A punk, a dwarf and the world’s smallest protest – how Brewdog changed the brewing world
James Watt is a self-proclaimed punk. He doesn’t pull his punches, he tends to go in both – beer – barrels blazing.
In his book “Business for Punks” he describes the launch of his brand “Rewind to 207. Based in a shed on a remote and godforsaken industrial estate in north-east Scotland, Brewdog came howling into the world. Martin Dickie (my best friend) and I set up one tiny brewery with one very big mission: to revolutionize the beer industry in the UK and completely redefine British beer-drinking culture.”
Their purpose was, and still is, to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as they are.
Since that launch, the brand has gone from strength to strength. From two humans and a dog, Brewdog now employs more than 500 people. Its beers are exported to over 50 countries and they now own and operate over 40 Brewdog craft beer bars in some of the coolest cities around the world. For the last four years, it has been the fastest growing food and drink producer in the UK.
It has done it all in its characteristic unconventional and in your face style. “You need to get incumbent companies, competitors, random people and in our case regulatory bodies to completely hate you”
And it was in taking on those aforementioned regulatory bodies that Brewdog truly demonstrated that brands can and do change the world.
The year was 2010 and Brewdog decided they wanted to serve their craft beers in two-third pint measures in their UK bars. They felt this was a better size to showcase some of their stronger and more complex beers. It also fitted with H.M. Government’s desire to avoid irresponsible drinking.
What Brewdog didn’t realise was that they were up against a 300 year old piece of licensing legislation which outlawed the two-thirds measure.
James and his team tried writing to Parliament and lobbying politicians but conventional methods got them nowhere. They decided to adopt a more unconventional and frankly smaller alternative.
They hired a four foot five inch dwarf dressed as a punk and, armed with an array of placards bearing slogans like “Size matters” and “Small for all”, they started a week long protest at Westminster and No. 10 Downing Street. They called it “The World’s Smallest Protest”. A petition and social media campaign were simultaneously launched.
It worked. In 2011 Science minister David Willets confirmed that the coalition government would change the rules and allow the introduction of the new two-thirds of a pint measure sometimes known as a ‘schooner’ measure.
On hearing the news James Watt said: “The craft beer revolution has claimed another scalp in the form of archaic licensing rules. This is nothing short of a landmark victory for BrewDog and an acceptance at government level that we speak for the people and understand the changing landscape of the UK beer market. The two-thirds of a pint measure means British beer drinkers can enjoy bold and creative beers responsibly – we knew that and we made sure the government caught up.”
And finishing off in his characteristically understated way on the Brewdog blog he went on to comment: “If we weren’t so busy brewing, we would probably be able to solve most of the world’s problems.”