BWU reaction to the BBC Brewdog documentary

The documentary entitled ‘The Truth about BrewDog’, which aired on BBC Scotland on Monday 24th January, paints a picture of a company with two faces. This follows a score of articles about sexual harassment, legal threats against the BBC and CEO James Watt’s threats to staff who have come forward.

On the surface, Brewdog appears to be a maverick sticking two fingers up at corporate beer. From it’s marketing campaign that poked fun at major players in the beer world such as Heineken to a publicity stunt where they dropped taxidermy ‘fat cats’ on the city, Brewdog’s outward image is decidedly punk. However, allegations made during the documentary reveal a different side to the beer giant.

Brewdog’s cofounder James Watts has outwardly condemned competitors who have struck business deals with large corporations, including Beavertown when they sold part of the company to Heineken. However, the documentary claims that this is all lip service, and that he personally bought £500,000 worth of shares in the company.

The disparity between Brewdog’s anti corporate image and the alleged interests of the CEO, may seem shocking, until you actually consider Brewdog’s size and rapid expansion over recent years. One interviewee in the documentary claimed that Brewdog could feasibly be worth anywhere between £1 billion and £2 billion. That is enormous! Can any company that size genuinely claim to be anti-corporate?

The most concerning allegations were those of a toxic workplace in which bullying and sexual harassment are the norm. Unfortunately, these issues are not unique to Brewdog. The craft beer industry presents itself as a fun, forward thinking place to work, however, issues of bullying and harassment are systemic in the industry.

In our own experience working in breweries we know workers are routinely forced to work in unsafe conditions, face intimidation and threats from management for speaking out. They often work long, unsociable hours on low pay, experience poor mental health as a result and the needs of those on the floor are always secondary to management’s desires for profit.

The industry needs a shake up! Breweries and bars need to commit to a workplace free from toxicity, but more than that workers need to unionise. The fat cats at the top will never voluntarily make things better from those who brew the beer and pour the pints. On our own, changing the working conditions in craft beer may seem impossible, but through collective action we can do it.

If you are working somewhere with a toxic workplace culture, bullying or sexual harassment, you can contct the union at breweryworkers [at] iww [dot] org [dot] uk or @breweryunion on Twitter.

We have published some information on sexual harassment in the workplace here.

UK audiences can watch the documentary here

It is also available on Vimeo for international audiences