Wednesday, 8 December 2010

BrewDog AGM part three

We had not really eaten since breakfast. We shared a platter of cheese and meats in the BrewDog bar at lunch time but as that was between three of us. On this winter day we'd have even started to consider deep fried pizza by the time we got back to Aberdeen after our trip to the brewery. James suggested we visited his restaurant called Musa, only a short walk away. Back to the street next to the hotel we'd just come from.

Musa is in a building that used to be some sort of church or chapel, it's a great use for this sort of building. We have many underused religious buildings in Cumbria that really should be turned into some other form of use. I'm sure however that there are people resisting the change of use, certainly there are several such examples near us where planning permission has been refused and the buildings are becoming increasingly derelict. I have a feeling it is on a point of principle; rather a church fall down than it be used for something that might bring enjoyment. A bit like the pointless resistance of pubs closing - if the congregation isn't attending then why resist?

In this case the inside of the building is nice and friendly. Much of the original feel of the building is maintained, although I suspect the desire to stay is enhanced by the lack of homily and the need to kneel or stand. Best of all 5am Saint, even kegged, beats communion wine any day.

The food is nicely eclectic with a nod to Scottish tradition. Hardcore IPA duck stovies, Stir fried crayfish, chorizo and olives or Chilli poached smoked haddock all appealed to me. Each dish was matched with a beer, normally a BrewDog beer although the wild mushroom risotto with rocket was wisely matched with Orval.

Desert would have gone well with either Paradox or Tokyo*. Blue cheese ice cream, Dark chocolate and chilli pannacotta or christmas pudding tart. There were three of us, it would have been silly not to try all three. Sadly, the earlier business meeting, which we missed, cleaned them out of the obvious desert beers.

I don't think I've ever had as good a selection of beers with such good food except at decent beer dinners. Normally good restaurants have a reasonable selection of wine and the usual omni-present beers. I think that places like this could really work and I would love to see more of them.

Onwards back to the bar. By now it was after 9pm and the bar really was very busy indeed. James ensures me that the majority of the AGM crowd had long since left. Certainly it was a much younger looking crowd compared to the earlier shareholder people. James says the place "rocks" every Friday and Saturday. "If we put in handpulls it would be full of stuffy real ale drinkers" James explains to me. Certainly there were a lot of younger people, mid 20's - mid 30's I'd say. The place buzzed, perhaps in some ways a little too much for my liking, but once I'd got a seat, which didn't take long, I really enjoyed the atmosphere.

James and Martin joined us and we shared bottles of AleSmith Speedway and Lost Abbey Angel's Share. James asked me to choose which I preferred. Comparing an espresso imperial stout with a barrel aged barley wine? When they are both very good examples it is hard to choose.

If I sit at a beer festival and I drink with brewers and all they drink is their own beer I worry. Part of the definition of a craft brewer for me is an inherent desire to brew beers as good as their peers. As good, not better, few good brewers think that their beers can be as good as their role models, very few indeed. But many aspire to do so. Martin, James and Stuart are examples of this. Bringing out beers they wished they had brewed and sharing them with me, enthusing about them and sharing that enthusiasm is proof to me that they are interested in making the very best beer they can.

The bar started to thin out. The licence was only until midnight so the bar manager kicked us all out, James, Martin and all. It was the end of a very enjoyable day getting to know better what I had bought into.

I promised some information, here's some bare facts:
  • Sales doubled in 12 months (£1.7m - £3.4m)
  • Keg in more than 25 outlets using own brand fonts
  • 5.25% ownership of Anchor Brewers and Distillers
  • Anchor to handle US sales and distribution
  • US production by late 2011
  • Expected to open three more bars in 2011
  • Expect to increase turnover in 2011 to £6m
  • Broke into profit in 2010 all of which will be reinvested
There are loads more exciting things going to be happening. New beers, more collaborations, increased on-sales distribution. Expect more BrewDog beers near you soon. Of course, in Cumbria, Hardknott can help if there is a pub you know that you'd like to see some in.

