Last week the British Institute of Innkeeping had its award ceremony. BII are an organisation whose mission is to raise standards in licensed retail (the bar trade to you and me across the pond.) The BII’s independent judges awarded BrewDog a prize for Bar Operator of the Year. Only they never got it because a large corporation decided they wanted it instead.
BrewDog is a small independent microbrewery, one that’s made its own waves for taking some chances and introducing some very far-reaching brews. If one were searching for a good example, “The End Of History” ale might be a good place to start. It was sold in bottles made from dead animals supplied by a taxidermist and is claimed to be the strongest beer in the world at 55 percent alcohol by volume, 110 proof. In a dead squirrel. Just for the record – I don’t believe I’m man enough to drink that.
Those are Dead Squirrels....And 110 Proof Beer
BrewDog employees were excited to learn they’d won and showed up at the event to collect the award. Here’s where things got weird. Diageo is a big corporation. Very big. They operate quite a few major bottling labels; among them Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan, Bailey’s, Tanqueray and Red Stripe. They also happen to sponsor the BII and it’s event.
Diageo discovered right before the dinner that a company outside their ownership won the award. Representatives threw a fit. I’d love to know who that guy is. If a grown adult decides it’s okay to throw a child like tantrum at an award ceremony, I’d love to know who that twit is. Even if it’s just to point and laugh. Nameless employee from Diageo then explained they would cease all sponsorship of BII events unless the prize was given to them. Of course you would.
So BrewDog’s employees sat at their table during the banquet in awe as their competitor’s name was read out by the announcer. And representatives from Diageo’s bar actually got up on stage to accept the “award.” Peculiarly, they accepted an award whose plaque clearly read “BREWDOG: BAR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR.”
You might imagine that BrewDog and associates were not pleased. You would be correct. A day or two later an honest and heartfelt response was forthcoming from the events organizer.
We are all ashamed and embarrassed about what happened. The awards have to be an independent process and BrewDog were the clear winner’
‘Diageo (the main sponsor) approached us at the start of the meal and said under no circumstances could the award be given to BrewDog. They said if this happened they would pull their sponsorship from all future BII events and their representatives would not present any of the awards on the evening.’
We were as gobsmacked as you by Diageo’s behaviour. We made the wrong decision under extreme pressure. We should have stuck to our guns and gave the award to BrewDog.
Diageo did not respond to comment or question. They issued a very short statement buried on the news and media portion of their website. It’s short and I’d say it’s barely an apology. They’d like you to refer to this as “a serious misjudgment.” Not even a mention as to returning the stolen award.
The Diageo Product Lines
“There was a serious misjudgement by Diageo staff at the awards dinner on Sunday evening in relation to the Bar Operator of the Year Award, which does not reflect in any way Diageo’s corporate values and behaviour.
We would like to apologise unreservedly to BrewDog and to the British Institute of Innkeeping for this error of judgement and we will be contacting both organisations imminently to express our regret for this unfortunate incident.”
The folks from BrewDog posted a response to the whole kerfuffle on their own blog:
As for Diageo, once you cut through the glam veneer of pseudo corporate responsibility this incident shows them to be a band of dishonest hammerheads and dumb ass corporate freaks. No soul and no morals, with the integrity of a rabid dog and the style of a wart hog.
Perhaps more tellingly it is an unwitting microcosm for just how the beer industry is changing and just how scared and jealous the gimp-like establishment are of the craft beer revolutionaries.
We would advise them to drink some craft beer. To taste the hops and live the dream. It is hard to be a Judas goat when you are drinking a Punk IPA.
Walk tall, kick ass and learn to speak craft beer.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.