BrewDog, a brewery with a difference, is the brainchild of 25-year old James Watt and his business partner and best mate Martin Dickie. Today it is Scotland's largest independently owned brewery producing about 120,000 bottles per month. But that dear reader is only half the story. James is a self confessed risk-taker and his beer and its packaging courts controversy.
Here's an example. A few months back, Brewdog launched a new product called The End of History. It's an unusual product. Not only is this the strongest beer man has ever created, it also comes packaged inside a dead animal. Hmmm. Now, to say this has received mixed reactions from the public would be something of an understatement. Comments range from, 'Bad taste pushed to new limits' to 'It's quirky, hilarious, and it works well.' Anyway, never one to miss out on a bit of controversy, I thought James and I should have a chat.
Hi James. Well I admit I've never tried your beer but I love all the mad creativity. Tell us about this brew '˜The End of History'. Some mighty say the packaging is a bit extreme '“ with each bottle stuffed inside a roadkill animal. What made you think this might work?
In true BrewDog fashion we've torn up convention, blurred distinctions and pushed brewing and beer packaging to its absolute limits. The beer is an audacious blend of eccentricity, artistry and rebellion; a meta commentary on the current state of brewing. At BrewDog we want to push the boundaries and challenge people's perceptions about what beer is and how it can be enjoyed. We ultimately want to show an alternative to the mainstream, generic beers and make other people as passionate about craft beer as we are.
The impact of The End of History is a perfect conceptual marriage between art, taxidermy and craft brewing. The bottles are at once beautiful and disturbing '“ they disrupt conventions and break taboos, just like the beer they hold within them.
Adopting a Devil-may-care attitude and an aesthetic of the anarchic, DIY, underground punk scene, this beer is joyfully irreverent. The 12 animals we used were road-kill and we see this as a much better way to celebrate these than leaving them at the side of the road to rot. We are all animal lovers at BrewDog and we went to great lengths to secure a very talented taxidermist who could perfectly execute this artistic concept.
This beer inside is stronger than Vodka. What it god's name does it taste like?
Awesome! But you have to drink and approach it like a fine, single malt scotch whisky rather than a beer. It is rich, with honey, biscuit and toffee sweetness initially, a ripple of spiciness, some berries and apples and a warming finish.
There's been a bit of backlash in the press about it all. Was your plan to be outrageous, make as much noise as possible and get your names out there?
We want to put craft beer on the map and show people how rewarding and amazing proper beer actually is. We feel that by causing controversy, unsettling institutions and really pushing the boundaries 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.
Somehow I imagine that running a craft brewery would be a gentle, leisurely sort of persuit '“ but that's not the case with Brewdog. I sense you're someone who enjoy a bit of risk taking.
We could not find any beers we liked in the UK and decided the best way to remedy this undesirable predicament was to start brewing our own beers. 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.
Our biggest goal when we started the company and still our biggest goal today is to make other people as passionate about great craft beers as we are. This is pretty much all we care about! We want to show people there is an alternative to the mainstream generic mass market beer made by assholes who only care about profit and market share. We want to put the enthusiasm, passion, craft and integrity back into beer drinkers glasses. And we want to have fun and unsettle a few stuffy old institutions and rattle a few cages whilst we are doing it.
There's a great quote of yours - '˜we work on the principle that it is much easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission'. That's fine - but should there be limits when alcohol is concerned '“ should you guys be seen as being more responsible?
We are completely responsible! That mantra applies to how we run our company, not our position on alcohol. We want to educate the consumer and elevate the status of beer. The more someone understands and can truly appreciate great beer, the much less likely they are to abuse it.
So what's next '“ what have you got lined up for an unsuspecting public in the future?