. True: Dad owns a horse he named Barak because the horse is black and white: Racism is alive and well and in Barnard).

The country was outraged (save some Daily Mail readers) by these double-standards and all their implications. Watt told LBC Radio:

“If they’re asking the country to make sacrifices for the common good the government and its advisers should be abiding by the same rules.”

Following BrewDog’s longstanding history of ‘protest beers’ such as ‘Hello my name is Vlad’ (dig at Putin’s anti LGBT hardline actions), ‘Make Earth Great Again’ (a commentary on Trump) and more, BrewDog announced it would make a Cummings-related beer.

The name was put to a public vote, and within hours of being put on presale, ‘Barnard Castle Eye Test’ sold over 45,000 units: all profits going to the NHS hand sanitizer project.

Open Arms Welcome:

For many on lockdown, BrewDog provides a great online social resource, the BrewDog Open Arms https://www.brewdog.com/uk/onlinebar .

Every Friday at 6pm this virtual online pub opens up for a few hours of zany fun.

BrewDog told Aberdeen Voice:

“The Open Arms was started as soon as our bars shut so we could still bring our community together to be social and enjoy a beer. Since opening we’ve been blown away by the support and experience with over 100,000 people joining our sessions from all over the world.

“The Open Arms has hosted live music, virtual beer tastings, homebrew sessions, food & beer pairings and our weekly Friday session.

“We now have regulars joining us every week and, due to demand, have recently changed the Friday session to be unlimited entry via streaming on YouTube Live”.

Dawn Scott’s ‘Kamikazi Knitting Club’.

MCs Tim Warwood & Adam Gendle host the event and run a hilarious quiz with prizes randomly given out. James Watt and Martin Dickie are among the hundreds who attend. Musical guests have included Carl Barat from The Libertines and a host of upcoming talents performing from their homes.

It usually ends up with people dancing in their living rooms to the cheesiest of music, ending in Toto’s Africa (yes, really).

James and Martin announced, seemingly off the cuff that they’d give away £1,000 next week in beer vouchers for the best costume. Amanda Scott won the bar’s costume competition with a hyper-creative recreation of BrewDog’s ‘Homicidal Helpdesk Puppet’.

Runners-up included Jazza Crawford and Linz as ‘Super Bario Brothers’, while Rob Scott and his wife Dawn recreated BrewDog beer labels for ‘Zombie Cake’ and ‘Kamikazi Knitting Club’.

Rob said:

“I love the Open Arms Online bar…[it] lets us experience some of the vibe. We attend the Open Arms bar and afterwards we videocall each other and talk some more.

“Another reason I like the Open Arms is that I’m an introvert. This way I can take part of the experience on my own terms.”

Jazza said:

“Since the very first week both Linz and I have been enjoying catching up with friends and other Equity Punks in the BrewDog open arms.

“So far we have learned a lot more about the creation of some of our favourite beers and spirits. Learned how to cook some amazing dishes. Painted sharks and whales with Plague Fisher.

“Most of all our Friday night highlight is the quiz and after party. It’s been brilliant to have what feels like and escape from the home without actually leaving the house.

“I hope it stays after lockdown maybe as a once monthly catch up for the international friends that we have made through BrewDog.

“Brewdog Open Arms is a great community, it’s fun to see everyone and to hear James & Martin talk about the business and the new beers and sprits they’re making!”

The Open Arms session on 29 May featured a challenge which raised a massive £3,000 for the NHS. Sessions are occasionally held on other days, featuring beer yoga, recipes, virtual tasting sessions, and even an art tutorial from Craig Fisher, whose distinctive bold designs decorate BrewDog bars and breweries around the world.

Craig, who no longer works in-house for BrewDog, said:

“It’s been an awesome way to interact with the BrewDog fans who’ve followed my work, despite the current limitations.”

While many businesses are losing revenue, while many people are worried about finances, friends and lockdown, BrewDog is coming through with helpful initiatives – and it all started on our doorsteps in Fraserburgh, Ellon, and Aberdeen.

On a personal note, I am a shareholder (as I always disclose when I write about the company) – I’ve had many proud moments as such, but how they’ve handled lockdown’s challenges, but these initiatives re-set the scale and won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

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Mar 072019

Aberdeen Voice contributor for the past 8 years, Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah has been writing about BrewDog since before the Aberdeen flagship bar opened.  She’s just back from a trip that she won on the BrewDog Airlines maiden voyage and tells us what it was like.

Flight Club – a brew designed to be drunk at high altitudes with extra flavour.

BrewDog shareholders, some 200 strong, invaded Columbus Ohio last Thursday.  Beer lovers, some in kilts; many in BrewDog regalia, took to the streets, the breweries, the pubs, the hotels and the city arena in an orgy of love for the art of drink.

Perhaps no brand of beer has put the love and the art into their product and into pleasing the many ‘Equity Punks’ shareholders who made all of this possible.

Winning a place on the trip (thanks to doing a lot of buying, trading, and giving stickers away), I found myself at Stanstead Thursday afternoon waiting to take off. 

The infectious, happy, perhaps zany atmosphere of the shareholders, staff and founders was there from the start and reached frenzy at points.

