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.

 

Mar 172017
 

With thanks to Karen Stewart.

Ex Scottish and UK Enduro/Trails Champion Gavin Johnston is gearing up to expand his innovative digital tourism solution UrPal into Glasgow and Edinburgh this April.

UrPal is a unique mobile application to Scotland having already been successful in Inverness with 7,000 users and recently launched in Aberdeen.

The app fills a gap in the market for both tourists and locals alike, giving them comprehensive up to the minute information at their fingertips on everything happening in an area including entertainment, eating out and in, tours, attractions, fitness, accommodation, activities, shops, health, transport and current news.

As well as being valued by users who access the app for free, UrPal is also a valuable source of promotion to local businesses and organisations, statistics say that 70% of online users now use mobile devices to access the web so it’s crucial that businesses are visible on such platforms. Visitors to Scotland are reported to have increased to 15 million annually and UrPal is ideally positioned to serve the growing digital tourism marketplace.

Gavin along with his partner Caren the founders of UrPal met almost 4 years ago in Romania, Gavin had been competing in the Redbull Romaniacs World Extreme Enduro Championship and Caren at the time was travelling for her work in architecture. The couple have now given up these roles to focus solely on UrPal and their other business Aberdeen and Inverness Taxis.

Gavin said

“working on UrPal couldn’t be more different to riding bikes and running a taxi company; I identified the need in the market from hearing  taxi passengers deliberate how to source information they required; Caren and I then put our heads together and planned and launched UrPal in Inverness and Aberdeen in 2016.”

He continued:

“with 7,000 users in Inverness UrPal is proving successful and as well as expanding by location we begin physical tours in April this year, 4 in Aberdeen and 8 in Inverness are already planned to destinations such as Peterhead Prison, Brewdog, Dunnottar and Crathes Castles, Glengarioch Distillery and Castle Fraser; we are really pleased that UrPal is fast becoming the go to place for people looking for things to do, and that it’s having a positive impact on the local economy.”

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Oct 152016
 

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

DictionaryGreetings belatedly; sorry for the late-running of this service; I’ve been busy. For one thing – Result! TV Smith played Krakatoa on 8 October with Fred Wilkinson opening. Fred, or ‘Wilkinson’ as beloved LibDem Aileen HoMalone refers to him, played a lovely song about fashion called The Ghosts of Cable Street. I’m not really sure what it was about, but I think it had to do cable-knit jumpers and something about black shirts not being very popular at one time.

Fashions do have a way of coming around again, and I think there are more than a few blackshirt-lovers out there right now.

Smith played some old-fashioned, quaint ‘protest music’ – although heaven knows, we really have nothing to protest about, except maybe all those foreigners Amber Herd wanted named and shamed for taking British Jobs.

I wonder why she changed her mind? Could there be any link between the pound plunging to a new 31 year low, Brexit, and Amber’s anti-foreigner stance? I doubt it.

I am guilty of not being born in the UK. I am taking the unpaid job of some poor satirical British columnist who otherwise could be labouring for free. Yes, naming and shaming the companies that hire people from other countries seemed like the way forward. But I digress. Smith sang about modern poverty (no doubt caused by foreigners), state surveillance, and other such lefty concerns. Just as well we’ve nothing to protest about here in the Deen.

I understand Torry residents are planning a parade to celebrate all the jobs creation coming our way. We’re getting an incinerator – sorry – waste to energy plant! Result!

We’re going to get rid of the under-used Bay of Nigg so that cruise ships filled with rich visitors can stop by for a bet at Ladbroke’s and some Spar shopping. Result! Of course we’ll have to make a few sacrifices for creating these jobs.

A few protected wildlife species in the Bay, clean air (which we enjoy so greatly now thanks to the sewerage plant) and the wishes of local people – many of whom are foreign! – should not stand in the way of making the Harbour Board richer or getting a good old-fashioned British firm busy burning rubbish next to the school in Tullos. While the house prices here will plummet, a clear message is sent: Scotland is Open For Business.

We are open to taking American fracked gas; a great tanker sailed to Scotland filled with fracked gas, while some Americans in Pennsylvania begged Scotland not to take it.

If it will make us money, at least the considerable pollution will be happening far away – foreigners do have their uses. (The energy efficiency of creating fuel in the US leaving pollution in its wake and shipping resultant gas to Scotland is a little hard for me to understand, especially with gas here having been at considerably low prices for years. Still, if there’s money to be made, we can’t be seen to be closed can we?)

We’re also open for business at Marischal Square, where in keeping with the look of the city, Granite will be the main cladding material. That The Granite City is importing granite from China, where there are a few equal pay and workers’ rights issues is not an issue. We are Open For Business. The council says it’s not their business where the granite comes from – a huge comfort to the veritable slave labour that will be quarrying it.

John Forbes of Bon Accord Granite said:

“What people don’t understand is we haven’t built a major building out of north-east granite for the last 30 years, at least. It’s down to price. If I don’t supply Chinese granite, others will.” 

Thanks John for helping the project’s carbon footprint, Chinese workers’ rights, the government’s push to use UK labour forces – all while making a tidy profit. Nice one.

I get it – the position seems to be ‘if I don’t exploit unfair labour practices in China to supply material cheaply, someone else will’. Good code of ethics there then. So – foreigners = good source of labour to exploit as cheaply as possible – as long as the blighters don’t actually come to Old Blighty.

When the much-loved Marischal Square building is clad in Chinese granite, the much-loved Press & Journal is set to take a year’s free rent to grace us with its presence.

In order to figure out how this equates to being ‘Open for Business’ as opposed to, shall we say, giving the paper a bone so that it won’t unleash its investigative new hounds (if any left) onto juicy city council stories (not that there are any unless you count the cremation scandal, the Torry carve-up, Marischal Square..), Old Susannah lodged a freedom of information request.

We do know the key players at the Town House in this genius free rent scheme are the Head of Finance, Head of Land and Property Assets, Asset Management Manager. The city refuses to comment on these ‘commercial negotiations’ because:

“Release of the information at this stage would influence the negotiating position of parties wishing to occupy space in the development, to the obvious detriment of the Council’s commercial interests.

“Furthermore, disclosure of the requested information at this stage is likely to weaken ACC’s position in a competitive environment by revealing sensitive information of potential usefulness to competitors. ACC must maintain good working relationships with reputable companies to enable it to obtain value for money and so releasing commercially sensitive information could potentially damage ACC’s reputation with such third parties, dissuading the third parties from engaging with ACC.”

