The fact that I write about BrewDog is both a good and a bad thing I guess. They’re doing a lot worth talking about, a lot of it a bit controversial (but that’s how they got where they are) and it shows just how much they are bringing craft beer into the mainstream. However, there are some that hate the fact that it’s now mainstream, controversy for controversy’s sake can get a bit tiring and, honestly, I’m bored of reading and writing the name BrewDog – and I’m sure many others are.
A couple of months ago, I bought James Watt’s Business for Punks, with the intention of doing a book review. I started reading it, got sick of the quasi-revolutionary language by page four, and put it on a shelf somewhere, all but forgotten.
But in the past few weeks, there have been a number of business ideas from the punks that have made the press (at least in my little beer nerd world) which have made me want to go back to reading it.
First was the ‘open-source revolution’ that was releasing their back catalogue of recipes. There are a couple of issues I have with this.
The idea of releasing the recipes is itself not problematic to me. In fact I admire the decision. It’s a great way to give back to people who have invested (literally – sort of – in many cases) in the company.
However, a recipe book it ain’t. For instance, the timings of the hop additions are very rough, and as page 8 of the document itself says:
Mountains can appear from very small mole hills, so adjust your quantities of raw materials and timings in order to hit the basic specifications of the beer to create the best clone possible.
It’s a huge gesture, and 95% of the info is there, but they’ve stopped short of releasing the exact recipes.
It’s also not ‘crowd-sourcing’. At all. It allows people to replicate. To tweak their own representation. To produce a beer inspired by. But their efforts will have no effect on the product that inspired them. Crowd-sourcing the process of using the collective ideas and efforts of a group to create or improve something. So unless BrewDog will welcome homebrewers who have tweaked the recipes to come in and fiddle with stuff in the brewhouse in Ellon, then this just isn’t crowd sourcing.
It’s not as if this is the press mis-attributing the term to this story – BrewDog had it in their press release! They’ve cleverly shoehorned their story into the news using a buzzword that doesn’t actually apply.
The second thing that got people talking about BrewDog in the last fortnight was the BBC programme Who’s the Boss?
Like The Apprentice, but thankfully only one hour long and with only three insufferable candidates, the programme was based on “collaborative hiring” – where the decision of who to hire is passed to the collective workforce at the company. You know, crowdsourcing.
Three candidates were shortlisted by a recruitment agency, apparently based on who is worst suited to working for BrewDog. James Watt, Captain of BrewDog, relinquished control of the final say before changing the job altogether forcing two of the three candidates to drop out and offering the job to the last man standing, who refused the offer anyway.
Well. That was a bit of a disaster.
— James Watt (@BrewDogJames) March 8, 2016
To give James credit, none of the candidates were suitable for the role. Not because of their lack of experience, but because of the culture of BrewDog. James’ insistence that the successful candidate be doing the job advertised already is one of my pet hates. It shows a shrewd businessman, who essentially outbids a candidate’s current empolyer for their services, but also a lack of the risk-taking inherent in a punk ethos. The risk should be essentially zero if the candidate has transferable skills, the right attitude and good knowledge of the industry.
If James had interviewed himself for his own role and insisted on experience running a multi-million pound drinks producer, he wouldn’t have got the job.
The point of the programme was to let the staff have their say, to see if the culture of the company has trained them to think, as a group, as the leader would, or to see if they would do anything differently as a democratic system. By changing the job role to suit one and forcing the other two candidates to drop out, James snatched that control back.
If he had any faith in his staff, he would have let them get on with it, then fired the chosen candidate a short time later, proper Apprentice style.
And if the staff were any good, they’d have all spoiled their votes by writing “Suits Suck” or something equally anti-corporate on them all and blowing raspberries and flicking Vs at the disappointed rejected candidates. As it was, it was pretty freakin’ tame.
If anything, all this programme did was expose the corporate nature of BrewDog as a business.
They were looking for a bloody area manager for Christ’s sake.
Through all that I’ve written about BrewDog, my criticisms all boil down to this problem. There is nothing Punk about BrewDog. It’s getting silly. There’s flogging a dead horse and then there’s this. It’s like watching a once tremendously cool man grow old and cling to the last scraps of hair on his head, combing them over and preening the thin, whispy quiff as if he still looks like Elvis.
It’s embarassing. Just stop. Admit who and what you are. Please James, it’s time to come out as businessexual. You know, we know you know, and you know we know you know.
You’re not punk, and that’s ok.
(I’ll try and do that book review eventually)