BrewDog hits back as pressure mounts on CEO
The chairman of BrewDog has issued a statement in response to the BBC Disclosure documentary, in which CEO James Watt was accused of abusive behaviour by former employees. The programme, called The Truth About BrewDog, aired on January 24 and around 15 ex-BrewDog employees spoke out against Watt.
The documentary follows an open letter that was published in 2021. The letter, signed by former and current employees, highlighted a “toxic” culture at the company.
Allan Leighton, chairman of BrewDog, said the company has overseen an independent review of its culture, following the open letter.
“We have implemented a wide-ranging action plan to address the issues raised,” he said. “To those former crew members for whom BrewDog failed to meet their expectations, we are sorry. To those who felt strongly enough about their experience to participate in the programme, we urge them to get in touch with our HR Team or use our independent ethics hotline so we can listen and act. Their feedback is hugely valuable. Any allegations of impropriety are taken extremely seriously.”
He said Watt has provided “full assurance that the BBC’s claims are not accurate and are based on rumour and misinformation”.
“Where a complaint was raised in the US, these were fully investigated by an external third party and found to be without substance. James has committed to making improvements to his management style and he will continue that development under my mentorship. He has expressed considerable regret if his manner has in any way made crew feel uncomfortable – that is clearly not his intention and goes specifically against the collaborative culture we want to build.”
Meanwhile, the documentary has received some backlash from the trade, with retailer Seven Cellars in Brighton saying: “We won’t ever sell BrewDog products again.” The retailer added that their boycott had started following the initial open letter.
The Queer Brewing Project (TQBP) has also said they will no longer work with BrewDog. In a Twitter post, TQBP said the Beer with Big Ideas box, which was produced under contract by BrewDog in collaboration with Cloudwater, Rock Leopard Brewing Co, Eko Brewery, and Good Karma Beer Co would no longer be available once supplies have diminished.
“We set to one side our discomfort of working with BrewDog with the aim of bringing about meaningful change and to provide queer visibility in beer on a larger scale,” TQBP said on Twitter. “Unfortunately this didn't come to fruition. The decision to wind down this collaboration has been in the pipeline for months, but due to the slow-moving nature of contractual obligations it’s only coming into effect now. In light of the BBC documentary aired last night, we wanted to make clear our position and confirm we will not work with BrewDog again. We stand in firm and sincere solidarity with all those affected.”