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Yesterday marked the third anniversary of a blog post written in a tongue-in-cheek manner about Brewdog. I noticed this because for three solid years that post has been amongst my top 5 most read posts per month.

Much has changed and developed in three years, especially for the Scottish brewery. I don't necessarily still agree with all the points I made in that post; I certainly do not agree with the God awful grammar used in the post's title and throughout. Still, I'm always surprised it's so heavily viewed regularly and consistently this number of years on. 

I wouldn't have returned to such a well documented and overly endorsed subject as Brewdog had it not been for a heated discussion that happened in a pub over the weekend that led to me being verbally threatened. I wrote that original post because I was tired of so many Twitter characters and Blog words being used on the damnation of this particular brewery's nature and mission statement. People had grown to hate it for the sake of hating it. It had been said before, but people still needed reminding that, within the state of British Beer and how far we've come, Brewdog are very important. 

In the three years since they have provided plenty of ammunition for debate and content for articles. Everybody has a reason to hate them because everybody has an opinion. "They use stupid marketing tactics. They are disingenuous. They are not remotely punk." 

It is an oddity that so much focus is pre-emptied onto the word “Punk;” like any bastardisation of the word is sacrilege. These same people that criticise this word aren’t outspoken about much worse beer bastardisations: how India has grown to mean Bitterly Hopped, Hop exclusively means New World Citrussy Hops and the word Craft means practically fuck all. But yeah, let’s really focus on whether we like Brewdog using the term Punk in reference to how we alternatives view the word, somewhat neglecting that etymologically it once meant something worthless, a fact you’d think Brewdog Naysayers would be keen to exploit. Instead their claim to the 70s media definition is all that matters.

Yes, there are aspects I would edit from that original post though. The post was pre-Putin beer and pre-No Label – both examples of ill-advised, offensive advertising. It was pre-conversations I’d had with bar staff and pub managers about how they’d been let down again and again by the brewery, with price increases and failed deliveries. The post was also pre-Clown King, pre-Shipwrecker Circus, pre-Born to Die; all fantastic, near perfect examples of the genius the Ellon brewers can produce.

People tire of the Brewdog histrionics without seeing the irony of it. Apparently there's enough people not yet bored of their own hypocrisy as they watch some BBC documentary just so they can deeply analyse/criticise every move by James Watt. No I didn't watch it and no, I really don't care how television editing made them look. Why do you? 

There’s enough people not yet bored of their own hypocrisy as they set out to boycott Brewdog as they find them offensive, yet have not similarly boycotted the likes of Oakham or J.W. Lees. Those two examples have been called out for some dreadfully offensive advertising too but have somehow been forgiven where Brewdog have not.

There’s enough people not yet bored of their own hypocrisy as they say Brewdog sold out when they allowed Tesco to sell Hardcore IPA underTesco labels, yet still lap up the M&S beers from the likes of Adnams and (again) Oakham. “But Oakham have never claimed to be Punk” they’ll exclaim and see above as to why that’s a ridiculous stance.

I'm still not personally sold on Equity for Punks, yet I do find their public stance on breweries sold to huge conglomerates admirable. Severing beer relationships they've made over the years due to principles isn't something I can imagine anybody else doing. Is selling your shares to fanboys worse than selling your soul to suits? 

So for the somnolent hypocrites amongst us I provide transcripts of three conversations I've had in the last three weeks; two specifically about Brewdog and one about a big chain of restaurants I feel can be attributed to any growing speciality business. Hopefully you'll see why I included the latter:-  

A Another: “Brewdog are not remotely punk so being indignant about ABInBev owned beers is very hypocritical.”
Me: “Brewdog have vowed to stay independent and are sticking by that. After a run-in with Diageo they know better than most how the big boys work.”
A Another: “But they’ve done a deal with Tesco.”
Me: “The same way that Oakham have a deal with M&S?”
A Another: “Oakham aren’t pretending to be punk.”
Me: “Are you saying selling beer in Tesco makes you a bigger sellout than completely selling your brewery to ABInBev?”
A Another: “I’d rather drink Camden beers than Brewdog.”
Me: “So you are saying running a viable business but not selling your ownership is worse than completely selling out to a big corporation?”
A Another: “Look, if you want to go outside Mark, I’ll take you outside and fucking knock you out.” 

Me: “For me, they’re in danger of becoming the new Vodka Revolution. Do you remember when we were 18 and would go for a night out in a new city? And if we didn’t know where to start we would say to the taxi driver ‘Do you have a Revolution here? Just drop us there.' Isn't that we're starting to do with Brewdog?”
A Another: “Yeah.”
Me: “And that was because it was a generic bar in a big city but at least we knew we were guaranteed a good drink?”
A Another: “Yeah, and we did that because Revolution bars used to be in the best drinking areas in the city.”
Me: “Right and are Brewdog becoming the Beer version of Revolution?”
A Another: “Maybe, but why is that such a bad thing?”