“The discussions in relation to the proposals for the AJL terms have involved the advice of external property agents, the Council’s development partner and a number of Council officers.” 

So if I understand correctly, the competition would get wind of us giving a years’ rent free in a new building to the press (normally expected to investigate just this kind of eventuality in some cities anyway), and they would give a better deal, or other people would want free rent like the P&J too.

Perhaps we should pay the P&J to grace the city centre, and breathing new life into the beating heart of the civic centre in a vibrant and dynamic manner.

The phrase ‘Value for Money’ worked its way into the FOI response. Older readers might remember when the previous administration sold property owned by the taxpayer for millions of pounds less than market value, and was investigated by Audit Scotland (the report was meant to be investigated by the police – but they didn’t do anything. When I asked for an update, it was explained the paperwork could not be found, and as it was only a few million pounds’ worth of potential fraud, it wasn’t really a big deal).

We also gifted Stewart Milne lots of land, at the same time he won a few sweet contracts totalling £10 million – he’d underbid the competition – possibly a feat made a bit easier by having a nice parcel of land as a handy asset. But again – I digress. Just as well though that the taxpayer isn’t propping up a hugely biased, outmoded pseudo-newspaper.

Not that there are any juicy city council stories of course, but in light of how the city’s officers are involved in a few slightly questionable activities, I set out to take a look at the register of officers’ interests. I was to meet someone from Legal and democratic services to take a look at the register. A few hours before the meeting, the legal team from the city decided that a FOI request was required.

Now in theory FOI requests should not have to be made to see information that is held – but they were apparently fearful that there might be ‘personal data’ in the register.

This register should be parallel to the register held on all the councillor’s interests and hospitality – which you can view right now on the website. It’s almost as if the officers had more power and influence than coucillors but surely not. The FOI service complains from time to time that it has too many requests to handle (which might be why it is late with a huge portion of responses).

If the other departments had this ‘transparency’ we’ve heard so much about, the FOI team wouldn’t have to suffer so greatly doing its job.

Democratic services? Transparency? Freedom of Information? Clearly not as important as being open for business. More on this soon.

While waiting for any of this information to ever get to me, liquid refreshment at BrewDog helps sustain me and pass the time. Old Dog (as I now call the Gallowgate bar, the first ever BrewDog bar) has been doing some wildly popular craft courses and a once-monthly fun event, Drink and Draw.

I have learned so very much from BrewDog. Did you know that it’s Robert Plant’s son Logan is behind the remarkable Beavertown Brewery? I hadn’t any idea. One of my favourite non-BD libations is Beavertown’s flavour packed Gamma Ray (American Pale Ale). And yes, I’m one of the 10,000 BrewDog shareholders, and still proud of it.

Finally, Anthony Baxter is making another film about ladies’ man Trump, although I can’t think of any recent news developments these past 12 months that would warrant any such documentary. However, the details are here for those who would like to chip in. Expected Aberdeen release 3 November at the Belmont. (And by way of disclosure, there is every chance I’ll be in it).

At this rate there won’t be time for definitions, so with no further hesitation, here are some career-related definitions for the wonderful people who bring so much to Aberdeen.

Spokeswoman: (Modern English noun) a female who undertakes public relations duties.

Sarah Malone has been enjoying a Trump salary these many years; this and husband Damian’s salary will no doubt be helping the Jimmy Choo purchase fund.

In order to get a paid gig dealing with the media as a spokeswoman for a multinational property developer, aspiring spokespersons would have to have style, flair, the ability to think quickly, analyse information and respond swiftly with tact and intelligence. This no doubt is why I toil for free. As a recent example illustrating the calibre of response such a professional spokeswoman would be expected to come up with, I offer the following recently issued by Sarah Malone-Bates, aka from now as Sarah Baloney:

“We have not seen the so-called film and have no interest in it.

“Anthony Baxter is not a credible journalist or filmmaker. He has no interest in the facts or the people of north east Scotland.

“He has propagated lies and nonsense about the company for years in an attempt to make a name for himself off the back of Trump.

“We operate a highly acclaimed, five-star golf resort and enjoy a great relationship with the local community and all of our neighbours with the exception of a few who have fought the project since its inception.”

Old Susannah can’t – however hard I try – write like this. For instance, if I had to use the compound-adjective ‘so-called’, I might have said ‘so-called journalist’. That would have opened up a debate on whether or not award-winning, acclaimed journalist Baxter is credible or not. Obviously we trust a Trump spokesperson’s word for what is and isn’t credible. However, ‘so-called film’ opens up the debate as to whether or not the film is a … film. I think even I could win that battle of wits with Sarah.

She is calling Baxter a liar – a daring PR move which of course could have legal consequences should Baxter want to sue Trump. I hope she’ll share the specific list of these lies with us; I promise I’ll ask for it.

As to that ‘great relationship with the local community’ – well, obviously that’s as true as anything else this professional, well-paid spokesperson said. Just because protestors raise Mexican flags, 580,000 people sign a petition against her boss coming here, the local university rescinded his honorary degree and he’s no longer a global Scot is no reason to think Mr Drumpf is in any way unpopular. And no doubt the relationship with this community is unshakeable…

Star: (modern English term) someone of celebrity status, admired and well-known.

Donald Trump is a star. How do I know? He said so in a conversation about the perks of stardom.

To attain star status, having superior genes is important; modestly Drumpf admits what we already know – that he has superior genes. Somewhere, in some obscure history lesson, I almost remember some other political figure being interested in genetic superiority. Perhaps it’s fashionable to talk about this again?

Perks of stardom include ‘just start kissing’ beautiful women ‘doing anything (to women)’ and ‘grabbing them by the pussy’. Oh those lucky, beautiful young women. Something in the nature of 1 in 5 American women can expect to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

And with that, I find the last satirical inclinations leaving me, and so I will sign off. Let’s hope nothing will dent that community appreciation Drumpf enjoys here in our little corner of Scotland.

Next week – more on other FOI requests, a look at the rosy future of Torry – and a DIY Investigating kit

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Aug 262016
 

In this week’s satirical offering from Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah, she delights in Aberdeen’s generosity to the Press & Journal, and is happy to brush aside any minor qualms there might be about use of taxpayer money, conflict of interests and ethics; she also spares a few words on an advert for a US gun festival – in Orlando – featuring a skeleton wielding a semi-automatic weapon…(Psst – any non-Aberdeen readers, you might want to skip directly to the last few paragraphs of this column, cheers).

