Are BrewDog’s Punks All Grown Up?

Outside of the brewing and beverage industry, BrewDog may not mean a great deal to most people but for those of us close to the sector they are never far away from our line of sight.

James Watt and Martin Dickie are BrewDog (albeit with now a sizeable brewery workforce and more besides) and the Fraserburgh punks launched a new brand identity for BrewDog in August, a process which has been 12 months in the making.

When BrewDog launched back in 2007 their bottle labels were an immediate hit with both the consumer and industry alike: very different to anything else out there at the time, very left-field and very punk.

BrewDog's beer


Above: the original BrewDog bottle labels, in circulation for the last 7 years.

It’s a brand style that they invested in right at the start of their journey, appointing a local agency and establishing a bold identity that carried them from start-up and selling their beers at local markets from the back of a beat up old van to now brewing over 50,000hl of beer each year, over 15,000 ‘Equity for Punks’ shareholders and opening bars across the UK, Europe, Japan and South America.

Love them or hate them, BrewDog are here to stay and their influence on independent UK brewing is one which can’t be denied.

The new process has been one which BrewDog have shared ‘warts and all’ with the public and their shareholders, with postings on social media canvassing opinion and welcoming feedback. They even went to the lengths of showing designs which were submitted by the agency but didn’t make the grade. 

I couldn’t ever imagine James Watt creating pie charts but that’s what he did to show a snapshot of the feedback received, especially as much of it appeared to fall in the “negative” realms.

A snapshot of the feedback received

Personally, I think a brand being this open about such a process is brilliant approach; so many would keep it under wraps until the big “taa-daa” of launch day and even cover over any negative comments that might appear. For brands to succeed in this era they need to be closer to their audiences, demonstrate that “our brand is your brand”, especially with an organisation so visible and with thousands of financial shareholders and stakeholders.

BrewDog labels

Above: the new BrewDog labels for “headliner” beers 5AM Red Ale, Dead Pony Club Pale Ale and the new Brixton Porter.

The BrewDog Blog is always well worth a read and it’s here that James Watt explains further about the process and the reasons for the new identity:

“We wanted to change because we felt the old labels were no longer quite right for us as a brewery. After seven years we felt they had become a bit too young, a bit neon and a bit tacky.”

That’s some statement in itself: “they had become a bit too young”. Well, I suppose even punks have to grow up eventually, I guess it’s just the degrees of gracefully or disgracefully that they want to carry forward.

“Although they stood out, they did not reflect the craft heart and soul of our beer.” continues Watt in the blog posting, “This is also not something we have taken lightly or done quickly. We had 7 agencies from 3 different countries pitch us designs and concepts and we worked with our chosen agency for over 3 months to develop the final packaging and branding.”

The process is one which they seem to still be honing-down as it needs to extend across the Abstrakt range of more “hardcore” beers as well as their bars, with POS, merchandise and sell-sheets no doubt on the list too.

It’s a bold step for any company that has seen a (relatively) meteoric rise to take a broad brush approach and completely re-visit their identity. In BrewDog’s case, the only consistent element from the previous identity carried forward appears to be the dog and shield*. OK, so it’s not completely throwing the baby out with the first runnings (perhaps only funny to brewers, that one…) but it is a departure from an identity which was steadily gaining ground on the big beer brands, even though BrewDog is still unheard of by around 99% of the UK population.

One aspect which we trust won’t be changing are the two faces of BrewDog, Watt and Dickie. They do make very good beers. They are genuinely passionate about what they do. As long as they are at the heart of the brand then launching new labels will always just small beer for BrewDog.


The images used in this blog entry are from the BrewDog website. We hope they don’t mind us using them but shall remove them if they would like us to.

*A good name for a pub?