SCOTLAND’s biggest independent brewer has unveiled plans to open its first craft beer bars overseas to accelerate its ambitious expansion strategy.
James Watt, co-founder of Aberdeenshire-based BrewDog, said yesterday that the success of the group’s ten eponymous UK bars, five of which were opened last year, had convinced the maverick brewer to take the concept abroad.
Watt, whose group has recently moved to a new brewing facility at Ellon,north of Aberdeen, said: “Over 60 per cent of our beer is exported.
“We sell more beer outside the UK than here, we are in 32 foreign markets, so this is a logical step with the bars. The market for the type of beers we sell is more developed abroad.
“It is a milestone for BrewDog. Bars are not as profitable as beer production, but it delivers our niche, artisanal brands.”
BrewDog plans to open a craft beer bar in Stockholm in mid-March, and one in Sao Paulo in May. Sweden and Brazil, along with the United States, are among the biggest markets for its distinctively-named ales, including Punk IPA, Dead Pony Club and 5am Saint.
The move overseas comes as BrewDog revealed unaudited profits jumped to £600,000 in 2012 from £400,000 in 2011, while turnover leapt 86 per cent to £11 million from £5.9m, fuelled partly by the bar openings.
The company has warehouse-style bars in many big British cities including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, London and Birmingham.
Watt said there were plans to open a further ten UK outlets this year, including in Leeds and Liverpool. Watt said BrewDog was also looking for a site in Dundee, and wants to open second venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
He added that the group was also looking at the possibility of exporting products to the South Korean market this year in a bid to replicate the success the business has already had in Japan.
“South Korea is quite similar in demographic to Japan and Japan is a very good market for us,” Watt said.
“I think the disconnect appeals to them.
“We are a niche, handcrafted business whereas most beer markets abroad are dominated by big players selling industrial lagers. We are more on the fringes. We don’t assess how much beer they drink [in a country] before we export there.”
No stranger to controversy, Watt has previously railed publicly against much larger brewing rivals, branding them “monolithic mega corporations peddling sub-standard, insipid liquids”.
He said a few years back that he saw no reason why BrewDog could not eventually be bigger than Tennent’s in Scotland.
Watt said yesterday: “We managed to raise capital when the banks did not want to lend.
“But we look on our 7,000 investors more as 7,000 ambassadors, who are as passionate a community about our beers as we are. Like the whisky companies, we are selling a sort of cachet.”
Watt said BrewDog had no plans to take its foot off the accelerator after a rapid expansion that has seen it named the fastest growing food and drinks company for three consecutive years.
“We are focused on what we are doing next. We want to continue that, we don’t want to consolidate,” Watt added.