Sitting down over a pint of beer, we got a chance to chat all things beer, business, booms and busts with the co-founder of this wildly successful craft beer brand, BrewDog – and what a journey it’s been for them.
Founded in 2006 in a wee-little town of northeast Scotland, Martin Dickie and James Watt – a pair of beer enthusiasts – went on a mission to change the way we think of beer.
Martin, who studied brewing and distilling at university, really wanted to show those around him what beer was capable of, and that you didn’t have to put up with a crap tasting beer just because it was the status quo.
From small beginnings
The pair come from humble origins. In fact, it wasn’t until a lucky break with chain retailer, Tesco, which propelled them to the next level. Tesco was running a beer competition, and the winners were given a chance to sell into their stores – and boy did they destroy, wiping the floor, finishing 1st, 2nd, 3rd and fourth. Prior to this, they were struggling to sell locally, after, they were moving palettes upon palettes a week.
Opening their bar in Aberdeen was also a pivotal moment for the brand, as well as the craft beer movement in general. They were the first to open a craft beer bar in the UK and the feedback was huge.
Now, there are over 10 companies with 2000 breweries in the UK alone, so you could definitely say that they were pioneers in the space. BrewDog has 19 of their own bars across the world and they really want to give a proper experience to their customers through skilled and knowledgable bar staff.
All employees undertake a 2-week training, meaning they know the beer like the back of their hands. This was evident when we ordered our beers at the new Brisbane location. It was hard not to get overwhelmed with the choice on offer, but the staff knew exactly how to guide you into something you not only like but that is unique and interesting all the same.
A journey down under
BrewDog was present in Australia for a long time, since 2008 in fact, but Martin was extremely frustrated and disappointed with the product and its outcome – for beer to taste the best, it needs to be fresh. Transit, logistics and distribution times didn’t help BrewDogs shelf life, so they needed to establish a brewery and base here if they wanted optimal conditions.
Martin also has a personal connection here, as he has always loved Australia, with his brother anchored down in Perth. As a result, he’s been visiting each year. Not to mention Australia’s insatiable thirst for beers, it seemed like the perfect place to set up shop.
As for the Brisbane location, originally they planned on Newcastle, however, the maroon government was eager to get them here, aiding in the form of industry assistance to promote business in the area.
Words of advice
When they started the business, there was a fair bit of pushback.
“Trying to sell 6% IPA in a town in north-east of Scotland whose usuals drank tenants larger or supermarket vodka, it was a tough gig, but we knew our beer was good,” says Martin Dickie.
“If you’ve got a vision, stay true to it, and listen to as few other viewpoints as possible. You gotta know exactly what you want to do and follow that. If we had listened to every expert that gave us advice along the way, well, I don’t think we be here. You need to have an undying belief of what you want to do.’’
It’s always great to sit down with people who’s success comes off the back of something they truly love.
What’s next on the horizon for BrewDog? Well, first it’s ensuring this Australian operation runs smoothly, then the team has set their sights on China and India, two huge growth markets for craft beer.
For more info, visit their website here