Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Meet Richard Mclelland From Scotland's BrewDog Brewery

Roland and Russell have let me know that they are currently working with BrewDog and Meantime (another UK brewery they represent in Ontario) to bring them to the GTA for a one night event, slated for something in early spring. "We're looking at doing something similar to the Danish beer dinner we put together in April, and right now we're looking into locations and possible dates," stated Vlado Pavicic.

Pavicic also let me know that the Punk IPA should be in LCBO stores anytime now, retailing at $2.60 a bottle, so keep an eye out for it.


This young Scottish brewery has been getting a lot of press since they opened back in 2007. Some of it good, some of it bad. Some of it their own doing, some of it not. Through it all James Watt and Martin Dickie have continued to plough away, getting their products into the hands of beer drinkers all over the world, and their Punk IPA was chosen by the LCBO to be included in this years winter seasonal program.

In Ontario, BrewDog are represented by the Roland and Russell Import Agency who kindly provided me with some samples last year, which included the IPA and their amazing Paradox. The boys at BrewDog have been in the news again, this time for introducing their newest beer: Tactical Nuclear Penguin, currently billed as the strongest beer (32% abv) in the world. Watt, who has been extremely busy with this launch, and on his way to the US, put me in touch with BrewDog's rock and roll Sales and Marketing Manager Richard Mclelland, to answer some questions I had for them about what having the IPA available for sale in Ontario means to them, the future goals that BrewDog has for Canada, and their thoughts on coming here for a function in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Richard Mclelland.

How long has BrewDog been around?
Two years. Just young pups really, but very boisterous,

How many beers are currently in your portfolio?
Too many. We will be consolidating the range in 2010 back to about 6 core brews and we will also bring focus to the format that we sell these beers in. For example Trashy Blonde and 5am Saint will be core to our cask proposal while 77 Lager will no longer feature as a cask option but will rather be pushed as the Craft Keg option from our range. Moreover we have an initiative to introduce Punk IPA as a 2/3rd pint serve when it becomes legal. This will be the standardised serve for this product. We want the beer to be served and enjoyed at its best.

Your marketing techniques are impressive. How do you come up with
some of them?

The beauty of working with BrewDog is that the creative process is more like being in a band than a boardroom. There are no brainstorming sessions or breakout rooms. Everyone we employ - from packers through brewers to our logistical experts are all amazingly creative and imaginative people and the process is an ongoing collective lead by James and Martin. They kind of lay down the gauntlet of what they expect and that the rules are there are no rules. That type of freedom allows us to go beyond the usual confines of the traditional marketing strategy. We brew the beer we want to make and we tell the stories that we would want to hear and people seem to enjoy and relate to both.

How excited were you to hear that the LCBO (one of the world's largest purchasers of alcohol) agreed to bring in the Punk IPA for its current seasonal release?
This is another great milestone in the company's history and we are delighted to do business with the LCBO. It is always our aspiration to do business with the biggest and the best and this keeps us at the top of our games because organisations like this have very exacting standards.

Roland and Russell have a great reputation here in Ontario. How has working with them been for BrewDog?
We only ever do business with people that we respect and that we genuinely enjoy having a beer with - oh and people that can take us where we want to go. We share a vision and a methodology so we are glad to be on board.

Do you have any plans to enter other Canadian provinces like Quebec or British Columbia?
We want to take our beer to every corner of the globe and beyond. We genuinely believe that the enjoyment of great Craft Beer and being involved in the movement can make the world a better place. I never meet anyone in our business who seems like an asshole. There is something about the process of brewing, of being that close to the alchemy of life that humbles you and makes you appreciate the simple aspects of just getting on with things. Most of the world's problems are created by us (humans) and if we spent more time creating beautiful works of art, amazing music and great beer and less time creating issues that don't need to exist then we would all be in a better state.

Toronto has some terrific beer bars that have held a number of events with other high profile breweries. Have you looked into doing something like this in Ontario?
This is in the plan and we can't wait. This is always when we are happiest - sharing our beer with people from different countries. We love to travel and spread the word and get feedback direct from beer lovers.

You've been getting a lot of press in the UK lately. Some good, some bad. How have you handled all the extra attention?
We just get on with making the best beer we can. We are pretty thick skinned and 100% assured of what we are trying to achieve. We don't let the compliments go to our head and we don't let the negative and ill informed feedback distract us from the ultimate goal. If you are given attention then you have to use it wisely and we have been fortunate enough to turn that attention into a global platform to introduce our beer and philosophy to a wider audience.

What's up with the Portman Group? Why the hate on for BrewDog?
If they want to stay in a job they have to find someone to target and unfortunately/ fortunately we create headlines that they can react to. The real shame is that they never seem to think through their actions or consider the consequences of wasting time and money on Artisan producers such as ourselves. This is a classic example of the School Bully finally getting their comeuppance when they pick on the wrong kid - the one that is smarter, stronger and willing to stand its ground. They have clearly bitten off more than they can chew with BrewDog. This is all notwithstanding the fact that they are funded by the big conglomerates that we are stealing market share from at an ever increasing rate.

Tactical Nuclear Penguin! 32%abv. World's Strongest beer. Any chance of some bottles making an appearance here?
We try to get some of all our specialist launches to every country. I am sure this will make an appearance at our first tasting event at one of your fine Craft Beer bars.

What's next for BrewDog? How close are you to raising the $2.3 million for Equity for Punks campaign?
Next year is all about consolidating our position to secure manageable growth in our existing market places. We will continue to innovate both in our brewing and our marketing and one way or another we will have our Green Brewery up and running within the next couple of years. This will increase capacity 10 fold and allow us to really start playing in the Canadian market place. The share options have been going well and they continue to sell with a real rush being experienced in the run up to Christmas - the gang just keeps getting bigger.

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