The last twelve months have been a rocky road for craft beer punk-cum-goliath BrewDog.
One normally associates craft beer brands as being small, local and bespoke. BrewDog which was founded in 2007, has been an extraordinary marketing success with revenue exceeding £237m in 2020, 4 breweries (UK, US, Germany & Australia) and over 2000 staff.
These are not the sort of metrics one associates with a craft beer business.
Late in 2019 BrewDog was even planning an IPO.
However, like many brewers, 2020 changed everything and BrewDog saw its bar sales plummet due to Covid-related shutdowns.
Although 2020 revenue was up on 2019 thanks to a pivot to retail, e-commerce in particular, where it shipped over 750,000 orders, and a new brewery in Brisbane.
In 2021 as many are seeing upswings, challenges have come from two unexpected quarters. Firstly there are claims by some ex-employees that BrewDog’s work environment was ’toxic’. Secondly, some independent investors, dubbed equity punks, who have stumped up over £80m to date, allege that larger PE shareholders are getting better financial terms. These ‘indie-punks’ exceed 180,000; their head banging skills will be of greater concern to the founders, I imagine.
If this wasn’t bad enough, a news report in the Times suggested that one of BrewDog’s founders has been renting property to the company for substantial gain.
Where BrewDog heads next to satisfy its investors growth mantra isn’t obvious, at least from the filings I’ve seen.
At a time when global travel is heavily restricted, some may feel BrewDog’s geographic reach is more of a liability than an asset. Whilst there are clearly some new products in the pipeline – the founders often share new designs on Twitter – the keys to growth are new users and building frequency. The company spends little on traditional media relying instead on the cult status of its owners.
Jello Biafra once said, “Punk rock will never die, until something more dangerous replaces it.”