Early in April 2016 I had the great experience of travelling up to Aberdeen and attending the BrewDog Punk AGM 2016, along with 6,000 other happy Equity for Punk shareholders at the UK’s largest Annual General Meeting.
This post describes a bit about the overall experience. Plus there are some tips for other shareholders who are thinking of going in future. Hint: I highly, highly recommend going out of your way to attend! #brewdog #punkagm2016
So who are BrewDog?
First of all for those of you who have never heard of BrewDog, here’s some quick facts:
- Established in 2007, it’s the #1 craft brewery in the UK ‘selling awesome tasting beer’ and leading a ‘craft beer revolution’. I’d certainly agree with both statements; they do make very excellent beer and is the main reason why they’re doing so well in such a short space of time. Their flagship beer, Punk IPA, is great quality, really tasty and by far their best seller, making up 55% of all BrewDog sales.
- They broke the world record for online equity crowd funding. The company has undergone a massive transformation, which is all down to how easily it has been for shareholders to invest in the company – all online. There are now 40,000 shareholders, all enjoying discounts on BrewDog beers, both through buying online or via 31 BrewDog bars in the UK and 45 globally. 16 new bars were opened in 2015 alone, including London, Barcelona, Hong Kong and Rome. Equity for Punks 4 was the latest selling of shares which finished in April 2016 having raised £19m. See right to the end of this post for more about the benefits of being an EFP.
- They are the fastest growing food and drinks company in the UK for the last four years. Their revenue was £45m in 2015 (51% growth from last year). They’re still minnows in the market though, with sales of only 0.1% of the market. They employ over 580 people and ship beers to over 60 countries around the world.
- The company has great values. They’re a good employer and are heavily investing in their future. They’ve massively upped brewing capacity, have a new canning facility (the largest in Europe) and have even opened a new state of the art brewery in the USA which will help them really break into the largest craft beer market in the world.
- They also have a very strong and distinctive brand which is instantly recognisable. They’re overall quite anti-establishment and don’t mind pissing others off, such as CAMRA where they’ve been banned from the GBBF.
Aberdeen and the Castlegate BrewDog and BottleDog
After arriving from Birmingham by plane that morning and before we hit the main event, we went into Aberdeen to have a look around and grab a quick beer (like we needed it with the day ahead..).
Aberdeen itself is a lovely city. Though we were unfortunate in that in April, it is a wet, cold and blustery place to walk around (which I’ll come to later).
The main street – Union St – in the middle of the city is lovely. A wide tree lined avenue, full of shops, taxis, as well as a great BrewDog Bar – Castlegate – which has recently opened. We stopped off here to enjoy a couple of Gamma-ray beers and then gawp at the sheer beauty of their in-bar bottle-dog, which is basically a mini-off licence and merchandise store, sectioned off within the pub.
Regarding accommodation, we stayed at the Premier Inn (Premier Inn, Aberdeen City Centre – see it on Google maps) which was great and cheap too at £50 a night. The staff there were lovely and so were the rooms – so a big thumbs up to them.
Unfortunately transport was pretty poor overall. Aberdeen just doesn’t have decent enough transport networks to assist that many people all in one place – and it wasn’t just ourselves feeling that. On our trip we met others expressing the same concerns.
We got a bus from the airport to the city centre and bought a day-rider, only to be told later it wasn’t allowed for use on other buses – for example the one to get to the exhibition centre. Undeterred we waited around for another bus – after being advised by staff from the new Castlegate brewdog (which did I mention is really great and well worth visiting?) – only to be told it was the wrong bus! To get to the venue, we ended up sharing a taxi with some other shareholders, a nice friendly bunch from elsewhere in Scotland – Glasgow I think. If it wasn’t them, then we could easily recognise many other BrewDog AGM-goers milling about in Aberdeen, so we could have asked them instead. All it takes is a quick ‘you going to the AGM?’ to broach a conversation with people.
The lack of transport also came back later to bite us. Which I’ll come to explain further on in this post.
First I want to ramble on about just how great the actual event was.
The AGM and the AECC venue
After a short taxi ride we arrived at the venue at about 1:30pm. This I believe was the 4th AGM – or Annual General Mayhem as they like to call it – and the first that I’ve ever attended. It was set in the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC), situated about 3-4 miles north of the Aberdeen city centre.
The AECC venue is an ideal place. From what I know they’ve expanded and opened up the AGM so that it takes place over a lot more space than compared to previous years. We had the whole complex to ourselves and the conference was spread out across 3 main areas, giving plenty of room for the 6,000-odd AGM goers.
We didn’t queue and walked straight in. The staff were really friendly and told us what to do and where to go.
