Why we do what we do
Copy of a recent piece I wrote for Beer Advocate Magazine.
Infamous? Unpredictable? Single handedly responsible for the downfall of western civilisation? Maybe. BrewDog has courted its fair share of controversy since we set out in '07 to excite imaginations and challenge bored British palettes but despite all the apparent chaos, what we do is part of a much bigger mission.
Martin and I were bored of the industrially brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominate the UK market. Having given up hope of finding beers we actually enjoyed, we started making our own. Following a couple of years of ramshackle home brewing, we had the privilege of meeting Michael Jackson who tried our garage-brews and promptly told us to quit our jobs and start making beer.
So we did. Both only 24 at the time, we leased a building, got some scary bank loans, spent all our money on stainless steel and started making some hardcore beers.
The UK is a dessert for progressive craft beer. With the exception of a few bright shining lights, the landscape is dominated by monolithic lagers and generic boring ales. CAMRA are almost single handedly responsible for holding back innovation in British brewing with their overbearing emphasis on a narrow spectrum of beer styles. Most British small brewers do nothing to further the craft beer revolution. Specifically those who flood the market with dull, steady, fundamentally uninspiring beers, on a flavor spectrum defined by a 3.5% mild and a 4% bitter with their branding created in some twisted vacuum of taste and logic.
Contrast this with the USA where unconstrained, challenging and exciting craft ales are really taking hold. Uninhibited by tradition, craft brewers are free to follow their muse and showcase the fascinating stylistic diversity of beers, boldly riffing on the rebellious nature of artisan brewing to boot.
For us, everything comes back to one overarching ambition and to one guiding light: to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are. We are completely dedicated to brewing the best craft beers we possibly can, it is pretty much all we care about. We want to show people there is an alternative to monotone corporate beers, introduce them to a completely new approach to beer and elevate the status of beer in our culture.
Drinkers in Scotland are constrained by lack of choice. Seduced by the monolithic corporate brewers huge advertising budgets. Brain-washed by vindictive lies perpetrated with the veracity of pseudo-propaganda. They can’t help but be sucked down the rabbit hole. We are on a mission to open as many people’s eyes as possible. This is what motivates us and this is why we love brewing progressive ales.
Whether it is wrangles with industry regulators, pushing the boundaries in high ABV brewing, smashing bottles of generic beer with a baseball bat or doing a Saturday morning tasting at a local street market. We live and breathe craft brewing and everything we do comes back to aspiring to brew world-class ales and striving to instigate a local craft beer revolution.
At times it may seem like BrewDog are shouting too loud, however the unforgiving territories of windswept North Scotland have a lot in common with the landscape that greets any UK craft brewer – We're simply shouting loud enough to be heard. We want to put craft beer on the map and show people how rewarding and amazing proper beer actually is and to redefine people’s perceptions of what beer truly is.
We feel that by causing controversy, unsettling institutions and really pushing the envelope we can raise awareness for craft beer in the UK and get more dispassionate consumers starting the journey to towards becoming bonafide craft beer aficionados. The simple fact that we seem to generate headlines makes people aware that there is an alternative approach to beer. Oh and our dog Bracken just loves wearing his penguin suit.
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- CAMRA have always and will always be happy to present any cask/bottle conditioned real ale you produce at their festivals.
Perhaps if you were more reasonable when discussing supply, you might have more success, and less impression of them somehow "stifling" you.
