BrewDog founders share their story of success

Founders of global brewing phenomenon BrewDog have spoken exclusively about the challenges they faced to achieve success in a new documentary which airs on BBC ALBA tonight, Wednesday, March 18.

By Morag Kuc
Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th March 2020, 11:48 am
James Watt and Martin Dickie built the business from an industrial unit in Fraserburgh
James Watt and Martin Dickie built the business from an industrial unit in Fraserburgh

James Watt and Martin Dickie, from Aberdeenshire, reveal how they built the business from an industrial unit in Fraserburgh with second hand equipment and an ambition to turn the beer scene on its head.

Their beer wasn’t received well at first and they both moved back in with their parents because they couldn’t pay themselves a salary. Despite working over 20 hours a day and continued rejections they persisted.

James said: “We were doing something that was expensive, niche, artisanal and full of flavour. Because people have always been sleepwalking like zombies in this industrial beer malaise for so long, no one wanted to buy our beer.

“People spat it back in the bottle, asked why it’s so bitter and why it doesn’t taste like beer. We had a year of stinging rejection and doors slammed in our face. It was intense and tough.”

The business was at risk of going under until they won a national supermarket competition which led to their beer being carried in 400 stores, selling 2,000 cases a week, which gave them room to develop.

In 2018, James and Martin sold a 22 per cent share of BrewDog to a private equity company and earned £50 million each.

James said: “We teetered on the edge of bankruptcy constantly for years but the passion and belief for what we do has definitely helped. We just weren’t going to give up. We were going to do what it takes.”

BrewDog now employs nearly 2,000 people globally, has 100 bars across the world including Germany, Spain, America, Japan and Paris and breweries in the US, Berlin and Australia.

The BrewDog Story (Na Grùdairean) airs on Wednesday, March 18 on BBC ALBA from 9pm to 10pm and will be repeated on Monday, March 23 at 10.30pm to 11.30pm. It will also be available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days.