We were given 10 complimentary tokens to start with, which you could then use to buy beers and food. After that, 6 tokens cost £10. Two tokens could generally buy you most drinks – which depending on what it was you were buying, would get a pint, 2/3rds or a half (see the beers section below for why this is), with some drinks even costing three tokens or more. There was a cash machine on site but we thought it a good idea to bring plenty of cash as no doubt the ATM would have been busy or even empty fairly quickly.
After grabbing our tokens we walked straight in to the packed main arena, which could easily fit 5,000 people, and instantly felt the great buzz about the place. This large arena-hall was massive – a large floor surrounded by banked seating.
We arrived half-way through the formal talk by the founders of the company – James Wyatt and Martin Dickie. They were both explaining to the assembled army of investors (called EFPs) just how much their investment had made a difference to the company, as well as the great things in store for the year ahead.
The talk was very funny and engaging. The company is clearly making great progress.
Regarding the two founders:
- James is the brains behind the company’s business-dealings – with a degree in Law & Economics, he traded in his former career as a deep-sea captain (!), and ‘pursued his passion for great craft beer by setting up the company with Martin Dickie. James was awarded Great British Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014, and was Europe’s first Master Cicerone‘.
- Martin Dickie is the brains behind the brewing – ‘with a first class honours degree in Brewing & Distilling from Herriot Watt University. He is a renegade artist on a mission to change people’s perceptions about beer and challenge their taste-buds’.
You may have seen a recent TV show all about BrewDog (which I admit I haven’t watched yet) where unfortunately James didn’t come across in the most flattering light – and this I’ve heard from multiple people. All I can say was they both were very charming on stage and clearly passionate about the company – so to my mind very good figureheads for the company.
After the talk, staff descended and cleared the main arena area of seats, so that bands could start to play. The bands included Idlewild, Swedish Death Candy, Hunter and the Bear, Honeyblood, Smash Williams, Frightened Rabbit – all playing long into the night. My particular favourite was UK Subs who were last on.
Linking off from the main arena within a short walk were several other areas and rooms. These contained a variety of different food stalls, seating, long tables, tasting rooms, outside smoking areas, art work, activities and lots more.
So while they were clearing the seats, this gave us a chance to look around. Such as at the Boyd Orr room (see further below) and at the many various food outlets and beer stalls.
There was an overall really good feel and buzz to the event. A bit of a festival-type community feel to it, which is lovely to be a part of.
Everyone was smiling and being polite; holding doors open etc. All the people we met were talkative. We chatted to people from across the UK – from Scotland, the north of England, London etc. We even got chatting to a bunch of lads who had specially travelled all the way from Sweden.
Generally the average age of stakeholders was around 30-ish. I think. The majority of them men at a rough 80-20 split.
We saw absolutely no trouble. There were no football hooligans or other idiots that you may see at similar events where everyone’s drinking beer all day. Everyone seemed to pace themselves, which the promoters are keen for everyone to stick to.
We didn’t see anybody falling over or being sick, or any argy-bargy at all. Though admittedly by the end of the night the main toilets were a bit grim…
There was an amazing selection of beers – more than you could possibly ever try. These included both BrewDog beers and guest beers. Drinks either came in 1/2 pint, 2/3 pint or pint glasses. No cash was taken at the many beer stalls. Only tokens. Generally it was 2 tokens per drink but some were 3 tokens. 3 tokens being the equivalent of £5. All was served refreshingly cold in plastic glasses.
As mentioned the beers are really very good and the key reason for BrewDog’s success. Punk IPA is clearly one of the best all-rounder they have and this shows as it accounts for a massive 55% of all their sales.
We set out to try as many beers as we realistically could, aiming for experiencing the beers in low-volumes rather than blitzing them (ourselves?) with too much quantity. A marathon, not a race, and all that.
Some of the beers really stood out for me. It was the first time I tried ‘This is Elvis’, which is a wonderful grapefruit-infused beer. ‘Grapefruit-infused beer’ sounds pretty awful, but it’s sheer zestiness, it’s refreshingness and drink-ability is truly amazing and something to be experienced. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend you do when you get a chance.
Apart from ‘This is Elvis’, a complaint that could be levelled at BrewDog is that a lot of their beers are very similar to Punk IPA.
I wrote some notes on my phone (before it died mid-afternoon) about the beers we were tasting, which to my admittedly basic and unsophisticated palette went something like this:
- Gamma Ray – Like Punk IPA, but less flavoursome
- 5am Saint – Bitter. Smooth. Punk IPA like.
- Born to die – Stronger IPA. Tasty. A lot of fuss about it.
- Zeitgeist – Very tasty Porter stout thing. Black lager. Nice.
- This is Elvis – Lovely and fruity. Really tasty and refreshing.
