Beery Mindfulness

I share the same story with BrewDog co-founder James Watt about drinking Sierra Nevada “West Coast” IPA and realising there was more to beer than bland big brands (*). Except for me it was 2005/6 in the US before it was imported to Europe / UK. In fact in those (eventually) 3/4 years in the US I was knocked-out by how many independent US brewers there were beyond the Budweisers and Millers of this world.

So when I came back to the UK (2009/10) via Norway (2008/9) the craft beer “revolution” had started whilst I was away. It was the guys in Norway that made me aware of BrewDog and “Equity for Punks”. I’d skipped the original 2007 Punk IPA and went straight to Tokyo and their Dark Horizon collaboration with Norwegian brewer Nøgne Ø (**).

[Declaration of interest. I am a BrewDog “Equity Punk” since EFP2 and 3.]

Anyway, relevant to the Psybertron agenda is this interview of “Captain” James Watt by a sympathetic Steven Bartlett (of Huel and Dragon’s Den fame). It’s a long interview that stands by itself but in the last 2 or 3 years it’s been a rocky ride for BrewDog as the growth from zero to £2bn in 15 years – and the transition from 2 men and a dog to 3000+ people international company – has exposed the limitations of the individual James’ determined single-minded passion in terms of management style and consequent culture. Like all such mega-entrepreneurs, the “Ellon Musk” can be a bit weird, intimidating and socially inept when it comes to people management. There will be tears, and there have been. BBC Scotland has documented these in a mostly factual way, but without any evident sympathy for the wider reality. For me rather than legal proceedings, this latest interview stands as the response to those documentaries.

(Like all mythology, not everything is literally true, that’s the point.)

Given all the recent McGilchrist left-right-brain & sacred-naturalism topics here, what is fascinating in the interview are two points. One, the recent admission of potential “autism” and therapeutic investigation thereof as part of problem and solution, telling in combination with James’ emphasis on “objective” targets and on the “scientific” advice they were getting on their green ambitions. And two, the use of “mindful” breathing therapy as part of dealing with the immediate stressful engagement with the physical world.

The evolution of an organisation is natural. The sooner more organisations and institutions – like BBC journalism – value the spiritual, sacred, right-brained elements of nature beyond an autistic fixation with the objectively rational the better for all of us?


(*) There were always “real ales” and Belgian beers, but these stuck to very “traditional” standards. Declaration – I’m a CAMRA member too 🙂

(**) Nøgne Ø (like Haand another small Norwegian brewer) is a microcosm of the industry and why BrewDog remain different. Nøgne Ø Still operate from their own relatively small brewery with their own branded products, but sold out as businesses – owned by Hansa in Norway, in turned owned by the Royal Unibrew drinks conglomerate in Denmark.

2 thoughts on “Beery Mindfulness”

  1. I’ll take some credit for this Brewdog thing. You pointed out their inspiration was the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, which I personally began supplying with a steady revenue stream beginning in the late 80’s when I moved to Berkeley. Their Pale Ale was in turn inspired, I believe, by the Anchor Brewing Co, whose steam beer, porter, and IPA had already changed our world. I’m sure sacred naturalism fits into that story somehow….

  2. Ha. Yes, it was apparent there was a great history of independent brewing in the US, but neither the beer nor the facts seemed to have crossed the Atlantic through the big-boys’ marketing, until Sierra Nevada.

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