What does the journey from hardcore punk to serial entrepreneur look like? According to the story of BrewDog’s James Watt, the journey is one which is fraught with risk and change: the young beer expert continued to graft as the captain of a North Sea fishing boat long before the business found its feet.
Along with co-founder Martin Dickie, James Watt didn’t pay himself for the first five years of BrewDog’s existence – a situation which was made worse by the financial crisis which hit the United Kingdom years previously. Just when it looked like the independent brewery was going bankrupt, James Watt turned to his loyal customer base to raise essential funds: BrewDog’s crowdfunding programme, Equity for Punks, raised millions – proving that eccentric businessmen like Watt could flourish outside of traditional systems.
Founded in Aberdeen in 2007 as an independent brewery, BrewDog has successfully launched several bars across the country in locations ranging from Nottingham and Newcastle to Camden Town and Birmingham. However, the brainchild of Watt and Martin Dickie has set its sights internationally, opening popular bars in Sao Paulo, Florence and Gothenburg.
However, it is what Watt and Dickie have done for the beer community which earns them such respect in the industry: the company open-sourced much of its beer recipes to the public in 2016, making them a form of free beer. Known for their controversial advertising campaigns and zany co-founders, BrewDog won the Tenon Entrepreneur of the Year Award for demonstrating exceptional vision and leadership at the 2008 National Business Awards for Scotland.