Meanwhile I'm still comfortable with the money I invested in the brewery. If you want to tell me it's not an investment then go ahead, but I still think it is. Call it a craft revolution, artisanal beer or, as a someone suggested to me today, an Indie brewing movement, that's what I've bought into, and my buy-in extends much, much further than BrewDog, but more on that later. Much more later still.


Sid Boggle said...

Nice series David. Did they say how much of their current production is for export?

I'm wondering, if they start to service their biggest market with local production next year, how will they take up spare capacity in their UK brewery(ies).

Sid Boggle said...

Oh yes, and where in the US will they be brewing?

Unknown said...

Sid, the UK brewery at Fraserbourgh is completely at capacity. Their £6m turnover for next year can only be achieved by contract brewing elsewhere. As far as I know this is not as yet happening, but might be soon.

It's not explicit, but I am assuming brewing in the US will be done by Anchor. After all, BrewDog own part of it. I suppose that means I own a really small part of Anchor.

Once they have their new, higher capacity facility, a review of their outsourced brewing will be necessary.

I didn't mention, but construction of the new brewery should start in the middle of next year. I don't know how long it will take.

Cooking Lager said...

Was it grub and booze up free and have you got any dividends from these shares yet and are they worth anything near what they cost?

Unknown said...

Cookie, the weekend cost me quite a lot of money actually, once you take into account fuel, hotels and yes, the fact that I did put some money across the bar.

But that is not the point. An accountant would look at it all and say it was crazy, that is true. My involvement with BrewDog is much more than a figure on my balance sheet and I believe this is also true of most of the other shareholders.

If it was just the money I wouldn't have spent the cash on going to Scotland, but I have always loved Scotland, battered confectionery aside, and I suspect that might be part of the reason I am smitten with these guys. It might be that they are making some impressive waves in the beer world. Challenging perceptions. Yes, they are not the only ones, but it needs to be done.

Furthermore, my investment in beer runs much deeper than my BrewDog shares. Read between the lines.

Cooking Lager said...

It's not good that is it? You get free wine at the M&S AGM, they give you dividends and discount booklets. Handy if the squeeze likes M&S tat. Whilst the shares have been declining for a couple of months they are higher than they were a couple of years ago. Oh and you can publicly trade them.

Alistair Reece said...

"Indie brewing movement"? Now there's term I like!

Sid Boggle said...

Thanks Dave. I'd be surprised if Anchor had the capacity (I think they're approx. 90,000 US BBL), tho' Griffin Group did tell me they think eventually Martin Dickie might be turned loose in the Anchor brewhouse. Can't see the win-win in that, to be honest...

Contract brewing? Maybe they'll be at FX Matt? ;-)

Unknown said...

Cookie, I did get free beer. If I'd have lived in Aberdeen I'd have probably managed to get at least 10 units free gratis, perhaps more. They had free tasters at the bar and free beer during the brewery tour.

I believe there was also some food laid on in the afternoon in Musa, but we missed out on that.

I turned up late and also still had to move the car before I could get properly stuck in, resulting in me having to be more careful than I'd have liked.

However, James made up for it later with other freebies especially for us, but I wouldn't want to give details in case other shareholders were not so lucky.

Al, I like it too, I'm hoping the blogger who mentioned it will be explaining in more detail on his blog sometime soon.

Sid, perhaps Anchor also have some plans to expand and the inward investment from BrewDog has allowed them to do that. I don't know, no real details have been give to me, anything else would be guess work.

Mark Dredge said...

Interesting stuff, Dave! I can't wait to visit the bar. The beer list makes me dribble - it also makes my wallet run and hide when I see a list of 3 Floyds and AleSmith that I want one each of!

Leigh said...

Yeah, interesting posts, Dave. Especially about the Anchor stuff. BD seem to be doing well in the distribution-through-other-brewers business- and why not? It's a sound model to use. I've just finished reading Beer School by the guys at Brooklyn, and they extol it's virtues, too. Keep these posts coming - and that Cheese and Meats board looks excellent. If all AGM's were like this...!