BrewDog beer stunts: 8 creative and controversial cans and bottles
There’s no problem that Scottish brewery brand BrewDog won’t try to solve with the launch of a bespoke beer – an approach that has become a cornerstone of its marketing strategy. Following the launch (and criticism) of ‘United For Ukraine,’ The Drum rounds up eight of its most memorable stunts over the last decade.
The ‘United For Ukraine’ beer from BrewDog has caused a stir / Brewdog
BrewDog has never been shy about inserting itself into topical conversations throughout the years. This approach has kept it front of mind, but has also landed it in hot water more than a few times. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? This approach has become a point of parody in marketing circles too.
Last week, it launched a beer to show solidarity and support for the people of Ukraine. All of the proceeds from beer sales will be donated to various charities, but some people suspected it was just another stunt.
You can make up your own mind. Here’s the last decade of bespoke beers.
Never Mind the Anabolics (2012)
The Olympics came to London in 2012, and BrewDog had to secure a share of voice with some guerilla activity. In a steroid-infused stunt, it launched an eight-ingredient IPA aiming to ‘unmask the corporate beast’ of the Summer Olympics in London and take a pop at cheating athletes.
Taking a heavy dose of inspiration from classic punk album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, the beer was brewed with ‘copious amounts of performance-enhancing natural ingredients.’
“Never Mind the Anabolics is a beer that peels the thick mask of saccharine marketing shtick from what should be the greatest event London has ever seen,” said James Watt in a BrewDog blog post at the time.
“We aren’t the only people that see the funny side of the games’ relentless marketing – now those people have a beer to represent them.”
Hello My Name is Vladimir (2014)
Proclaimed to be the ‘world’s first protest beer,’ the IPA was launched to voice support for the LGBTQ+ community in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. The campaign was created by Manifest London, with copy reading: “I am 100% hetero and will pass laws to prove it” and also warning the beer “may contain traces of sarcasm and protest.”
Since 2013, under Russian federal law the dissemination of what it calls ‘gay propaganda’ is illegal, and BrewDog’s stance on the issue was met with largely supportive feedback. The brand has gone from making Putin-themed beers one decade ago to protesting his illegal wars today.
End of History (2016)
In 2016, legislation that previously made it illegal for breweries in Ohio to brew beer over 12% ABV was lifted, much to the delight of the brewers. To celebrate the move, BrewDog introduced a 55% ABV beer, made with nettles and juniper, into the American market, after doing so in the UK back in 2010.
Flipping the middle finger to the ‘neo-prohibitionists,’ limited-edition bottles packaged inside a taxidermy squirrel were constructed for PR purposes. The ‘roadkill beer’ didn’t sit well with animal rights activists, and some social media users also came to the conclusion it was a little weird.
Pink IPA (2018)
A few years ago, the Ellon-based brand launched its pink ‘beer for girls’ to raise awareness about gender pay inequality and sexist advertising – and the reception was not positive.
Although noting that they were trying to be sarcastic, BrewDog’s stunt was heavily criticized online and in the media for coming across as patronizing. “If you have to explain the joke, it’s not a good joke” was the mentality on social media.
Golden Can (2021)
Christmas came early for BrewDog fans toward the end of 2021 when the brand announced it would be hiding 10 ‘solid gold’ cans in boxes of Punk IPA.
Unfortunately for the winners, the Willy Wonka-style marketing push wasn’t all it appeared to be. After an extensive investigation, the ASA ruled that the bottles were plated in 24-carat gold – not solid as promised.
The headlines ensued for weeks after, with many people online outraged at the marketing mistruths.
ALDI PA (2020)
Bearing a striking resemblance to the punk brewer’s aesthetics, Aldi’s ‘Anti Establishment IPA’ hit shelves and caused a bit of a stir on social media.
In retaliation, BrewDog released a new beer named ‘Yaldi,’ which was wrapped in unmistakable Aldi-style branding. After the supermarket pointed out that ‘ALD IPA’ would have been a better name, the two parties formed an unlikely alliance.
Social media users were mostly in favor of Aldi’s ‘Anti Establishment’ Punk IPA rip-off, and noted that it had almost the same rating on Untappd – an app that allows users to share their favorite beers.
Sad AF (2022)
Earlier this year, the ‘punks with a purpose’ released a one-off brew in a bid to join the important conversation around mental health.
The Sad AF campaign, fronted by Rizzle Kicks’s Jordan Stephens, was released at a time when BrewDog was being held accountable for its alleged toxic work environment and was subject to a BBC documentary. Reception to the marketing push wasn’t positive at all, and some found the timing to be slightly suspicious.
United For Ukraine (2022)
More recently, in a post to social networking site LinkedIn last week, chief executive officer and co-founder James Watt stated that, as a business, BrewDog stands with the people of Ukraine and has launched a new beer aptly named ‘United For Ukraine.’
All proceeds will be donated to the Disaster Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Crisis Appeal. In his words, it’s a “small gesture of solidarity,” but critics of the brand have aired grievances with Watt in the comment section. Others questioned the tone of the launch.
Has the bespoke beer launch finally gone flat for BrewDog?