A Another: “Nando’s is just cheap fast food shit.”
Me: “Nando’s cook food of a certain quality you’re expecting and doesn’t pretend to be anything that it isn’t”
A Another: “It’s just a sit-down KFC.”
Me: “It isn’t. It is what it is. It’s very different. If I want a bloody Nando’s then I’m going to get a bloody Nando’s. It’s going to be distinctly average food served in a weird way by staff that don’t care, but that is what I expect from Nando’s and that’s what I’ll get. It’s not organic – it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s not Michelin star cuisine – it never said it was. But if I want some peri peri chicken and frozen yoghurt, I’ll get some peri peri chicken and frozen yoghurt.”
A Another: “It’s not fresh or original, though.”
Me: “NO AND IT DOESN’T PRETEND TO BE. Why does it have to be?”

Differing opinions and some rather more aggressive than others. Brewdog have fitted perfectly into that line of, whether you are a fanboy or a hater, having everyone talking about them. 
There’s plenty of rankled people claiming that they ignore Brewdog and want nothing to do with them; whilst at all times whinging about them. The marketing works then. You love the marketing, you hate the marketing, but you aren’t ignoring it. You are still of the belief the marketing is spiel because you don’t like it, yet as a marketer I can tell you it’s incredibly genius. They might not bring down the entire government but they've changed the British beer scene moreso than anybody else. If they come across conceited to you because of that then try not to offer somebody with a differing view outside for a fight. 

Ten Reasons to Hate Brewdog - I'll let you compile your own list. It's probaby very different to the next person's.

Also, if anybody would like to invest in my Peri-Peri chicken/craft beer café business then my e-mail is attached. I call it Nandogs - it's a winner. 


Ed said…
No doubt everyone's a hypocrite to some extent - we're human beings not angels. But Brewdog are in a league of their own when it comes to bullshit.
Unknown said…
Just the Punk dream, started on a shoestring, by the son of a multi-millionaire
Alan said…

The prices at Brewdog Camden have gone up a lot. About 30% in 30 months. I remember in late 2013 they announced a small price increase; they don't bother with these announcements now I notice.

The bar staff are generally good eggs - but there was a fuck-up involving a refusal to offer an advertised deal at Camden, and some very rude non-service at Shoreditch once. This has encouraged me to look for alternatives; One Black Heart in Camden, for example, has a good & keenly-priced selection.

The point about Vodka Revolution is a sound one. You find yourself in another city, and there's a Brewdog; well you know what you're gonna get - tolerable indy muzak, and decent (if a bit too uniformly cold & fizzy) beer. But it ain't all that, and yeah the whole thing feels a bit dirty. I think I actually prefer drinking at Camden Town Brewery now, despite them selling out and being overly-protective of their claim to the word Camden. Eep.

Anonymous said…
as an ex member of staff: they're a fucking horrible company to work for i must say. The hypocrisy gets to another level when they're actively misleading you about the hours you'll get and making you pay into the till when there's a variance above £4....
dukeofpallmall said…
So how does this post feel now that Brewdog have dropped any pretense of not being full corporate? Obviously the whole punk thing was always just a marketing ploy by hipster capitalists, but honestly, I don't even care how good their beer is, if it's a product of expansion-dependent, exploitative capitalism (and in the long run it will become shite, because that's the logic of the system) it is the system that is destroying humans and the planet as we know it. I'll settle for small independent craft producers with no ambitions of boundless growth, plenty of those around. Craft, as in "Arts and Crafts" is an ethos, not just a product label, and on that account Brewdog is just repackaged Miller Lite.
Mark Johnson said…
The deal itself doesn't overly bother me, but Brewdog themselves will keep watering themselves down year on year. The bars limited choices and ridiculous pricing structure has made me visit them rarely now. I think the bars will start to struggle but they won't care as supermarket sales keep them in good health. They are what they are though and it isn't really worth anybody getting too venomous about.

However, it doesn't change the fact that Craft is just a marketing term when used in relation to beer. There is no ownership of it by anyone.
Drewbog said…
Brewdog versus Elvis - in yet another piece of 'finger to you all' marketing the illustrious owners have now changed their first name by deed poll to Evis to fight back against the tyranical Elvis Pressley estate that dares to pull them up on their Evis ale. I wonder what they would do if i used the name Brewdog to promote any product I was offering ?

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