Long read: The aggressive, outrageous, infuriating (and ingenious) rise of BrewDog. By The Guardian
Once known more for its stunts than its beers, the ‘punk’ Scottish brewer is now the UK’s fastest-growing drinks company. You have a problem with that?
by Jon Henley
In July 2010, a small brewery in the Scottish fishing port of Fraserburgh produced what was, at the time, the world’s strongest beer. Named after the Francis Fukuyama book that declared liberal capitalist democracy the peak of human political evolution, The End of History was, according to its makers, in a sense, the end of beer.
At 55% alcohol-by-volume, the brew, a “blond Belgian ale infused with Scottish Highland nettles and fresh juniper berries”, was stronger than most whiskies, vodkas and gins. It sold in a limited run of 11 bottles, each artfully stuffed inside a deceased wild animal – seven stoats, four grey squirrels – costing between £500 and £700.
One of the brewery’s two founders, James Watt, pronounced the drink “an audacious blend of eccentricity, artistry and rebellion”. In their “striking packaging”, Watt said, the bottles were “disrupting conventions and breaking taboos – just like the beer they hold within them”. Not everyone agreed. Although the stoats and squirrels in question had died of natural causes, the charity Advocates for Animals denounced “perverse” and “out-of-date shock tactics” that “exploited and degraded animals”. Alcohol action groups deplored a “cheap marketing stunt” that was deliberately promoting excess in a nation with a well-known drink problem.
Watt and Martin Dickie, who met at school and launched their upstart brewery in 2007, both aged 24, stood by their creation, which they had made in a local ice-cream factory by repeatedly chilling the brew and skimming off the ice to separate the water and concentrate the alcohol (which freezes at a lower temperature).
The End of History would clearly only ever be consumed in “very small servings,” Watt said. The brewery was simply showing people that beer could be something more than Stella, Carling or Tennent’s – that it could, in fact, be “something they had never imagined” (such as stronger than whisky). The company, he pointed out, also made a highly-flavoured beer with a very low alcohol content.
Besides, Watt could think of no better way to celebrate the lives of 11 fine specimens of dead British wildlife than ensuring that rather than being left to rot, their perfectly preserved corpses, stuffed by a master taxidermist from Doncaster, would be “forever cherished” by the buyers of what was without doubt the most expensive beer in the world.
BONUS. A case study carefully prepared in Russian:
Наварили на $1 млрд: Как крафтовая пивоварня BrewDog стала «единорогом»