Sunday 8 November 2009

Make Beer Not War, Please

James from BrewDog has complained to The Portman Group about his own beer, Tokyo*.

By writing about this I am catching the bait, I’m sure, but some things need saying.

This is idiocy. I get why they are doing it, I see that, but it doesn't make it the right move. I understand that BrewDog want to highlight flaws in the system, that they want to challenge the system and ultimately get publicity at the end of it, but getting their own beer upheld because of a few words which they wrote is completely illogical, especially when it’s one of the best beers they make.

I am a big fan of the brewery and the beers, but as I said with Nanny State, sometimes you have to tell your loved ones when they do something stupid. BrewDog: this is stupid.

Please do what you do best and make great beer. Please exhaust your energy in trying to sell them, not by trying to get them banned. Let the beer speak for itself. The real losers here are the people who want to drink your beer; the people who pay for your beer. And remember, other people own a stake in your company now. I was impressed with the Movember brew (and I bought some) and this is great publicity and that’s something which you should be pressing to get PR from. Shooting yourself in the foot to prove a point makes you limp around painfully while we all watch on, and it isn’t a good look.

Please, let us catch our breath, let us drink some of your beer and let us look forward to the next beer you release, because that’s where the real hype is for BrewDog, that’s what excites me the most – what beer will I be able to buy next and when will I be able to get it. Keep producing new beer and we will continue to buy it, drink it and talk about it. You are a brewery, not an infamy-chasing, d-list celebrity; by all means show us your sexy new equipment, impress us with hot new beers, promise us great things, just don’t go kamikaze in the process.

Pete Brown has also posted about this latest stunt on his blog.


  1. Well said. I have to say this particular stunt has just turned me off a bit, and I suspect a lot of respect has been lost. As Mr. Brown said, spectacular own goal.

  2. Very well said - Brewdog brew some great beers and there's a danger people will forget that if they keep this up.

    Stick to what you're good at

  3. They complained about their own beer? WTF???? Completely agree with you there Mark, and couldn't have put it any better myself. What is next, hiring Max Clifford to sell their story to the Sun?

  4. I think we should all get very angry about what BrewDog have done to themselves and give them a bit more publicity.....

    I wonder how important the Portman group decision is? I sell Tokyo* at my pub and fail to see, seeing as adherence to their decision is voluntary, how it makes one jot of difference to me.

    I can however tell people who I sell it to that parts of the industry have banned it....

  5. Mark,

    The Portman Group refuse to even look at drinks advertising as it is out with their remit. Yet this is where their funder companies spend their A&P budget. Leaving the Portman Group to feed on scraps like our beers and Dorothy Goodbody to be seen to be doing something to justify its own existence. Better education, sensible pricing and not insulting consumer intelligence is how we can tackle drink problems. The Portman Group were also critical of the minimum price per unit policy. Why? Because it would effect the profits of the companies who fund them yet this move would have done more to prevent binge drinking than anything they have power to do. We are small and have to be inventive to make our point, we felt this was the best way to show just how flawed the regime is.

    I accept that what we have done here is bold, risky and unconventional. However underneath all this is a very valid point and one which I feel we had to make. Sometimes we do push things too far, granted. However we are not afraid to stand up for what we believe in.

    Our ultimate ambition is to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are. We want to introduce as many people as possible to how amazing proper beer is. Now to do this we sometimes need to do something bold and take a risk, sometimes we may go far. When you are pushing things you never quite know where the boundary is until you cross it. I accept your criticism of what we have done here and value your opinion. However if this generates some publicity, as well as highlighting how pathetic the Portman Group actually are it may spark an interest in craft beer. And it may make some people aware that there are actually alternatives to the liquid cardboard produced by faceless corporate monstrosities.

    Now surely that is good for everyone. I do not think craft beer in the UK is going to break out truly without being a bit risqué to raise its profile initially. Our aim with this, as always, is to get more people drinking great beer.

  6. Barry, I agree. It's a bold move that has scored an own goal and set them back.

    Kristy, I just hope the beers don't get lost up in their whirlwind of hype. Nanny State showed what happens when style wins over substance and it was a terrible result (IMHO). Their other beers, Tokyo* included, show just how good Martin and the team are at brewing.

    Al, you may have just given them their next idea... uh oh!

    Dave, this is one of the reasons they did it, I'm sure. Maybe they were waiting for a complaint to come in but it didn't so they had make one themselves, kinda like sending yourself a valentine's card. I was wary of blogging about it because then I'm doing what they want me to do, but I care about the beer and ther brewery. As for selling a 'banned' beer, I genuinely hope your sales rocket because more people should drink Tokyo*!!

    James, I get why you did this, I just think it might be one step too far and it's detracting from what is a genuinely great beer. And this stunt might just piss off the Portman Group a little... they may be flawed but they weren't taking any action against Tokyo* until you sent that letter. You say that you have to be inventive to make your point but I don't think there was a point which needed making here.

    Surely the best way to spark interest in great craft beer is to brew it and sell it. It's not going to reach a tipping point for a while, I agree, but this might make it take a step back and it may lose a little credibility and trust.

  7. I'm pretty sure that Alcohol Focus Scotland were complaining anyway; they certainly said they were going to.

    Am I the only one who doesn't care in the slightest what the Portman Group says or does?

  8. "However if this generates some publicity, as well as highlighting how pathetic the Portman Group actually are it may spark an interest in craft beer. And it may make some people aware that there are actually alternatives to the liquid cardboard produced by faceless corporate monstrosities."

    Err - is it just me or is this self serving b*llock?

  9. Unless I'm mistaken, Tokyo* was always meant to be a limited edition. It's now sold out on their website, so they probably have nothing *directly* to lose by doing this. They're milking the last of the publicity from a beer that while good, wasn't as good as the original Tokyo.

    Where I think it was an own goal is in the ill-feeling it's caused among the BrewDog faithful. It was marketing like this that got BrewDog where they are today, but I do think they're sailing very close to the wind as they try to outdo themselves all the time. Their loyal drinkers are starting to get a little fed up from what I've seen, and I've also heard many negative comments from other people over the last few month. I hope BrewDog take this on board slightly and retrain themselves *just enough*. Up until recently when I mentioned the name BrewDog there were always positive reactions, but the last few months this has definitely began changing.

  10. i was going to blog about this but it seems just about everything has been said on here.

    I definitely think this is a step too far, it is my fear that brewdog are becoming more of a brand than a brewery, when i first found out about them i thought hey these beers are great, the branding is fab and its all a bit different, but lately it seems to be one big marketing and publicity stunt, some of which has been great fun but like i just said, i think this is a step too far.

  11. Guys,
    thanks for all the comments and opinions, I value all your feedback and have taken this on board.
    Maybe we did push things a little far here. We walk a fine line pretty much all of the time so it is inevitable that we may sometimes cross it. But my point is that only by pushing things, challenging convention and undermining pointless institutions that craft beer can break through in the UK.
    The Portman Group have great influence. For them to dismiss the minimum price per unit proposals was disgusting. This move would do more to prevent binge drinking then anything they can do yet they dismissed it as it would affect the profits of their funders. This move would also promote craft beer as it would go some way to levelling the playing field pricewise between craft beer and industrial brews.
    They are a thinly veiled cartel who do all they can to protect the interest of the corporate brewers.
    Look at this rubbish from them:

    He contradicts himself badly at the end. This legislation would be precisely to stop alcohol being sold at a loss.
    I would also note that we were the first company to publically back these proposals from The Scottish Government.