More than 75 former employees at the historically obnoxious “craft” beer giant BrewDog have levelled a series of allegations around a “culture of fear” at the company in an open letter, published on the website “Punks With Purpose” yesterday, 9 June. The worker collective said it has been inspired to publish the letter after allegations of sexism and sexual harassment in the craft beer industry surfaced last month in America, via Instagram user @ratmagnet, and in the U.K., by @britishbeergirl.
BrewDog, the brewery and pub chain founded by James Watt and Martin Dickie in 2007 now valued at $2 billion, “was and is built on a cult of personality,” which left former staff to share a “residual feeling of fear,” Punks With Purpose allege. The toxicity of workplace culture was such, the letter states, “that a significant number of people have admitted they have suffered mental illness as a result of working at BrewDog.” In addition to those who have either signed or initialled the open letter, Punks With Purpose claim a further 45 former staff “did not feel safe to include either their names or initials.”
The letter’s co-authors write they have chosen not to “make specific accusations… because quite frankly we cannot risk the wrath of BrewDog’s notoriously trigger-happy legal team,” but did reserve part of the letter to directly address co-founder Watt.
James, this next passage is for you.
It is with you that the responsibility for this rotten culture lies. Your attitude and actions are at the heart of the way BrewDog is perceived, from both inside and out. By valuing growth, speed and action above all else, your company has achieved incredible things, but at the expense of those who delivered your dreams.
In the wake of your success are people left burnt out, afraid and miserable.
The original tweet, posted from the Punks With Purpose yesterday evening has, at the time of writing, been retweeted four and half thousand times; liked by 13,200 users.
Watt himself took to Twitter this morning to defend the company against Punks With Purpose’s allegations, saying that BrewDog’s focus was “not on contradicting or contesting the details of [the] letter, but to listen, learn, and act.” He later said the company was “sorry.”
“We have always tried to do the best by our team,” Watt wrote, adding that there are “thousands of employees with positive stories to tell. But the [Punks With Purpose letter] proves that on many occasions we haven’t got it right.”
Eater contacted BrewDog for further comment on the allegations. The company resent Watt’s open letter.
BrewDog has always subscribed to a “punk” ethos, aiming to harness social media’s ability to disseminate information and court controversy quickly. Marketing stunts — and their subsequent fallouts — have been an integral part of the brand’s growth. In 2019 the company earned credit for brewing a new limited edition beer without leaning into casual sexism, “beer porn,” or the politics of hate (via an infamous, omnishambolic endorsement of former U.S. President Donald Trump). Nor can the world of food and beverage ever forget Watt and Dickie’s theatrical (and, according to yesterday’s open letter, not true) name change, following a dispute with rock ‘n’ roll icon Elvis Presley’s estate over a beer called Elvis Juice.
Punks With Purpose allege that BrewDog has consistently “allowed the ends to justify the means.
“Lies, hypocrisy and deceit can be useful tools…”