Written by John Porter
James Watt and Martin Dickie - Snapshot
James Watt and Martin Dickie are co-founders of BrewDog, which began in 2007 as a brewer, and now also operates an expanding bar chain. Inspired by the US craft beer revolution, Aberdeen-based BrewDog has taken a proudly iconoclastic approach, ruffling a few feathers among industry traditionalists in the process. The BrewDog portfolio currently stands at 10 and counting.
James Watt and Martin Dickie - Career guide
Now in their early 30s, James Watt and Martin Dickie started their craft brewery BrewDog in 2007. As enthusiasts of the US craft beer scene, which has reinvented traditional beer styles such as stout and IPA, they believed the UK market was ready for a similarly innovative approach.
Watt is a law graduate who walked out of his first day in a legal office, while Dickie graduated as a brewer from Heriot Watt University. The name of their first beer, Punk IPA, set out their stall, and more innovative beers have followed, including the 18.2% ABV stout Tokyo.
BrewDog opened its first bar in 2007, in Aberdeen, and now operates 10 outlets, including London sites in Camden and Shoreditch.
James Watt and Martin Dickie: What we think
The idea of ditching the day jobs to start a brewery clearly makes much more business sense when one of the two iconoclasts involved holds a degree in brewing, but when Watt and Dickie brewed their first batch of IPA in Aberdeen in 2007, there was certainly no guarantee that BrewDog would be a success.
However, the combination of Dickie's technical expertise and Watt's marketing flair, along with a mutual conviction that the status quo of beer and brewing needed a shake-up, proved a winner.
Punk IPA went on-shelf in Tesco in 2008, and the expanding beer range also found a home in the growing counter-culture of independent city bars around the UK. High-alcohol brews such as Tokyo, Tactical Nuclear Penguin and the 55% ABV End of History, sold in a bottle inserted into a stuffed animal, sealed BrewDog's reputation among beer enthusiasts.
This is underscored by the fact that the expansion of the brewery into a new site in Fraserburgh in 2012, as well as the rollout of the bar operation, has been partially funded by the Equity for Punks scheme, which gives the brewery's fans an opportunity own a small piece of the business.
Perhaps just as important to a business that prides itself on challenging the establishment is the list of those who cross swords with BrewDog. The business has played cat-and-mouse with drinks industry watchdog The Portman Group over several of its beers, while drinks giant Diageo had to issue an apology after its last minute lobbying persuaded BII Scotland not to name BrewDog its 2012 ‘Bar Operator of the Year'. Excluded from CAMRA beer festivals, Watt said the lobbying group's events "snub creativity, impinge passion, and frown on newcomers".
As BrewDog prepares for international expansion, with the BrewDog Stockholm bar scheduled to open in April 2013, it's hard to deny that the shake-up Watt and Dickie wanted has come about and is on course to continue.