BrewDog: Business for pricks

If there was ever two words that eschew the capitalist notions of homogenisation and domination it would be “craft” and “punk”, and yet both have effectively been hijacked of late by a brand which once purported to espouse them.

This week BrewDog threatened legal action to prevent a bar in Leeds from using the term “punk” in its name. The brewer raised an objection to plans by music promoter Tony Green to open a bar called Draft Punk – a play on “Daft Punk” – because they own the “punk” trademark and to operate under it would be an infringement on their rights.

But the whole point of punk is that it can’t be owned, Green said in response, “it’s inherited, it’s British culture”. And there’s many who would agree.

On Saturday an open cease and desist letter from the “global punk community” was leaked expressing concern over said ownership, highlighting that it is not a “punk” characteristic to bully and that any further acts will lead to their punk credentials been revoked.

But this is not the only movement BrewDog has hijacked.

Since the day the craft beer movement took hold in Britain BrewDog have done all they can to make it their own. They have defined it, they have branded it and they very much exert control over it like major brewers once controlled the market as a whole.

As I wrote here, they have an almost Steve Jobsesque approach to monopolising the market, selling their beer in their BrewDog stores and BrewDog bars that offer the full immersive experience thanks to their BrewDog geniuses (who coincidentally often know sod-all about beer).

But the issue we have here isn’t actually about them. The issue at hand is about capitalism, and how we allow this to happen in the first place.

Capitalism rewards businesses who rape and pillage markets and keep the spoils for themselves. Its inherent vice is the unequal sharing of blessings, as Winston Churchill once said, prioritising the interests of the few over the interests of the many.

There may not been anything “craft” or “punk” about it, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter in this day and age. As thousands of brewers across the country try to make a go of it by producing good, local beer and as publicans the length and breadth of the nation try to support them the ultimate winners will be a multinational in Scotland who first set up to combat the dominance of multinationals in the beer market.

Ironic, hey. Or has that also been trademarked?

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9 Responses

  1. Mike Hardy

    Yes, Ironic has been trademarked.

    And it’s not only BrewDog who own a trademark for Punk…
    These guys do –
    and these –
    and the first guys again, under a different Class –
    and them –

    Where are the open letters to them?

    This whole issue is #fakenews.

      1. Mike S

        Firstly, the point is that it isn’t news. It is an outrage relating to a typical legal trademark challenge, which is bread and butter for any business that wants to protect its intellectual property. Honestly, all muck-slinging aside, do go to the Government’s trademark registry and look up “Lone Wolf” and then “Punk”. There is absolutely no ambiguity that the trademarks in question, and in the relevant categories, are owned by Brewdog, and have been for some time.

        Secondly, you ask which part of the events didn’t happen. Well, for starters the supposed application to open a bar called “Draft Punk” as asserted by this article is non-existent. The application was to register the name for a beer, not a bar.

        In addition, the author has the balls to add the following observation:

        “….BrewDog bars that offer the full immersive experience thanks to their BrewDog geniuses (who coincidentally often know sod-all about beer).”

        Which is simply a childish, ad hominem attack on ALL the staff at ALL of Brewdog’s bars. I, for example, have found Brewdog’s barstaff to be very helpful and knowledgable, but I’ve only been to their Edinburgh bar. I couldn’t judge the entire operation based on that, but incidentally, Brewdog does encourage the education of all of its bar staff, and the author could have readily found that information here had he bothered to do any research, rather than wade into a lazy, personal tirade against Brewdog:


  2. Olly Grant

    These days people will use any excuse to bash BrewDog, especially when they don’t know the whole facts. For a start, Tony Green only found out about the trademark when he, himself, tried to trademark the phrase. So complaining about people trademarking ‘punk’, from him, is a little empty. As for BrewDog ‘trying to make the craft beer market their own’ is quite frankly ridiculous, and if nothing else just shows how little the writer knows about the world of craft beer. BrewDog constantly support other craft breweries, recently investing in Wild Beer Co’s crowd funding. They also collaborate with, or have at some point collaborated with the majority of top craft breweries, not to mention hosting Collabfest every year supporting local breweries. They sell these beers and the beers of their ‘competitors’ in their bars and on their website, despite the misleading picture that the writer paints.

    BrewDog are a business, and absolutely should protect their property be that intellectual or physical. Does this make them like money-grabbing Macros? No. If anything, it stops these companies blatantly copying their product with some rip-off ‘Punk Ale’. Half the effort of ‘sticking it to the man’ is making sure that man doesn’t steal your hard-fought success. BrewDog are the first brewery as far as I am aware to release every single one of their recipes to the public and encourage others to do the same. Protecting the brand which they have worked so hard to create is just basic common business sense, just like any other company would do. BrewDog’s trademark of ‘punk’ is only in relation to beer, which is pretty understandable. Any brewery making a beer and naming it Punk would be a pretty obvious rip-off attempt.

    BrewDog have done a hell of a lot for the UK craft beer scene, and still make some fantastic beer. They can also be credited with attracting a massive audience to start their journey into drinking better beer. As is unfortunately the case in Britain, we have a tendency to put those down who become successful, so much so that companies often have to play down financial success in order to keep the public onside (see: cloudwater). It is a shame, for we should be celebrating a company like BrewDog, who started out as two homebrewers and have created a strong brand, whilst at the same time remaining fiercely independent, never watered down quality despite their size, and being pretty damn good employers (living wage, lots of benefits etc). Writers who love to jump on the BrewDog-bashing because they can secure easy shares, maybe need to educate themselves more on the company before they are so quick to judge. Wouldn’t that be nice.

    Olly Grant

  3. “started out as two homebrewers” ? I think you’re doing Mr Dickie down a bit there, he’s a Heriot-Wattt graduate who brewed at Thornbridge before Brewdog. Of course, learning your trade at school, and later, under the tutelage of an established brewing consultant doesn’t sound so punk.

    1. Ted Grinch

      Is that really all you have to say in response to Olly Grant’s comment? To point out that Martin Dickie has an education, and therefore is not a punk?

      Dickie’s education and tutelage does nothing to alter the fact that they started out as home-brewers. This mindset is also insulting to anyone with any level of formal training or education, who must clearly be of some higher echelon that can’t be considered credible to those who, say, teach themselves by watching YouTube videos. Committed education, knowledge and graft are at opposite ends to ‘punk’? Get real.

      That aside, this article is poor, and the writer should be embarrassed. It is very telling when the main thrust of the article is based on lazily researched hearsay that turns out to be untrue.

  4. Alison Mbona

    Really lazy, personal attack, which no one could consider ‘journalism’ in the traditional sense.

    There are plenty of things people might not like about BrewDog – the punk think is a gimmick (effective, but often childish), the fact they don’t brew ‘real ale’ or simply their success, but only the most churlish would deny their success.

    I’ve been to 2-3 of their bars as I like a number of their beers and the staff are extremely knowledgeable and there are always a huge number of guest beers on tap and in bottles.

    Finally, I love the comment: ‘The issue at hand is about capitalism, and how we allow this to happen in the first place. Capitalism rewards businesses who rape and pillage markets and keep the spoils for themselves. Its inherent vice is the unequal sharing of blessings, as Winston Churchill once said, prioritising the interests of the few over the interests of the many.’

    Give me a break! The ‘journalist’ who wrote the article launched this site to campaign against greedy capitalists? When plastered all over the page is ‘sponsored content’ and ads for betting firms. Perhaps he’s courting a major beer firm like AB Inbev for some ad revenue and this piece will help prize some money out of their coffers?

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