DictionaryTally ho! Another week flies past in Aberdeen. The original BrewDog bar (Old Dog – Gallowgate as opposed to New Dog – Castlegate) have hung up some of my recent paintings and just hosted another successful, fun, packed Drink and Draw session. Their ‘Live Dead Pony’ – it’s the addition of live yeast to their popular brew Dead Pony Club makes it ‘live’ – has proven popular as well.
So for those who can’t stand this small shareholder (one of over 10,000) talking about Aberdeenshire’s most successful start-up company, please feel free to send in a diatribe as to why I shouldn’t be allowed to talk about things I like, even though I’ve disclosed my shareholding since the first mention.

Otherwise, the BrewDog team are looking for further artists’ work to hang, so get in touch at the Old Dog.

For those of you with bigger fish to fry, it’s been quite an interesting few weeks in the Granite City.

The crematorium ash scandal is not a suitable topic for satire, but it needs to be addressed.

The remark made by the man in charge, Peter Leonard, displays all the contempt you’d expect from the man’s previous form, but this belies far more callowness than even seasoned Leonard-watchers have come to expect. If you missed it, the BBC reports (and the council haven’t asked for a retraction which speaks volumes) Leonard saying to/in front of inspectors:

“we’re slow-cooking babies.”

How can anyone who lost an infant or child and was caught up in the crematorium scandal can be expected to work for, with, or have to communicate with this lizard? Why are we keeping him in his job?

My interest in the man goes back to his report which condemned the Tullos Hill deer to massive culling. He told the council the tree-planting scheme was completely cost neutral and would succeed – if we shot the deer and kept the weeds down. Lib Dem councillor Aileen ‘Ho’Malone was at the helm of the relevant committee which pushed the scheme through.

She’s just the sort of person you could convince to wipe out a meadow full of flowers and a herd of deer to plant trees on top of rocks and industrial waste where there is no topsoil.

‘A tree for every citizen’ they called it. They deliberately left the culling and the £43k penalty out of the initial public consultation (correspondence proves they knew a cull was planned – but they wanted to ‘manage’ the public which they knew would object. The city tried to deny the £43,800 penalty it paid for the previous failure, too – that’s what we call open government; but I digress).

Peter’s cost neutral scheme? Looks like it’s cost nearly half a million, with £100k alone going to the consultant Chris Piper.

So, Leonard sits in his highly-paid post having been out with his estimates by half a million pounds of taxpayer money, and having insulted everyone with his ash scandal remark, and has not been bounced out of office. Blame the elected officials for bad decisions if you must – but it’s the officers like Leonard who create the reports the councillors have to vote on. Has he stuffed up one too many times?

Any member of staff who’d blundered like he has would have been disciplined and/or let go. Maybe the powers that be will keep him in place. By many accounts, should Mr Leonard be sent packing, there are a fair few staff who will not shed any tears.

Apologies for the lack of humour to this point, but that needed to be said.

Perhaps a few words on the happy event everyone’s talking about will change the mood. It’s not just that the Marischal Square building project is proving to be a breath-taking beauty (I hear people gasp when they look at it). It’s even better than that: everyone’s favourite newspaper, The Press and Journal, is to grace the building with its presence. Better still: the paper won’t have to pay any rent for a whole year. Result!

I’m thinking of starting a petition so that they’ll never have to pay any rent ever. After all, we’re supposed to be trying to attract smart, successful, vibrant, dynamic, forward-looking businesses to the beating heart of Aberdeen.

What better way to cheer us all up each morning than the sight of Damian Bates rounding Broad Street in his Maserati after dropping Sarah Malone off to her job as Trump’s spokesperson? I can barely wait! And with that, it’s time for some timely definitions.

Limousine Bull: (Proper Scottish Noun) – a Torry-based artists collective which had education, training, exhibition services for people in the south of the city. Closed for lack of £10,000.

These art types; just can’t balance the books. Perhaps if they had gone on one of the city’s cultural (?) ‘speed dating’ events they could have begged the rich for funding and kept going.

Alas, the city’s uber-rich wanted to build granite ramps and parking spaces; spending money on an actual arts and education service for the less advantaged was never going to get a look-in. And thus it was that after years of having a small warehouse space with studios for artists, Limousine Bull had to close. As their website reported:

“When we discovered ACC had given details of a new round of funding, with applications to be submitted just 6 weeks after our rejection notice, we put together a greatly revised funding proposal and were due to apply for just £1,700 of the £10,000 available to our category.

“On the day and almost exact time of the deadline for this, Carrie messaged the rest of us on the committee, saying she had decided not to submit the application, as she thought ACC’s demands upon applicants were too strict to follow for such a small amount of funding.” – LB website

Perhaps the people who wonder why we couldn’t win the ‘city of culture’ accolade (or is that poisoned chalice – cities that have won have often found themselves in debt afterwards) might think that getting rid of small groups like this might have made us look smarter and more successful to the judges. The people who submitted our exciting CoC bid had no use for Limousine Bull – they wanted to have ‘Gigs on Rigs’ instead.

How exciting that could have been– flying rock bands to play to offshore oil installations where, er, the footage would have been beamed back to shore. Only the worst kind of philistine would have asked ‘why not just have them play on shore?’. What musician wouldn’t rather do survival training, fly to an alcohol-free oil rig in the chilly North Sea than play a few sets in nightclubs and hotels? But I digress.

Back to Limousine Bull – Old Susannah’s not surprised it went under; after all £10,000 is a lot of money (about one fifth of the amount we had to pay back to central government for the first Tree for Every Citizen failure on Tullos. Or, about one 14,000th of the cost of the granite web. But I digress again). Maybe someone in ACC is offering Limousine Bull a chance to resurrect itself rent-free at Marischal Square?

If so, I’ve not heard of it yet. And funnily enough, for some reason Aberdeen Voice’s invitation to a rent-free office suite at the taxpayer’s expense hasn’t come in the post just yet.

Ethics: (archaic term) Morality, knowledge of right and wrong.

We all know what ethics are (well, you do if you’re not in ACSEF … or whatever it is called this week) – the sense of a common morality that would stop a man making crass remarks about deceased children. It’s that sense of right and wrong that would stop people in power from crushing the weak while, for instance, using public resources to subsidise a newspaper thereby gaining control and advantage.

Many companies have ethics policies governing what freebies, advantages, and hospitality can be accepted without compromising the company. If as an employee you are going to accept a gift or hospitality, say a hamper of food or a few bottles of wine, most companies would expect you to declare it or decline it.

