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We believe great beer is all about the people who make it—their stories, attitudes, and the reasons they brew. Few brewers are as charismatic and with stories as compelling as James Watt of BrewDog. In March Tammy had the chance to spend several hours with Watt during a BrewDog event at Max’s in Baltimore. Our first post in this series on BrewDog takes a look at the young Scots behind the innovative brewery’s boundary-pushing beers and why they are working so hard to shake things up.
BrewDog started because James Watt and Martin Dickie were unsatisfied with the “industrially brewed lagers and stuffy ales” available as their only beverage options in the U.K. They decided to start making their own beer. Addressing the crowd at the Max’s event in Baltimore, Watt explained:
We couldn’t get any good beer in Scotland so we started brewing our own. We had the opportunity for Michael Jackson, the beer writer not the pop star, to taste our beer. We’re huge Michael Jackson fans, so it was a huge honor for him to taste our homemade beers. He tasted the beers and put the glass down on the table and said, “Boys, quit your jobs and start making this beer.” So we thought if Michael Jackson is telling us, what the hell, let’s do it. We were about 24 years old at the time. We’d never done a business; we’d never done anything. So we went to the bank and got a bank loan with no business plan. We donned a shirt and a tie—I’m sure that’s what did us. We got some second-hand equipment and we leased some space form the counsel and we started making beer. So we’ve been going for two-and-a-half years now…
But the lads at BrewDog are doing more than filling their own beer void, although Watt admits they selfishly make only beers they want to drink with no concern for market research. But that’s anything but selfish. Watt and Dickie are on a mission to redefine the craft beer genre in the UK (and beyond) by turning more people on to the divine and profound joy of great beer. According to the brewery’s website, “We want to introduce as many people to the amazing world of craft beer as we can, to change people’s perceptions and challenge their understanding of what beer is.”
At the tasting in Baltimore Watt explained, “We want to make other young people as passionate about good beer as we are. So all we want to do is get people to enjoy our beers and know there is an alternative to the mainstream.” Later he went on, “What we wanted to do from the start of the company—it’s what we want to do now. I mean, we don’t care how much beer we sell, how much money we make. We just want to make other people as passionate about good beer as we are. And if we can do that and we can pay our staff, then we’re happy at the end of the day.”
This altruistic sentiment is a common mantra of the craft beer movement, in America and abroad, and the same reason people like us spend so much time and energy preaching the gospel of flavorful, hand-crafted beer (when we should be doing things like sleeping). It’s for you. Most beer enthusiasts derive such pleasure from enjoying and learning about great beer themselves that they are eager to share that passion with others.
Since starting their brewery in Fraserburgh, Scotland, Watt and Dickie now produce 120,000 barrels a year, export to countries all over the world, and are winning awards left and right. Most recently, their Hardcore IPA won a Gold award at the 2010 World Beer Cup.
You can meet James Watt and taste a good chunk of available BrewDog beers at ChurchKey this Wednesday from 6:00 to 9:00pm. For more details, check out this week’s event post or our D.C. Beer Events Calendar.