It’s only been a few months at this point since the last major PR disaster related to U.K. brewery BrewDog—which, by the timeline particular to this company, means they were about due for another one. And lo and behold, it has arrived right on schedule, in the form of an open letter from close to 100 former employees, alleging abuse, neglect and a toxic and “damaging” workplace. It’s a damning account from dozens of former workers who were willing to go on the record and attach their names to the letter, plus dozens more who felt uncomfortable about potential reprisals from the brewery, even considering they were no longer employed there.
The full letter, which can be read in full more easily by clicking here, describes BrewDog as a “cult of personality” revolving around founders James Watt and Martin Dickie—particularly Watt, who tends to function as the public face of the company and has often attracted the ire of beer fans for his responses to accusations of wrongdoing by BrewDog. In the letter, employees complain of a “culture of fear” that suffused the company, making employees unwilling to speak up about poor treatment or fight for their rights, out of belief that it would only result in them being punished by an HR system put in place to safeguard the company rather than the employees. Three words from the letter sum up the general vibe: “lies, hypocrisy and deceit.” What really makes it stand out, though, is the sheer volume of former employees who attached their names to these sentiments—perhaps the most widespread condemnation of a brewery by former employees to date since the current wave of backlash began against sexism and racism in craft beer.
As the story erupted and then spread like wildfire on Twitter, Watt made the following statement, saying that the open letter was “upsetting,” and stating that BrewDog’s “focus is not on contradicting or contesting the details of that letter, but to listen, learn and act.” He promised that “we aren’t going to make excuses.”
... and then the company drafted its OWN open letter this morning, in order to literally contradict, contest and make excuses. Naturally, the letter leaked online immediately. The below letter, forwarded to BrewDog employees, asks them to attach their name by a time deadline to an open letter defending the company from these accusations. The letter goes on to say the following: “We simply can’t allow a social media post to go by without putting our own perspective forward. A group of unhappy ex-employees cannot dictate to the world what it is like to work at BrewDog in 2021.”
Bit of a change in tone from “our focus is to listen, learn and act,” right?
This is all par for the course when it comes to BrewDog, a company that simply acts as a lightning rod for these kinds of discussions and hurt feelings. It’s unclear if a day will ever come when the company is able to shed its reputation for leaving a bad taste in the mouth of its own employees, but it seems unlikely that it would ever happen when the constant response is for the people on top to avoid taking personal responsibility when these things happen.