Brewdog: Exporting by ear

Dubbed Scotland’s craft beer bad boys, James Watt and Martin Dickie, founders of Brewdog, are about to tap into one of the world’s trickiest markets: Brazil.

This week, Brewdog, Scotland’s largest independently-owned brewery, will open its latest exclusively owned bar in São Paulo, its second outside of the UK (the first was opened in Stockholm last year) and 14th overall.The craft beer brewers, who first began brewing in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire in 2007, have seen remarkable international growth in recent years, and show no signs of slowing down.

Aside from Brazil, this year Brewdog will also open its own establishments Tokyo, Rome, Florence and Berlin, while Brussels, Paris, Barcelona and a number of US states are all on their to-do list.

Not bad for a firm that already exports its hoppy product throughout most of Western Europe, North America, and Taiwan and Singapore in the Far East.

Their approach to international expansion, however, is rather unorthodox.

In an interview with the Scotsman, Watt and Dickie revealed that the secret to their success is a lack in formal training. Watt said: “We just make it up as we go along. We didn’t know how stuff was supposed to be done so we just went ahead and did what we thought.”

Their relaxed approach to expanding globally is also typified on the company website:

“Do you want to see us set sail for your neck of the woods? If you reckon your city needs a BrewDog bar, let us know in the comments and our resident Mr World, Neil Taylor, will be on the next flight out! Or near enough.”

It’s an export strategy that appears to rely namely on instinct and passion, which suitably fits in line with the company’s ethos on financing. Aside from profit, all other funding has come exclusively through crowdsourcing exercises aimed at customers and fans.

The lesson for other UK exporters is this: It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the procurement details. As long as you are passionate about your product, have a customer base and are willing to take the risk by doing something a little different, you too will be able to raise a glass to your international success.