BrewDog: Expanding into bars
BrewDog: Expanding into bars
A view from Gemma Charles

Brand builder: BrewDog

Will the brewer's upfront attitude work as well in its bars as it has for its beer?

BrewDog, the attention-seeking Scottish brewer, is looking to extend its brand to the pub scene. The self-styled 'beacon of non-conformity' launched its first bar in London at the end of last year in typical BrewDog fashion - by sending a tank down Camden High Street - and intends to open 10 more this year.

Since arriving on the scene in 2007, BrewDog, which was founded by friends James Watt and Martin Dickie, has revelled in its status of professional mischief-maker, using PR and product launches to generate headlines.

Its stunts have included the roll- out of a £10 Viagra-laced beer, Royal Virility Performance, with the strapline 'Arise Prince Willy' - a typical offering from the BrewDog publicity machine.

This approach may not be to everyone's taste, and it is not surprising that BrewDog has found itself on the wrong end of a Portman Group ruling or two, but it seems to be working. Its turnover almost doubled in 2010, to £3.3m. The company predicts that 2011 turnover will be about £7m. A share issue for the brewer at the end of December raised £2.14m and it now hopes to gain an AIM listing in 2016.

BrewDog, which owns the Punk IPA and Hardcore IPA brands, launched as a brat and has evolved into an awkward teenager, but how should it manage its forthcoming adulthood?

We asked Lee Rolston, a former AB InBev marketer, and Richard Alford, managing director of M&C Saatchi, which held the Foster's account for 14 years until 2010.


BrewDog is one of those dream brands that oozes the philosophy and personality of the people behind it. It is the result of what the founders do and don't believe in, based on a great product about which they are passionate.

As is the case in all good stories, they also have an enemy: the big boys of brewing. In a cautious category, where there is less choice and products are becoming less challenging, BrewDog does the opposite to the big boys with its crazy stunts and stronger, more complex brews.

As it grows and becomes more mainstream, it will face the classic conundrum of how the underdog takes the lead without selling out. As the business gets bigger, the founders will also have to pass on the brand's philosophy to others to manage.


- To get scale, BrewDog should look for distribution partners (retailers, on-trade outlets or even other brewers) that share its vision.

- It should think about the type of people it needs to grow the business beyond the founders. How the brand's spirit is passed on will be critical to success.

- It should develop a less challenging product for more everyday consumption without diluting the BrewDog brand philosophy. Scale must come from frequency of consumption as well as from converting consumers.


Brewdog is an extraordinary brand and company. It brews brilliant beers which seem to be born of a furious obsession with getting the product right. The two men running it are clearly a pair of lunatics, but lunatics who are on a mission.

When all the brewing is done, it's clear they stand for one thing over and above it all - belief.

Their complete belief in their cause (great beer) and the utter focus of the entire company toward delivering that (including their esoteric share-ownership scheme) is to be admired, and never relinquished.

Where does it fit in the market? Well, it doesn't; that's the point.

The danger, if there is one, is that they follow the pattern of decline of punk record labels 30-odd years ago, by publishing a few good songs and then allowing the concept to be nicked by EMI.


- Keep being angry. Keep hating the big brewers. Remember, however, that the goal is to become one.

- It's probably worth exploring taking out a full page ad in The Daily Telegraph, or something along those lines. Just imagine it. Why not be totally antithetical to the norm?

- BrewDog should do more PR. Lots more. As in 10 o'clock news more. Its founders should become spokesmen for the anti-business businesses. It should aim to knock Innocent off its yoghurty perch.