Refusing to supply less than a pallet of beer to a festival that simply doesn't need/want that much beer from a single brewer is doing more to damage diversification than CAMRA.Richard E. Allele06.07.2010
- James, you're blaming Camra for the conservative tastes of the British beer drinker, whereas Camra's festivals, and the product ranges of most British microbrewers simply reflect the fact that most people in Britain who are actually interested in beer are still not that adventurous in what they will drink. You can lead a beer drinker to a double imperial IPA but you can't make her drink it. The British "craft" beer scene HAS to be largely conservative, and stick to mostly 4% brown bitters, because that's what sells: this is not the US, where there's a much bigger market for "extreme" beers. Your own beers appeal to a minority of a minority, and while there's nothing wrong with that, you've found a niche and well done, if tomorrow Camra and half the pubs in Britain suddenly started promoting imperial wheat beers and double IPAs, the market for such beers in Britain would not leap overnight: a very few people would be very happy, but there'd be a huge amount of unsold beer about. Martyn Cornell26.06.2010
- Also, conkers and bazooka?! WTF? Less drunken posting, I think. firstname.lastname@example.org
- James - You're right, I think, that CAMRA hasn't changed much but I'm not sure they're the most stultifying influence in British beer (that spot's reserved for people like INBev). CAMRA have big, bold American beers at GBBF every year and often at other festivals so I'm not sure it's right to say that they're not open to good quality, innovative beers. Where I do think they go wrong is their obsession with cask conditioning, but that's a different thing from stifling creativity and bold beer styles. Gareth Young22.06.2010
- Gareth - I am not calling anyone enemies. I am simply pointing out that I feel Camra have held back innovation on Brittish Beer. Granted they did do some good work in the 1970s but it is maybe fair to say that they have not really changed since. James22.06.2010
- What I mean, though I'm slightly wrecked is that the only serious enemies to good quality beer are companies like INBEV. Calling CAMRA enemies is like calling a conkers player with one more nut than you a cheater when your facing down a sociopath weilding a bazooka. CAMRA are interesting in different things than BrewDog but if you keep making the quality of beer you do, theyll come round and recognise you - theyre just afraid of change. Its the big bastards you need to complain about. Gareth Young22.06.2010
- I'm not sure this is entirely fair to CAMRA. Firstly, they deserve a bit of respect for the work they did in the 70's. Between them and Michael Jackson (only great beer writer ever IMHO), they saved british beer. As far as their role goes in the current market, I still think they play a role in promoting good quality beer. Just because something is a 4 percnt bitter, doesnt mean its not great or interesting, Some of the best british beers are bitters. The idea of a highly hoppy IPA might be exciting for brits (and de rigeur for Americans) but that is a purely historical matter. I wish for a time when a well made bitter is considered to be equally good as a hoppy IIPA like Hardcore by all concerned. THAT is what its all about. Where CAMRA go wrong is not beer styles but presentation. Their preference, regardless of circumstance, for cask ale is; I think, damaging. So long as CAMRA accept that sometimes bottle-conditioning is not the best way, I think theyll be a force for good, Gareth Young22.06.2010
- I forgot to say below, that there is one specialist off license in Sheffield that does stock a decent range of Brewdog (thank the lord). They even sell Nanny State! I'm not going to say what shop it is, cos I want anyone else buying the 'dog. It's mine, all mine!!!!! Rich21.06.2010
- And the winner of the 'Brewdog's biggest rant' award must surely go to this blog entry! Well done guys, telling it like it is. Good to see you crediting American beers, I'm really getting into them having spent years believing that all American beers would taste as horrid as Bud****er. I really like beers from Dogfish Head and Flying Dog. Must be something about breweries with the word dog in the name!
I live in Sheffield, which is known as a real ale mecca. However there seems to be very little takeup of Brewdog down here. The Sheffield Tap did have 'dog on draught for a while and still continues to sell 'dog in bottles. Sainsburys sell Punk IPA and Tesco sell 77 lager. That's about it. James, how do you plan to raise awareness of your fine products to increase pub and retailer take-up?Rich21.06.2010
- *disappointed Dom Welsh21.06.2010
- Dessert or desert?
Does CAMRA's beer fest range not just reflect the the variety of beers being brewed in the UK? Most of their space at Paisley was taken up by the English Section and the Scottish section (only a small bar area for the foreign section). Are CAMRA consistently refusing to accept your beers or do you just not offer them? I am a CAMRA member and a Brewdog shareholder by the way and was dissapointed that your beers weren't at Paisley.
- I didnt realise that it was CAMRA which was facilitating the stagnancy of progression. This wouldn't seem to be part of their mission statement so is it down rather to the kind of chaps who are in positions of responsibility regarding CAMRA events? I've had some very good beers ar CAMRA affiliated beer festivals but few which really break the mold. A pumpkin beer with cinnamon to it and a porter which seemed to blend chocolate pread and marmite spring to mind. But the stock options do tend towards what one might describe as safe. Douglas MacIntyre21.06.2010
- James, your own core range consists of four beers that are between 4.2 and 6 per cent. That's what most people want to drink most of the time. You get more diversity at CAMRA festivals than in most pubs, but unadventurous drinkers and publicans don't make such a good scapegoat. Barm21.06.2010
- Behind you all the way Chris21.06.2010
- You do what you do because you are the dog's bollocks. And we love you for that.
Rock on B'Dog!Matt21.06.2010
- Right on James! Adrian21.06.2010
- Barm - I feel CAMRA hold back innovation with their focus on too few beer styles. This is my opinion.
Find many double IPAs at a CAMRA festival? Many carbonated lagers? Many wild ales? Imperial Wheat Beers. You will find around 90% of the beers fit in the 3.5-4.2% spectrum and are very similar stylistically.
It is pretty hard to disagree that the US craft brewing scene has far more stylistic diversity than that of the UK.James, BrewDog21.06.2010
- first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win..... Ghandi Andy21.06.2010
- What's this crap about CAMRA stifling creativity? Has there been e.g. some sort of campaign against the pale and hoppy beers that are now very popular? How exactly would CAMRA go about stopping brewers brewing what they choose, or drinkers buying what they choose, even supposing they wanted to? Barm21.06.2010