- Hardcore IPA – Really strong Punk-IPA like beer. Bit too strong to enjoy.
- Arcade Nation – Tasty IPA mixed with stout-like flavours. Interesting.
- Jet Black Heart – Gorgeous, creamy stout. Full of flavour. Definitely a favourite.
- Ace of Simcoe – Light hoppy beer. Very tasty.
- Vagabond Pale Ale – Another light hoppy beer. OK.
There were also other drinks, like Jack Hammer and Albino Squid Assassin, which I cannot exactly remember now but thought they were very good too.
I know my beer tasting palette is poor and needs improvement – for example, even after drinking it many times, I only realised the other day how much Punk IPA tasted like grapefruit!
I’m sure after time that my tastes will become far better as distinguishing the different flavours of each beer. Really this I can only look forward to as a fun journey!
All in all you can definitely tell their beers are a premium product. You really do pay for what you get, which on reflection I’m more and more happy to subscribe to. I definitely think drinking less but drinking far better quality beer is the best direction to head in. Though I do draw the line at £10 for a can of Black Eyed King Imp however amazing it’s supposed to be.
Regular and enhanced ranges
The BrewDog range of beers is split up into several different overall groups/sections:
- Headliners – the regular range
- Amplified – very flavoursome and powerful beers
- Seasonals – available only during particular periods throughout the year
- and a few others including Tuned, High Octane, Small Batch and Abstrakt.
The Headliners range is the regular range and includes:
- Punk IPA, 5.4% – Post Modern Classic.
- Dead Pony Club, 3.8% – Session Pale ale.
- 5 AM Saint, 5.0% – American Red Ale.
- Jet Black Heart, 4.7% – Oatmeal Milk Stout.
- Kingpin, 4.7% – 21st Century Lager.
Whereas the Amplified range includes:
- Hardcore IPA, 9.2% – Explicit Adult Hops.
- Elvis Juice, 6.5% – Grapefruit Infused IPA.
- Jack Hammer, 7.2% – Ruthless India Pale Ale.
- Cocoa Psycho, 10% – Russian Imperial Stout.
- Tokyo, 16.5% – Intergalactic Stout.
Take part in the quick Apester poll below
If you’ve tried them, click on the below to take part in this quick poll to tell us what your favourite regular and enhanced BrewDog beers are:
As well as enjoying the beers on general sale throughout the event, there was the option to also attend separate beer tastings at £5 per ticket. These you had to buy tickets for in advance of the event and quickly sold out.
We attended the BrewDog tasting session at 5:45pm. It was 3 staff brewers at the front giving a slide-less stand-up talk about 2 beers which we got to taste. There were easily 400 people in the room. It was fairly noisy with all the chattering of the crowd, making it hard to hear was was being said by the mic-less presenters, but everyone was well behaved.
As we tried the 2 beers – one handed out after the other – we were told about the ideas for their creation, the brewing process and the presenters took questions. Both beers were again really tasty, though one was Marmite-inducing in that you either loved it or hated it. Unfortunately I cannot recall what the beers were.
The other tastings were put on by:
Everyone knows drinking lots of beer makes food taste a whole-lot better and there was loads of choice. Some really tasty grub. Choices included Pieminster, vegetarian stuff, Mexican food, hot dogs, burgers. So everyone was more than well catered for.
Mid afternoon I bought a chilli for 3 tokens, which amazingly was literally just chilli with several doritos on top. No rice or anything alongside. I voiced my surprise to the chap who was serving and he sheepishly shrugged and apologised with a ‘yes I can’t believe it too’ look.
Outside were quite a few food outlets, along with the mobile Truck Norris BrewDog bar – which would be awesome to hire for your own party. One of the food outlets ‘Longhorn’ were selling some amazing looking burgers, but at a whopping £10 per burger! We were hungry and they looked well worth it, so we joined the back of the long queue. After 10 mins it started to rain, which then got heavier and heavier. We waited for 40 mins in the cold, but it wasn’t really that bad – we stood chatting to others in the queue, sharing umbrellas with others. It was a really very funny experience. Beer makes every one relaxed so the conversation flows and there was lots of laughter.
We also enjoyed the food afterwards. So well worth the wait.
The Boyd Orr room
Over the other side of the arena, via a short flight of stairs and a covered walkway over the road, was an ideal room in which to sit – the Boyd Orr room. Around the sides were more food stalls, plus large banks of stepped seating. At one end was a a massive screen showing a live feed from the main arena such as the many bands on during the day. The room had a great buzz and was very relaxing to sit in.
