Former BrewDog staff accuse craft beer firm of culture of fear

Former BrewDog employees have accused the craft beer company and its co-founder James Watts of fostering a “culture of fear” where workers were regularly bullied, insulted and “treated like objects” by senior staff.

The open letter, signed by 61 former workers, also alleges that senior staff at the fast-growing Scottish brewer pushed workers to cut corners by ignoring health and safety guidelines or on occasion bypassing customs checks when shipping beer overseas.

“Growth, at all costs, has always been perceived as the number one focus for the company,” the letter alleges. “Being treated like a human being was sadly not always a given for those working at BrewDog.”

Responding to the letter on Thursday, Watts apologised and promised to “take action”.

The letter was tweeted overnight by an account called PunksforPurpose, a play on the company’s self-promoted “punk” ethos, which stems in part from its vocal criticism of how its larger rival brewers operate.

The strongly worded letter, signed or initialled by the 61 former staff, claims a further 45 ex-employees supported the message but refused to share their names for fear of repercussion.

“Put bluntly, the single biggest shared experience of former staff is a residual feeling of fear,” the letter says. “Fear to speak out about the atmosphere we were immersed in, and fear of repercussions even after we have left.”

Directly addressing Watts in the letter, the signatories write: “It is with you that the responsibility for this rotten culture lies. Your attitude and actions are at the heart of the way BrewDog is perceived, from both inside and out.

“By valuing growth, speed and action above all else, your company has achieved incredible things, but at the expense of those who delivered your dreams. In the wake of your success are people left burnt out, afraid and miserable.”

It also claims the company had failed to follow through on PR campaigns, including sending a carton of beer to the Kremlin to mock Russia’s laws on “gay propaganda”, and had defied its eco-friendly policies by chartering a private plane and misusing glacier water for its beer.

The Scottish brewer has been a key player in the rapid rise in popularity of craft beer in the UK, and is stocked in large supermarkets.

Responding to the letter, Watts said: “Our focus now is not on contradicting or contesting the details of that letter, but to listen, learn and act. We have always tried to do the best by our team — we do have many thousands of employees with positive stories to tell as a result.

“But the tweet we saw last night proves that on many occasions we haven’t got it right. We are committed to doing better, not just as a reaction to this, but always; and we are going to reach out to our entire team past and present to learn more. Most of all, right now, we are sorry.”

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