You see, accepting something might put you in a position where you would be indebted to the person giving you a gift. If one company were to offer another company something valuable these days – a weekend at a hotel, a trip, or say a year’s free rent for your business in a brand new suite of offices: you’d be expected by your code of ethics to turn it down.

Otherwise you would be either asked to do something in return for the largess, or even if you weren’t asked to do so, there would be an expectation of a ‘quid pro quo’ situation. In other words, there is no free lunch. And for that matter, there are also laws about using public money unethically, laws about public institutions ensuring ‘value for money’ is sought, and avoiding conflict of interests.

Then again, that kind of thing never hampers the truly creative Aberdeen spirit.

I come back to my friend Peter Leonard again. While the deer cull protest raged (several community councils, thousands of residents, the Scottish SPCA all objecting to the plan), an article appeared in the Evening Express:

“TWO DEER FOUND DEAD AHEAD OF CULL”. 

This story was planted by someone in ACC, although surprisingly, no investigation was held to find out who the ‘leak’ was. The intrepid reporter either didn’t ask, or omitted to say when the dead deer were actually found: and it emerged (after AV asked about it) that the deer were found dead two years before the cull.

The city’s insinuation that to stop deer from suffering starvation or possible accidents was not to supply more grazing land and erect fences – but to stop their lives being blighted by taking their lives away. But, shall we say, some readers found the absence of that little gap of several years somewhat misleading. To some people, this little episode might seem ethically bankrupt. However, I’m sure nothing misleading has been printed before or since by AJL.

I’d never insinuate that an organisation like the ACC would or could ever corrupt an organisation like the P&J – how could it? Sadly, other observers have made a few unfortunate remarks about the free rent offer. I think some of these people need shaming:

“If this if it goes ahead, (and all the hall markers suggest it will) it can but only be seen for what it appears to be – a covenant between the ACC and the P&J/EE. So where now lies objectivity, impartiality, indeed freedom to report and print news on anything that objects to the working of their landlord?”
– A MacDonald

“Don’t they realise that the continuing fall in readership is due to their biased approach to local stories in aberdeen. lets remember too that they are not a local paper anymore but another D. C. Thomson, Dundee rag. I for one cancelled my evening express as soon as it was made public that they were in talks to secure office space in Willies folly and i would suggest that others do the same”
– C Duguid

“Many readers were of the impression that the Press and Journal supported the opposition to the Muse development as evidenced by the publication of numerous stories relating to the opposition to Marischal Square and the scores of letters from the public over the past couple of years… It therefore case as quite a shock to many to learn that Aberdeen Journals themselves are to take up office space in Marischal Square.

“Many of your readers saw that as a betrayal…. Surely any deal that did not deliver the projected returns on the council’s investment would be seen as a failure by the council to secure its financial position and deliver on the promise of sustainable rental profits to fund essential public services.”
– a Mr W Skidmore, who is waiting patiently for this letter to be printed in the P & Poo (an affectionate term I’m told). I trust he isn’t holding his breath.

I hope these people will feel suitably ashamed at their negative words, which strike at the very beating heart of the civic district of the Granite City. It’s always sad for Old Susannah to see such cynical, suspicious minds at work criticising our beloved institutions which have done so much for us.

Perhaps the honesty, integrity and wisdom the council is known for will eventually rub off on such harsh critics. I’m sure we’re only talking a few hundred thousand pounds anyway, and it’s not as if there’s anything better to do with the money.

Conflict of interest: (English compound noun) an unethical condition wherein a person or entity owes allegiance to two opposing forces.

Can the P&J continue to claim the moral high ground it has rightly held these many years if it is now Aberdeen City’s bitch – sorry — tenant?

Perhaps we should mention a potential conflict of interest that’s been brought up on social media. For some reason, there are people who see something wrong with Aberdeen Journals Limited taking a year’s free rent in Marischal College from Aberdeen City Council.

I’m trying to figure out why this bothers some people. Sure, the P&J might in the past have called the development ‘controversial’ in its articles: that just shows that they’re not afraid of standing up to the city council!

I’m sure that fighting spirit, and love of investigation we love in the P&J won’t be compromised just because they will have had their bacon saved by ACC. What an insinuation! I think by now the values the P&J have are clear to us all. And, they win awards so we can tell they’re great.

No, I for one don’t think we will see any change to their usual ethical standards. Where would you be without the tiny tots baby competition? Without photos of the Menie Golf course and MacLeod House to look at every day?

An aside….

orlando ad for gun eventI’m sometimes asked, ‘don’t you miss America?’

There are things I don’t miss. I think the whole machinery that’s created a school to prison pipeline for the disadvantaged and minorities (where police brutality runs riot in schools) stinks. I hate the system that allows mega pharmaceuticals to ruin people’s lives for fat profit margins and where drugs and care can be priced out of the reach of those most in need.

I hate it that a woman can take a device like a medi pen, raise its cost through the roof, and pay herself an 18 million dollar bonus.

I hate it that the alleged founding principle of individuals having a right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ is not as fought for as the right to have a well-trained militia which has been torqued into the invented ‘rights’ of anyone to have a semi-automatic weapon.

There are many things I love about my country of birth: the majority of people, the land, the wildlife, the pre-existing culture and our potential. However, we’ve decimated the original inhabitants, the native Americans – and yet now they are leading the fight against our corporate greed. Native Peoples are campaigning on horseback and on foot in the face of the fury of the government and its armies over pipelines which can only devastate the environment.

This is a country where people who were brought in chains on slave ships can eventually see their descendants become professors, leaders, successes in all areas and icons.

We’ve seen heroes like the late great Mohammed Ali and Jesse Hagopian, an educational reformer who was teargassed on a peaceful protest, but still pursues his dream of fair education for all nonetheless.

It’s a country where ancestors like mine came fleeing from famine to find signs in New York’s windows and doors reading ‘no blacks, no Irish and no dogs’ and yet in a few generations, one such Irish catholic descendant became a president.

This is a country where a young American boy of Japanese ancestry can be imprisoned without due course or rights in an internment camp in World War II and somehow still come out of the experience with a wicked sense of humour to emerge as a voice for tolerance and forgiveness.

There is natural beauty (cross your fingers) and biodiversity.

There are also people who will take that right to have a well-armed militia, and exploit it until we have bloodbaths like the recent slaughter in Orlando. And why?

Ultimately to make money for the gun manufacturers. Gun manufacturers do not care who gets killed. Statistically we know that you are more likely to have an accidental shooting at a home with a gun in it rather than your successfully shooting a would be burglar.

