We chat to international craft beer giant, BREWDOG ahead of Capital Craft Beer Festival discussing how they came to be, the allure of craft beer, their Puppy Parental Leave Policy and what to expect at the festival
You launched BrewDog with the release of the first batch of PUNK IPA in 2007. Describe the flavours and aromas you were going for with the PUNK IPA and what the feedback was like on your first batch?
Punk IPA was the result of our homebrew-fuelled adventures into finding something we wanted to drink in a landscape that was (at the time) dominated by industrial lager brands and stuffy cask ales. Inspired by the bitter, hop-forward pale ales of the United States we wanted a beer that hit home with citrus, resin and pine flavours with elements of tropical fruit, and after experimenting on our homebrew kit that beer became Punk IPA. We loved it right from the start.
It was tough-sell at first however. A lot of people weren’t ready for a 6% India Pale Ale in the north of Scotland a decade ago. Every piece of advice we were given was on the lines of ‘lower the ABV’ or ‘make it less bitter’ or ‘change the packaging to give it more appeal’ – and we ignored all of it. It was what we wanted to drink and there was nothing like it, so we carried on regardless. Why would we do anything otherwise?
In the ten years, has the recipe for your flagship beer changed at all?
Nothing is sacred, at all – it can’t be when you want to make the best beer possible. They say you should never meet your heroes but we aren’t afraid to revisit our most popular beers if need be. Back in 2011, we realised a new regime of dry-hopping would truly unleash the potential Punk had and give it a post-modern twist of new world hops. So without a second thought, we brewed a trial batch, dry-hopped it and loved the results. The rest is history.
How have your manufacturing processes and ideologies evolved since brewing the first batch in Martin’s garage?
Our processes are unrecognisable from what they were when we homebrewed! Having a state-of-the-art eco-brewery in Ellon and another in Columbus Ohio is night and day from Martin’s Mum’s garage – even if we have more space to lose things now (although that garage was like the Tardis). At the same time our ideology hasn’t shifted one iota, and it never will. We continue to brew beers we want to drink, in the best way possible in our mission to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are.
What is the most unusual ingredient, flavour, or style, BrewDog has experimented with in their beers?
Well, it’s not a flavour or style, and definitely, not an ingredient, but using taxidermy squirrels for The End of History has to be filed under ‘unusual’. Even if you look past the packaging – which is not the easiest thing to do – then the beer itself as a 55% ABV ice-distilled goliath would be found under that same designation. There’s nothing we wouldn’t experiment with if we thought it would bring something to the party and create a beer that people would want to drink. That’s why we brew – that’s why anyone brews – to see what’s out there.
What would you say are the key differences between craft beer and mass-produced beers? And why have we seen such an explosion in the interest in and commitment to craft beer in the past decade?
The differences? Everything. Spirit. Passion. Integrity. Honesty. Community. Flavour. There’s no comparison. Just look to what the mass-produced charlatans are doing these days – buying craft breweries left, right and centre or producing their own fake ‘crafty’ beers to catch people out. It’s trickery. Like the Snake Oil salesmen of the old west. And it makes our blood boil. People have taken an interest in where their beer comes from, who made it and what it tastes like – and so these fuckers are trying to muscle in using their chequebooks. Not on our watch.
Craft beer brewing is as much about the brewing and flavour as it is about the business of brewing and your business practices have been alternative. Tell us more about Equity for Punks and some of the benefits of being a BrewDog shareholder.
Well, we started Equity for Punks with one simple aim in mind – to shorten the distance between us and the people who enjoy our beers. The ultimate incarnation of this philosophy is to give those people a chance to own part of that business. Real, committed people who love what you do and want to be there as you progress on that journey – not anonymous city types or portfolio whores. Our shareholders are our heart and soul – a community of people with a ringside seat to our future; they have a say in everything we do.
What are your thoughts on the Anheuser-Busch acquisition of SABMiller? Your own constitution means you can never sell the company to a big drinks manufacturer, but how has this merger affected the market thus far?
We couldn’t care less. They can dry-hump each other in whichever boardroom they fancy. The larger their conglomeration becomes the more people will see them for what they are – beermakers controlled by pen-pushers and costings spreadsheets.
Since inception, canines have always been an important part of BrewDog with Bracken having been involved from the beginning and the company recently launching its Puppy Parental leave policy. What role do dogs play in the lore or BrewDog?
Well since we started out with James and Martin and Bracken we have grown, but our four-legged friends have remained integral to life at BrewDog. All our bars are dog-friendly. Our office-based staff can bring their pups to work and we recently launched that policy so that any member of BrewDog staff who welcomes a new puppy or rescue dog into their lives can have a week’s leave to begin building the best bond a human can have. We love our hounds!
What will be available from BrewDog at Capital Craft and will there be any special brews or activations for the event?
We will be pouring Punk IPA and Elvis Juice at Capital Craft on 10 June!