The centre of the room was full of long, long tables where you could easily chat to others. There were various board games dotted about, similar to BrewDog bars. We tried playing Cluedo, but it didn’t work with only 2 of us and there was no-one else free nearby in which to join us (they were busy having fun chatting or playing their own games). So we had a go at playing Jenga. After we got bored of that, we built a massive tower, easily 4-5 foot high above the table on which we managed to precariously rest a pint of beer – much to the delight of everyone nearby. I unfortunately didn’t get to snap it though as my phone ran out of juice.
There was also a small stage at the front where various activities and demonstrations were on show. At one point a table tennis table was set up and two expert players were smashing Ping pong balls back and forth. They then got people up from the audience to try and knock over empty beer can lined-up on the far edge. It was obviously much more difficult than it looked with many hopelessly hooning the ping pong ball as powerfully as they could well wide of the mark.
The experience was really positive. I’d definitely go again. The event was well run and very enjoyable to attend. The variety of excellent beer to try was great and the experience of a full day spent drinking the many choices whilst listening to bands and chilling in a relaxed environment was really fun.
It is an expensive day out though. Much like the beer which is a premium product. It really would be a very expensive hobby if you were to solely drink their beer. For example I looked afterwards at buying some beer online, but a mixed batch of 24x 330ml cans are £44, plus you’ve got p&p on top. Though you do have a 20% discount if you’re a shareholder which helps massively.
.. and the bad
We left at event close – I think about 11pm-ish – to once again enjoy the cold, wet and blustery weather. There was a massive queue for taxis though – easily 50+ people and taxis were only arriving every 5-10 mins apart. After a bit we decided it was too cold to stand around waiting so walked round the block to the bus stop, which we discovered had an even bigger queue.
So we decided to start walking the 3 miles or so back to Aberdeen – and the rain just got heavier and heavier. We were justified in that on the walk back, only one packed-to-the-brim bus passed us. There were also no available taxis, even heading in the opposite direction to us going back towards the AECC.
We would have loved to end up that night back in the Castlegate BrewDog, but the weather finished us off, so a warm bed beckoned instead.
Tips for going in the future
- Take good walking shoes.
- Take a water-proof, warm jacket.
- Read up on the beers beforehand so you know which ones to target.
- Try new beers, including those from guest brewers.
- Pace yourself – have only halves where you can.
- Take lots of money.
- Share taxis with others where you can.
- Don’t worry about queuing for food. It’s worth it and you’ll get to know people in the queue with you.
- Don’t stay to the end unless you want to see all the bands.
- Enjoy yourself and talk to others. All are like minded people having a fun time.
- If you have time – go visit the Aberdeen Brewery.
- Overnight, stay in your own single room at the hotel and away from loved ones. That much beer doesn’t do any wonders for the stomach!
So, should you join the club?
So if you’re not a BrewDog shareholder, firstly well done for getting this far in the post. But should you invest in BrewDog and become a shareholder? What are the costs and benefits etc?
To invest and get a shareholder card costs upwards from £95, which buys you 2 shares and brings you plenty of benefits. See the Benefits of investing in BrewDog. This describes benefits such as the discounts you can get in bars and online, the exclusive first options on all new beers and more.
Upwards from £95, you can access some pretty amazing bonus shareholder perks, such as free beer for life, be the brewer, your own sour beer cask, behind the scenes tours, beer truck parties and loads more. These benefits though start from £5,000, so you have to be pretty special benefactor and/or have the spare cash to go for these. See Boosted Benefits for details.
So the last bit of advice I can leave you with, is if you like awesome beer and you fancy being part of a community of like-minded craft-beer lovers, then this would be right up your street.
I’ve certainly very much enjoyed being part of this wonderful community. I always enjoy visiting their bars in any city I stay at and have started to buy from their excellent online shop.
Use my referral code
If you do want to join then this is an ideal opportunity for me to shamelessly promote my referral code. Please do use this when you join as it gives me referral points, which add up and give me some fab benefits.
So when Equity for Punks is next open, visit the Equity for Punks webpage and use: R036212. A big thank you from me if you do, and please contact me so I can arrange to buy you a pint – maybe at the next BrewDog Punk AGM!
What I’d like to see next for BrewDog
By far the cheapest way to currently enjoy their beer is oddly not directly via BrewDog (either online or via a bar) but instead via Sainsbury’s who stock the larger BrewDog Punk IPA 660ml bottle at only £2.50. You can buy this in store or via their website.
I’m not sure how long this deal will last but I’m definitely taking advantage of it whilst I can.
I’d love to see these larger bottles rolled out for the entire Headliners range. This, in my opinion, would open up and allow these lovely beers to be bought and enjoyed far more cost effectively by many more people. It’d even be great if other supermarkets such as Tesco etc could be brought on-board to sell these too.
So did you go yourself to the Punk AGM? Please leave me any thoughts below. Thanks.