The image above belongs to the Orlando Weekly, which sees nothing wrong in advertising a semi-automatic shooting event … with an image of a skeleton. Now, I’m possibly not the most sensitive person in the world, but I see something very wrong in printing an ad like this to a city which is still mourning.

So America, as dearly as I love some things about you, please start worrying more about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and less about this supposed right to have guns. You are locking up people for collecting their own rainwater, for growing herbs – such as ginseng – and you are criminalising people who want to pursue a different life/liberty/happiness than the status quo. That’s not what was meant to be.

Look at this ad. Does this say responsible, sober gun ownership and respect for life to you – or is this nearly the lowest appeal to base nature (save the videos with bikini clad girls firing automatic weapons) and lack of empathy for the dead of Orlando (and the wider country) that can be imagined?

If not for the likes of those who emerged from hardships in the US, I’d despair completely.

The editor of the Orlando Weekly is Graham Jarrett. At first he tried to claim he was forced to print the ad; it was pointed out that no one can force a news publication to take an ad. We’re waiting to hear what you are going to say and do next Mr Jarrett.

(Want to fight against this kind of gun happy propaganda? On Facebook seek out and join One Pulse, a closed pressure group with the fanciful aim of making people want to stop shooting other people. I’m honoured and happy to be a member).

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Apr 082016
 

Old Susannah aka Suzanne Kelly ponders her betters this week, and tugs her forelock in the general direction of the wealthy who have shaped the society we have today.

DictionaryIt actually has been a dynamic and vibrant week in the Deen. With huge regrets I missed Granite, the National Theatre of Scotland’s multimedia all-star cast production that sold out three nights last week.

The night I had tickets for the driving rain drove me indoors (asthma you know). Everyone who saw it loved it.

Cast members came from the city as well, with Dame Ann Begg doing a turn, and Aberdeen Voice’s Fred Wilkinson was involved too.

Elly Rothnie helped bring us this production; she works at the National Theatre of Scotland, although in a perfect, honest, meritocracy would by now be helping to run things in a brand new Peacock Visual Arts Centre in Union Terrace Gardens.

For the many people out there who’ve forgotten what really happened – well, we don’t really do know what happened.

One day Scottish Enterprise (headed for years by Sir Ian Wood) was helping Peacock’s plans. The next day, Scottish Enterprise decided that Sir Ian Wood’s dream of a subterranean car park in the gardens, run by acquaintances of Sir Ian Wood in a private company was a better idea, with Sir Ian Wood deciding what would be built in the gardens (common good land, lest we forget).

Perhaps it’s just that I never had any formal investigative journalism training, but I’ve always had the oddest feeling that there was some kind of connection between Scottish Enterprise’s change of heart and Sir Ian. Clearly there wasn’t though – or the Press & Journal would have written about it.

Moving swiftly along, the big event coming this week is BrewDog’s colossal Annual General Meeting on Saturday. This will be my fourth (I think), and it’s going to see 6,000 people coming to the AECC for fun, froth and frolics. And of course business.

Is it possible that Aberdeen can attract people even without a granite web and before the beautiful Marischal Square complex is built? Seems so. I’ve been to the new bar, and love its menu, feeling and of course bottle shop, but I’m still more at home in the original, first-ever BrewDog bar opposite Marischal College. The Beermuda Triangle will be teaming with international beer fans this weekend; and I can’t wait.

Outside the geography of the Beermuda Triangle you’ll find Under The Hammer on North Silver Street. I’ve been in a few group shows there with Neal Bothwell over the past few years (thanks Keith Byres); Neale’s got a solo show on at present; catch it if you can.

Aside from this Aberdonian excitement, it’s been hard to find any interesting news stories this week to write about. That nice Mr Donald Trump wants women to be punished for having abortions. Then he said he wants them punished if abortion was illegal. Next he didn’t want the women tarred and feathered, but the doctors instead.

Iain Duncan Smith is REALLY REALLY SORRY

Now, he thinks no one should be punished (this may or may not have happened after a journalist asked if any of his past squeezes ever had one).

It’s exactly this sensitive, well thought through take on today’s issues that we want in a world leader. I’m sure every woman feels like I do that we’re better off having some big, strong, handsome, intelligent man telling us what we should or shouldn’t do with our own bodies. I really can’t tell you how grateful I am to Mr Trump for this.

A Guardian article is for some reason critical of The Donald, but then again, it was written by some no doubt hysterical woman

Elsewhere Iain Duncan Smith is REALLY REALLY SORRY that he’d made all those laws he rolled out. I personally thought he was just trying to get the lazy skivers out of their hospital beds and into some kind of profitable (if not well paying) work.

In an interview with Private Eye’s Ian Hislop, Smith is on the verge of tears as he slices an onion – sorry – as he thinks about a suffering mum. No doubt he’ll be devoting himself to helping people today who he penalised yesterday. It might be too late for some people, but IDS is sorry, and that’s all that matters.

Leaving behind the tedious problems of the disabled and the poor, the news this week also had some story about money laundering in Panama. What’s wrong with laundering money? I put a fiver in the wash the other week in my jeans pocket, and it came out smelling like orchid and lavender.

Panama is an interesting small Central American country known for hats and a canal. It’s motto is “For the Benefit of the World”. That’s awfully nice of them.

The country had some previous tax haven problems, sad to say.

Result! Panama was removed:

“… from the Organization of Economic Development’s gray-list of tax havens by signing various double taxation treaties with other nations.” 

That’s turned out well then.

With a little hard work, and the right relatives, you too can have an offshore bank account or two. If not, and you find yourself queuing at the job centre or being hauled up for a disability benefits review, take heart.

At least other people are doing very well indeed, and Iain Duncan Smith is sorry and feels your pain.

Sure, no one’s paying tax anymore (well, no one important or rich anyway), and the NHS and benefits are at breaking point. Still, it’s good economic news because we’re attracting business to the UK. Mind you, we’re doing that by letting multinationals based here pay no tax. But don’t worry. It’s all going to be just fine.

Did you miss David Cameron’s stirring speech on tax evasion? Never fear, for here it is.

I’m sure this moving oration won’t require any explanation, but just in case you don’t quite follow Mr Cameron when he talks of the vast chasm of difference between the words ‘avoidance’ and ‘evasion’, here are some definitions.

Tax Avoidance: (Modern English Conservative Speak) – not paying all the tax you should pay by avoiding tax.

Legal

Tax Evasion: (Modern English Conservative Speak) – not paying all the tax you should pay by evading tax.

