This summer’s drink is definitely craft beer. The rise of small-time brewers making punchy beers with cool packaging has hit an all time high. Asda’s shelves are bursting with over 50 different varieties from hoppy IPAs to thick and creamy porters and refreshing ales, including Brewdog.
Brewdog have gone from home brewing and selling bottles out of a van to being the fastest growing food and drinks company in the UK – we caught up with founders Martin Dickie and James Watt to hear how they went from deep-sea fisherman to MBE honoured entrepreneurs.
This is the Brewdog beer journey…
In the beginning...
It all started because the guys were bored of ‘industrially brewed lagers and boring ales’, says James, which was the majority of what was on offer in the UK ten years ago. They decided that the best way to get what they wanted to was brew their own ‘kick ass beers’. And so, a decade ago in 2007 BrewDog was born.
At the time James and Martin were only 24. James was a deep-sea fisherman and Martin had studied Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. They started dabbling in home brewing, experimenting to make the kinds of beers that matched their tastes.
In their first year they were producing beers on a small scale, filling bottles by hand in a garage and selling at local markets out of their ‘beat-up old van.’ The two guys and their dog (hence Brewdog) saw their sales leap in a year by 400%.
How they make the famous Brewdog beers
The process of making the beers remains a traditional process, and the guys aren’t precious about protecting their recipe secrets. ‘We want to spread the gospel of great beer through getting as many people brewing as possible,’ says James. They released their DIYDog home brewing bible which contains all the recipes for their beers scaled back to homebrew propotions.
So to all you budding brewers out there, this is how you can make a Brewdog at home. First stop is mashing, ‘here is where we mix malted barley with hot water (called liquor if you're a brewer).’ This is the stage that dictates the strength and the colour of the beer.
Next is the lautering process which involves a giant colander with a slotted false floor that supports the barley husks and allows the sweet liquid known as wort, ‘add that to your brewing lingo’ says James, to separate from the barley.
Then it boils for 90 minutes, ‘our rule is to add as many hops to the wort as possible.’
‘Hops add bitterness, flavour and aroma. Depending on when you add them impacts the beer in different ways; add at the beginning and you create a bitterness, add at the end and you get more flavour and aroma.’
Then you add the ‘magic ingredient’, yeast. Yeast turns the sugars from the malt into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process of fermentation takes about four weeks, ‘but once complete you’ll have created a kick-ass, flavoursome beer.’
They're now pretty big time
And they’ve created many a flavoursome beer, with a range of over 300 beers, 10 of which are sold in Asda.
They still experiment with new beers on a small scale. ‘We’re always working to innovate and try new things…our teams work tirelessly to come up with awesome, exciting new styles and twists on the classics.’
And when they refer to their teams, they mean the 540 employees that they now have in the company. The fastest growing food and drinks company in the UK is now worth an ‘insane’ £1bn with ‘an army of 55,000 Equity Punk shareholders.
So next time you’re in Asda, pick up a bottle or can of BrewDog and raise a glass (or a paw) to Martin and James for leading the craft beer revolution and bringing us all this fantastic product. Cheers.