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'We have been a marmite brand pretty much from day one': BrewDog co-founder responds to online criticism of Scottish brewery

The Scottish brewery hasn't been without controversy over the years.

Published: August 24, 2020
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BrewDog co-founder, James Watt, has responded to online criticism of the brewery with a lengthy LinkedIn post, saying "we are always happy to hold our hands up when we get something wrong, and we have done so on many occasions."

Since being founded in 2007, BrewDog has had a huge impact on the craft beer scene in Scotland and beyond as founder Martin Dickie and James Watt sought to introduce craft beer to the market, at a time when lager was king.

Taking their inspiration from trends in America, the duo created Punk IPA, the beer that started it all and one which remains a top seller.

From humble beginnings selling their beer at farmer's markets to driving a tank down Camden High Street in London and opening a beer themed hotel as part of a sprawling brewery in America - BrewDog's success has been phenomenal.

Such a success hasn't been without controversy and criticism, so much so that last month, co-founder James Watt took to LinkedIn to pen a post addressing some of the most talked about (and posted) online remarks.

He wrote: "We have been a marmite brand pretty much from day 1. We always wear our heart on our sleeve and take a stand for the things that we believe in. Some people love us, some people not so much, and we are cool with that. We have never been about trying to keep everyone happy.

"People often criticise us, sometimes for good reason too. All companies make mistakes, we have made many on our 13 year journey and we are always happy to hold our hands up when we get something wrong, and we have done so on many occasions."

'This was a mistake on our behalf'

James then went on to explain outcomes of some of the most remarked about events in the brand's recent history including legal action taken in a trademark dispute in March 2017 with a bar called Lone Wolf, which he described as "a mistake on our behalf: there was never going to be any confusion between their bar and our gin, and we were completely wrong to take action."

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Other points include the much debated use of the word punk, which many people remark that the brand tried to trademark. On this, James wrote: "Back in 2007 we trademarked ‘Punk IPA’ in the beer category but there are hundreds of other trademark categories and we only own ‘Punk IPA’ in beer.

"As this is the trademark of our flagship beer, we have to protect it, to not protect this would be to put the livelihoods of all of our 2,000 team members at risk. Every company is going to protect the trademark of its flagship item."

Claims of using other people's work were also addressed by James, including that of an interviewee for a marketing job in America in 2018.

James stated: "Getting a job at BrewDog isn’t easy and we ask a lot of our interviewees, including showing us how they think creatively about the challenges we face.

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"But we absolutely never have or never will use any ideas presented by a candidate during an interview process and the accusation is completely untrue. It is worth noting that the candidate in question also sent us an invoice us for their time whilst being interviewed which we have never seen from a candidate before or since."

Finally, possible use of agency, Manifest, and their work for BrewDog was covered in James's statement.

The agency and the brewery stopped working together in March 2019 but CEO Alex Myers tweeted that the branding for Punk AF alcohol free was theirs, and hadn't been paid for, saying: “This is a @ManifestLDN concept. We were told @brewdog had chosen a different route. We have not been paid for it.”

In James's post, he said: "This was all cleared up, very amicably well over a year ago" before posting a screenshot of a tweet from Alex Myers, which says: "Just to update everyone on the BrewDog tweet from last week: we have discussed the matter amicably with BrewDog, and there is no longer an issue."

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BrewDog have made the news this year for their limited edition releases, which included a Barnard Castle Eye Test IPA, Street Dog IPA and a possible ALD IPA (or Yaldi IPA), which caused a stir online this month.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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