Illegal

Treating people like children is not my intention, but it’s important that we all understand the clear difference between avoidance and evasion. I’d not want you think I was being evasive in avoiding this point, so here are some vastly differing definitions.

To Avoid: (English Verb) –

Merriam-Webster has this to say about the word avoid:

“to get or keep away from (as a responsibility) through cleverness or trickery <trying to avoid writing thank-you notes for the gifts he didn’t like>.

“Synonyms escape, dodge, duck, elude, eschew, evade, finesse, get around, scape, shake, shirk, shuffle (out of), shun, weasel (out of)

“Related Words miss; avert, deflect, divert, obviate, parry, prevent, ward (off); ban, bar, debar, eliminate, except, exclude, preclude, rule out; bypass, circumvent, skirt; foil, fox, frustrate, outfox, outsmart, outwit, overreach, thwart”
– http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/avoid

So clearly, avoiding tax is fine.

To Evade: (English Verb) –

Merriam-Webster says of the word evade :

“to get or keep away from (as a responsibility) through cleverness or trickery <people who use every loophole in the law to evade paying taxes>.

“Synonyms avoid, dodge, duck, elude, eschew, escape, finesse, get around, scape, shake, shirk, shuffle (out of), shun, weasel (out of)

“Related Words miss; avert, deflect, divert, obviate, parry, prevent, ward (off); ban, bar, debar, eliminate, except, exclude, preclude, rule out; bypass, circumvent, skirt; foil, fox, frustrate, outfox, outsmart, outwit, overreach, thwart”
– http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/evade

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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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Jul 262013
 

Suzanne Kelly gets to grips with the week that was with relevant definitions.

Bells rang out across the land; families cheered; flags were waved in celebration; couples kissed in the streets.  The happy news swept the world; the twittersphere nearly exploded.  I’m sure we will all remember where we were the happy day Ian Tallboys collected another award for the forest created on Tullos Hill. Hip hip hooray.

Yes, it’s good news again – Tullos Hill has won another award  http://www.scotsman.com/tullos-hill-wood-commended.  Chris Piper and Ranger Bigboy, who proudly collected the award, are captured in a moving article and beautiful photo, even more beautiful than Tullos Hill is at present.

Weeds choke many of the new trees, saplings are planted amid household and industrial rubble in stony soil, the deer are gone – but it’s award worthy in this state all the same.

Pete Leonard should be told that various ‘garden escapee’ flowers still manage to grow on the hill; he made it clear he had no time for the field of Dame’s Violets which used to cover the hill. No doubt he’ll want the remaining stragglers eradicated.

There is no news yet on the original proposal to make Tullos Hill’s future forest pay its way by producing timber. I hope they’re not holding their breath (or do I?).  For some reason the phrase ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch’ springs to mind.

There are however actually signs of growth on the trees at St Fitticks.  Soon some of them will be as tall as the surrounding weeds; tall enough to be hit by the salt spray from the North Sea and be hit by the 90+ mph winds we sometimes get.

Thankfully the deer are all gone/shot/culled, so it’s only the soil, salt spray, strong winds and a few random vandals that stand in the way of us having a forest (on a spot where Mother Nature had somehow not planted one before we did – I wonder why?). What could possibly go wrong?  (note – in fairness there are a few positives as well as a number of negatives regarding the current Tullos Hill ‘state–obviously not for deer though.

More on the state of the hill will be forthcoming. Thanks to everyone who came on our picnic last Sunday and congratulations to our experts on yet another award.

While we’ve had those Tallstoryboys winning awards, there has sadly been a spate of bad boys lately too. Naughty councillors, apoplectic security guards and profane beer brewers all made this week’s local news.

Advertising Standards Agency: (modern Eng. noun) An organisation set up to oversee advertisements for accuracy and profanity.

It would be remiss of me to ignore that the ASA have deemed some of BrewDog’s website copy offensive. The use of the word f*ck (among other words) on the BD website was totally criminal, unacceptable, offensive, immoral and the rest of it.  No doubt they had planned to turn the paragraphs in question from a small blurb amongst hundreds of other small blurbs on their page into tshirts, an MTV video, and a tv series.

The whole world would have been offended. I’m very glad the ASA folks nipped this in the bud, or tried to.  And to think I used to believe the ASA were feckless.

The ASA knows what it’s doing and fearlessly pursues those who advertise falsely or offensively. Mind you, they were no help regarding the Union Terrace Gardens referendum. I’d been among complainers to the ASA and OFCOM about the content of the pro web adverts. Believe it or not, the promises for the web almost seemed too good to be true, but then I’m a touch cynical on occasion.

The ASA wrote to me advising they had no power over all the ads and propaganda that appeared about the granite web.

They said their hands were tied – they could not challenge claims the web would mean billions of pounds flowing into the city for hundreds of years, the green space would double magically, or that 6,000 desirable permanent well-paid jobs came with the web, and it wasn’t going to cost the taxpayer anything at all ever. I guess these claims sounded realistic or that the ASA didn’t want to get involved.

Yet while the ASA shied away,  OFCOM stepped up to the plate – after the referendum vote had taken place of course.

at the rate we’re going, the entire shire will be under concrete soon

Anyway, I’m glad the ASA team have sprung on this meaty topic.  It must have been boring, trying to get energy company advertisements to give reliable, truthful information on energy pricing, or look at all the truthful, verifiable, legaly ads appearing on Facebook. Way to go.

Doing a bit further research, I note there have been similar f-word issues. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed. BrewDog’s been smacked across its collective nose with a rolled up newspaper (possibly the Evening Express) for writing ‘f*ck’ on its website, while at the same time, French Connection U.K.  remain, understandably, free to ‘FCUK’ around. I hope we can all appreciate the distinction between the two cases.

Skateboarders: (mod Eng. plural noun) A youth subculture based around urban landscape two-wheel transport.

I feel sorry for our local skateboarders; they would have been the true beneficiaries of any granite web. Mind you, at the rate we’re going, the entire shire will be under concrete soon, and ideal for skating.

Most skaters do their thing without bothering people. Clearly two young boarders got under the skin of an oil business security guard. In a Facebook Video, the man loses his temper spectacularly.

Was the guard taunted?  Was it persistent annoyance from the boys? We don’t know. We do know our heroic guard used language the ASA would have had issues with, and chased the kids away – while chasing them down the public street, threatening GBH. Alas! the company in question has faulty phone lines, and could not discuss the incident when a concerned FB reader rang about the incident.

Rumours suggesting the guard’s being poached by Malone to work security at Trumpland remain unconfirmed.

