BrewDog’s praise for ‘passionate believers’

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

On track: James Brown and the Duckpin bowling attraction at BrewDog Waterloo
On track: James Brown and the Duckpin bowling attraction at BrewDog Waterloo

Related tags Craft beer Brewdog Publican awards Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators Property

BrewDog Bars CEO James Brown has heaped praise on fellow Publican Awards finalists for having the bravery to open new sites while the industry was exiting Covid-restricted times.

The Scottish brewer and bar operator won the Best New Site​ award for its monster bar at Waterloo station and the Best Pub Brand/Concept​ category ahead of a host of amazing operators within the on-trade.

On the subject of Best New Site, Brown said: “Every one of the finalists in the category opened great new sites. The reason we were all nominated was the fact we made bold decisions to open new locations during Covid. Everyone had to be bold and believe in hospitality.

“Probably what contributed to what we were doing was that we were really passionate believers that everyone was going to come back to hospitality and back to the pub – but we had to give them enough of a reason or excuse to come down and have fun. That’s why we built Waterloo.”

The central London location is open from 7am until midnight and has plenty going at all times of the day.

Brown added: “We were probably a little bit nervous when we we’re building and designing it because those were tough times for the industry. That probably made us over-index the effort and energy. We tried to make sure we did everything we could because we’ve got a capacity of 1,700 people at any one time and we need that many people to know we exist, where we are and that we’re open.”

He added the busiest period at the site, which houses a Podcast studio, ice cream van, cocktail speakeasy and even a slide, are Thursdays from 4pm to 9pm.

Intense trading

“It’s pretty insane,” Brown revealed. “It’s certainly performing better than we had hoped. It’s still busy on Fridays of course, but Thursdays are the most intense trading period. You’ve not only got people travelling but we’ve also got after-work parties and other events happening such as people meeting up with friends.”

Winning the Best Pub Brand/Concept award was equally humbling for Brown, who said: “I admire everybody we were up against so I want to make sure we respect anyone running pubs to a high level because that’s a hard thing to do.

“I suppose what we probably focus on more than any of our competitors is we focus on the liquid and we obviously control what we make and what we sell – whether it be the soft drinks we sell, the spirits we make ourselves and the main event – which is beer – where we get to really have fun and be creative.”

BrewDog sees its customers as people who want to be challenged, excited and intrigued with new flavours, products and styles.

An example of the fun it has, Brown explained Peter Crouch (former footballer and now TV/podcast host) is a big lager and stout fan so he wanted to create a blend of them and did pour one into the other – however, BrewDog said ‘we’ll make it for you’ and now ‘Laout’ is available on draught.

The brewer has the ability to experiment that perhaps other pub brands can’t because they either don’t have the facilities or infrastructure to do so.

“We have the ability to make large volumes of beer and smaller brew kits plus we have brew kits run by fantastic local brewers and sites across the country so we can have fun, engage with staff, customers and our shareholders to do interesting things,” Brown said.

Special feel

The on-site brewery at the Waterloo site is a 10-hectolitre kit and produces about 30 to 40 kegs a week. The beer mainly stays and is served at Waterloo and would only be sent out if the company was working with a charity or its other bars required a couple of kegs.

Brown talked about the fact its many beers are not usually available for too long: “People get excited by things that are scarce and the fact that we wouldn’t make that anywhere else and haven’t made it much again since.

“People like to be part of something that makes them feel special such as when you make one-off batches that will never be made again or are made again but they won’t be the same because they’re made by an individual in a small-batch brewery.”

As for the future, BrewDog is likely to be concentrating on international expansion in the coming year. Brown said: “We’ve got a lot happening this year. We’re likely to open our first site in Bangkok, Thailand, this year. We’re just about to announce a flagship airport location as well.

“We’ve just opened our fifth location in India and we’ve got a deal in place with a local franchise partner to open up to 100 [sites] over the next period of time so we’re quite excited about that market and how we’re perceived there.

“We’re opening our first site in Hong Kong that will be a second site with a JV partner in China this year. We’ve also got more sites opening in Australia this year. This year is probably going to be a busier international year for us than in the UK.”

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