The plane was a private hire (with a remarkably friendly team) – in bespoke BrewDog livery.  BrewDog blankets, toothbrushes, snacks, eye masks and antimacassars) awaited each passenger.  We drank to our hearts’ content of BrewDog beers, its lovely gin and American style whisky. 

Then, as an in-flight treat we tasted Flight Club – a brew designed to be drunk at high altitudes with extra flavour to compensate for slight changes to the senses at height.  We toasted; we cheered, we laughed; we drank – to the point the toilets were at capacity – something the pilot said he hadn’t seen in 25 years of flying.

After a few or many beers at the hotel or in town, we assembled the next day to tour the brewery and hotel in smaller groups.  I knew it was large (42 acres), but like everyone else, the complex on the outskirts of Columbus bowled me over. 

I once thought the Ellon Brewery with its artwork and state-of-the-art systems was a Willy Wonkaesque fun factory; BrewDog’s Columbus premises is all that – on steroids and with a hotel.

We toured the brewery, meeting half a dozen operatives along the tour; the cannery and its hyper-enthused canner was smashing; the nerve centre control room was science faction as computer graphics illustrated what valve needed turning or what needed heating. 

photo by Suzanne Kelly

BrewDog’s chartered plain was filled with luxuries

The hotel is everything we were hoping for; some of us stayed for a night or two in the rooms which were named after some of the beers, lagers, stouts and IPAs BrewDog’s created. 

A giant bed, a neon sign over it, two beer fridges (one for your bathroom by the shower no less), and an option to put a draft of your choice on tap in your room and views to the fields and into the brewery:  heaven. 

When I got to the Hinterland room for the last night of the 4 night epic adventure, I was too tired to go out – and was deliriously happy staying in the giant bed with its fluffy pillows.  It should be noted the shampoos, soaps and lotions were made with a BrewDog concoction ‘Elvis Juice’ – a nice citrusy, tart delight – these will, I hope, be offered for sale sometime soon.

Revelling in this fun city, many of us went to the Columbus Blue Jackets ice hockey match on the Saturday. 

Despite having a nearly equal shots on goal position, the Blue Jackets outclassed San Diego 3 goals to nil.  The second was beautifully capitalised on from a chancy shot; the goalie had a certain style and an amazingly cool head. 

After the game, many wandered to BrewDog in the Short North part of town – a very vibrant area with shops, no shortage of places to eat and drink, and a lovely fragrance bar called The Candle Lab, where you choose fragrances to make your own candles, soaps, body sprays and room sprays. 

The Short North bar was heaving; but the zingy staff got everyone drinks quickly.  There was a delightful, filling ‘Donut Drive By’ coffee stout that had been made with donuts; It was like being a cop on a stakeout in terms of flavour. 

There was a deceptively 11% IPA (I think) called Diabolical Dream State.  One of those was all I needed; I’d walked for miles that day to BrewDog’s Franklinton bar and the city’s German town.  And I’d attended a hugely impressive tour at 451 Distillery. 

Founder, distiller, creator Chad told us his story, explained in detail but perfectly simply how a distiller starts to distil, when they ‘cut’, and what they can do to ensure they get out all the alcohol from their mash. 

He then gave us thimblefuls of a heavenly absinthe (which he’d explained to us very well), a remarkable mescal, rum, whisky and… a rosemary-heavy gin, Clawfoot’ – which I simply had to have.  He can’t send his products to us alas – not yet anyway.

BrewDog Franklinton had a lovely roof terrace, but its appeal was not for this cold weather.  The food was lovely, not least fresh hot pretzels served with mustards.  The root beer float was tempting, but I opted for a traditional (non-alcohol) crème soda. 

The trip saw us given lots and lots of goodies, drink, and opportunities to take tours (a bus trip to Cincinnati’s bars and breweries was offered, but I wanted to visit The Candle Lab).  Even the inflight food was delish – with the vegetarian options putting other airlines to shame. 

But what made this trip?  Things did go wrong – there was a power outage, and one Cincinnati bus driver proved a bit less than clued up – but none of these were BrewDog’s fault. 

What made this trip?  The BrewDog team.  The founding fathers James Watt and Martin Dickie kept us amused on the flight over as you would expect, but the crew from the UK and the Columbus crew worked tirelessly and yet somehow effortlessly. 

The staffies make this company, as do the shareholders.  I’ve never had such enthusiasm for a brand, for entrepreneurs; and I’ve never found anyone making beers as inventive, unique, delicious even audacious as BrewDog does. 

I’d go on about the tour, about how the sour beers are made, about what the bars were like, and how much fun Columbus is.  However, I’m well over my word count and can picture my editor pulling his hair out long before now. 

Slate me if you will, but I am a proud shareholder who saw something great for Aberdeen city and shire in James and Martin from the first day I drank their beer, and as much as I’ll shout about what’s going wrong in the area,

I’ll equally shout about what’s going on that’s great.  And that’s BrewDog.  Cheers.  And thanks to the wonderful person who traded me the sticker I needed.  You rule.


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

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

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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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

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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