Martin Ford: (Proper name)  Aberdeenshire Councillor.

Who’s been a naughty boy then? Cllr. Ford is in the doghouse, facing the charge of being a councillor giving an interview to the media on council property concerning council issues. The supreme commander, aka chief Executive Colin MacKenzie and nemesis Cllr. Gifford are out for Ford’s head on a platter for this.

MacKenzie summoned Ford by letter to a meeting, somewhat like the principal sending a letter to your teacher summoning you to the principal’s office. How dare Ford give an interview at the council without getting a hall pass first? MacKenzie would have us believe that any and all interviews must be vetted and approved by him in advance if they happen to involve councillors talking when at the council.

Old Susannah’s written to get answers to a few questions – It’s just as well that every one of Cllr. Ford’s peers has behaved impeccably at all times.

I asked the complainers to answer a few simple questions for me:- where is the procedure set down for giving interviews; how many requests to conduct interviews were made; how many approved or disallowed; and what would the august Chief Executive who hands out the permission slips do if he himself wants to give a media interview?

When they answer me, I’ll let you know. Until then, it’s the naughty step for Martin Ford. After all, we can’t have people going around using their positions in unauthorised fashion.

It might be useful to juxtapose this anger over the use of council offices by a councillor with how the Scottish Enterprise logo and footage of Jennifer Craw got into the promo video made to convince us that Trump was the future.

Things are just a little different in Aberdeen City Council

I remember seeing this video presented by George Sorial himself at a town hall style meeting years ago. I got in touch with SE asap to find out whether this was an endorsement and if permission had been given to use this footage.

They coyly replied that permission had not been given to use the SE logo, which clearly implied that this government quango were in favour of Trump. Which of course they were; they’d spent taxpayer money on the promo DVD made to sell Balmedie to investors. Did Craw get hauled in to explain her presence in the film?  Did SE make a protest and clear the air, saying they gave no permission? Definitely not.

Clearly this kind of propaganda is allowed; Ford talking to reporters in the shire’s hallowed offices is, of course, just wrong.

Things are just a little different in Aberdeen City Council.  Old Susannah’s been to more than a few big meetings there now, and the funny thing is, after major votes, the councillors and waiting media just meet up and speak wherever and about whatever they want on council premises. It’s almost as if there is nothing wrong with councillors telling the public where they stand.

Next week: more on the city of culture bid submission, which I’m still forcing myself to read.

I had to stop at the ‘gigs on rigs’ bit; it was too exciting. Leaving aside the great-sounding, hip, happening concept title ‘gigs on rigs (which doesn’t at all sound like an idea scrawled on the back of an envelope after a long dinner), I am not really sure how this was going to work. First there is the fact the ‘city of culture’ was not really meant to be an ‘oil rig of culture’ hundreds of miles offshore.

For some reason, oil rigs are protected by the highest levels of security and the inherent safety issues with access dependent on weather conditions. Would your average band want to fly out to the middle of the North Sea to spend an evening?

Then there was the small matter of where these concerts were to be beamed in town, what acts would play (Toto? The Beautiful South? Deacon Blue?), and how we’d cope with the massive influx of visitors and the ticket demand for people who’d come to Aberdeen to go to local venues to watch offshore gigs on rigs. This could have been our own Glastonbury.

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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 212013
 

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

Tally Ho!  Summer time and the living is vibrant and dynamic.  Race for Life takes place in a fortnight; Duthie Park will reopen in style on the 30th; Willows is holding an open day on the 22nd, the Portsoy Boat Festival runs all this coming weekend, and much more is going on.

As soon as time permits, I’ll write about the RGU degree show held last Friday.  Visitors and staff alike were impressed at the quality of the work.

With the BrewDog Annual General Meeting days away, I can barely concentrate for excitement.

They are also releasing more shares, and no doubt my purchase of another two shares will throw my moralistic critics into a tailspin.

Not only that, but I have accepted my first ever ever gift from someone I’m writing about.

The piece should be in today’s Aberdeen Voice, and I am sure it will do as much to restore your faith in our police as it has done for me.

Anyway I initially refused the gift, but not wanting to upset my contact, I acquiesced and accepted it.  Readers will have to decide on their own how corrupt this makes me and how biased and obligated to my source I am.  I have accepted, as a gift for writing about something, a tiny piece of macaroon, and an (unopened) packet of popping candy.

I intend to share this at the Aberdeen Voice anniversary party; more on that eventually from our editor, Fred.

Suffice it to say Aberdeen Voice is now virtually 3 years old.  I shall wait by my mailbox for congratulatory letters and telegrams from old and new friends, from Neil Fletcher and Kate Dean to Stewart Milne and Donald Trump.  I keep trying to convince editor Fred Wilkinson to either marry one of the Trump children or open an erotic publishing arm to boost our standing and income, but he seems a little less than keen.

So Alas!  We won’t be in the same league as Aberdeen Journals anytime soon.  Still, I live in hope.

My BrewDog and journalistic freebies euphoria as been tempered by the surprise announcement that Aberdeen did not get further with its City of Culture bid.

You’ll never guess the suspected reason, so astutely pointed out in unbiased fashion by the 20 June Press & Journal.  They are 100% certain we’d have won this prestigious award if only we’d built a granite web over Union Terrace Gardens. I’m sure the culture judges simply didn’t do their homework.  I just hope they didn’t get distracted by our little hiccoughs regarding culture.

we shot our 70 year old herd of harmless roe deer, bulldozed their meadow

Did they care that we allowed the Foyer to close?  It provided structure and support to young people with problems while allowing established and fledgling artists to show their work with openings attended by many sections of Aberdeen society.

Did the culture judges care that in a town of billionaires and multi-millionaires no one would rescue – for a mere £5k – Limousine Bull?  Bull provided affordable studio spaces in Torry for new artists, held art classes, ran exhibitions, and improved the cultural life in Torry.

Did the judges care that while ‘transforming’ Aberdeen we shot our 70 year old herd of harmless roe deer, bulldozed their meadow which was home to many species and turned it back into a barren rubbish tip, studded with saplings destined to die?  Did they care about how we closed services to young, old and people with special needs and abilities?

Of course not – like the rest of the world, they wanted us to borrow £90 million, rip out the only city centre green space without tombstones on it, and build a bunch of ramps that went up and down.  And that’s why we lost.  I hope you feel as ashamed as I do.

This devastating loss of a prestigious award, which saw giant spiders in the streets of Liverpool costing only a million pounds or so is crushing.  Still, we live on.

Thankfully we are being castigated over the loss by arbiters of good taste, John Prescott and the Press and Journal.

Some folks suspect the P&J had a vested interest in supporting their advertisers’ granite web dream project.  Others still think the P&J and its sister the Evening Express contrived in subtle ways to gently, subliminally convince the public the web was the answer to our prayers, but I can’t find any examples of any such behaviour.

Where did our culture bid go wrong?  We had a guy painting himself different colours and sitting in the window of an independent record store that couldn’t afford to keep going.  We took web saleswoman Rita Stephen and put her in charge, ostensibly because she knows how to sell things like, er, the idea of a web.

John Prescott wants Barney Crockett to be ashamed

We have missed our one and only chance to be a city with webs that people want to live close to.  As the P&J suggests, we should ‘Hang Our Heads In Shame’.

And on that note some definitions.

Shameless: (Eng. adjective) to fail to, or refuse to acknowledge or display remorse, guilt or regret when conditions merit it.

When our betters tell us to be filled with shame, we would do well to obey.  When our conscience tells us we have done wrong, we should admit it and show remorse.

The Press & Journal want us to be ashamed for not building the web.  John Prescott wants Barney Crockett to be ashamed – Crockett suggested Aberdeen was edged out of the all-important Culture contest in part for being a rich city compared to the other contenders.

Who should know more about shame than Prezza and the Prezza and Journal?

Prescott, when not confessing his infidelities with his secretary, doing television programmes about ‘class’  and beating egg-throwing protestors, seems to have a new string to his bow – criticising his own party members.  As to the affair, his wife Pauline decided to stand by him after he admitted two years of cheating with one of his secretaries (which was OK, because it wasn’t love, so that’s all right).

Pauline Prescott stayed with her husband for the sake of the book, which earned a few pennies here and there.

It recounts John’s romantic marriage proposal (to the wife, not the secretary), which was delivered in a train toilet (hopefully one of those larger train toilets rather than the small ones).  So if anyone is qualified to tell Crockett and the web-resisters they should be ashamed, then it is Prezza.

Quite what the City of Culture judges saw in Dundee is a mystery

Also without sin and eager to cast stones is our own Press & Journal. By now Old Susannah readers know about the cosy relationship between its editor Damian Bates and Sarah Malone Bates, face of Trump golf in Scotland.

Bates’ faultless love life conduct and professional bearing dictate the editorial policy that allows him to use the P&J to tell us to be ashamed.  And that, as they say is a Result.

Quite what the City of Culture judges saw in Dundee is a mystery – they have an arts centre with programmes for all ages to create, discuss and view art, socialise and engage with each other.  They have embraced their old buildings and, in Brownfield sites created new spaces for the arts.

They have turned their waterfront not into an extended industrial harbour as is proposed for Torry’s remaining unspoilt coast, but instead created a pleasant, social meandering walk from restaurants and bars to historic sailing ships.  (If you haven’t visited the Unicorn or the Discovery, I recommend you do so).

Their shops are in part filled with small designers and local merchants who can afford the rates. They must have bribed the judges.  And not a web in sight.

I can think of one other cultural crack in our granite culture bid.  That is our disappointing crime culture.  The guilty know who they are – because the police shamed them in the P&J issue of 18 June.

Guilt: (Eng. Noun) responsibility, culpability for an event, problem or issue.

This car crime that plagues Aberdeen – the police know who’s behind it, and they’re doing something about it.  No, they’re not re-establishing the  Facebook page ‘Aberdeen Stig Boy Racers’.  You may recall this website which operated under the watchful eye of our police – over 400 people bragged about / supported/ joked about car theft, including posting ‘how to’ schematics.

Of course this was in no way a problem; the police never criticised it at all.  Perhaps they were using it as a handy way to detect crime.

It’s not the thieves who are at fault

Some might think preventing crime by having police doing the rounds, or by not allowing people to glamourise crime might have been a better idea, but there you go.

These Stig theft fans were only engaging in harmless banter.  The real culprits should hang their heads in shame.  According to the P&J 18 June:-

“Police blame careless owners for car thefts.’

Yes that’s right.   Those selfish, greedy, careless people who don’t lock their cars 100% of the time and/or who keep keys in their kitchens or near their front doors are guilty as sin.  They’re asking for it.

It’s not the thieves who are at fault; it’s the people who want to think their belongings shouldn’t be stolen from their garages or their homes.  Of course in terms of violence against women, the idea that women are ‘asking for it’ has been deemed offensive and inaccurate.

When it comes to car owners though – fair enough for the police to say they bring it on themselves.  That is what we call progress.

I’d like to ask everyone who’s ever not locked their car, everyone who keeps keys in their properties which could be seen by a thief innocently casing the joint and pressing their nose to the glass to do the right thing.  Turn yourselves in.

You can’t expect the police to be out on patrol everywhere (or indeed anywhere); they have some really dangerous people to deal with.  I don’t mean ‘one man crime wave’ Mad Max Milligan who at 17 has stolen over £15k’s worth of goods   He had a troubled background, and we need to cut him some slack.  I mean the really dangerous people.

Guilty as charged is one hardened criminal, a Mr. X.  I won’t name him for fear of reprisals.

He was given a lenient £300 fine for his first offence – although a custodial sentence would have been more appropriate.

I only wish they had cordoned off streets at the time and tasered him.

This man, seemingly a mild-mannered engineering graduate with no criminal record was spotted by eagle-eyed police camera operations at Christmas time walking our city streets with – a small corkscrew.

The offensive weapon, still in its plastic wrappings, was deemed to be an a massive security threat, and worthy of the fine imposed.  I only wish they had cordoned off streets at the time and tasered him.

I suppose the guilty party would have got off with a lesser fine, but he invented a ridiculous story, and claimed he won the corkscrew in something called a ‘Christmas cracker’.  Ridiculous.  If any of you out there are carrying nail files, corkscrews, pointy keys, knitting needles or hair pins turn yourselves in now, you too may get off lightly.

However, if you feel like walking into the £1 shop next to Moulton Brown and buying an air pistol and some pellets, the police are happy for you to do so, as long as you’re over 18 years old and are then obviously completely mature.

I’m just glad to know that somewhere, someone high up in our esteemed police force is deciding who to target, and the judicial branch is responding with appropriate sentences.  We can all sleep easier tonight – as long as there is nothing valuable in our kitchens, downstairs rooms or cars.

Next week:  more law enforcement news, BrewDog AGM, and more.