Winner of BrewDog’s ‘solid gold’ beer can finds prize is made largely of brass

A man who won a “solid gold” can of BrewDog beer has been left disappointed after the prize, which the Scottish brewery claims is worth £15,000, turned out to be largely made of brass.

BrewDog and its chief executive, James Watt, advertised the chance to win the can across multiple media platforms between November 2020 and March 2021, as part of a promotional competition.

A drinks industry worker, Mark Craig from Lisburn, Northern Ireland, was among fans of the brewery who snapped up cases of its flagship beer, Punk IPA, finding one of 50 gold versions hidden in one of them.

Craig, who said he had hoped to fund his wedding by selling the gold, discovered the can was only plated with the precious metal after asking for a certificate from BrewDog.

“Sales of Punk presumably went through the roof,” said Craig.

“You saw people claiming that that they’d ordered 20 cases to stock up, all on the basis of it being a ‘solid gold’ can.

“I can’t imagine a similar frenzy for a novelty can, which is what it ended up being.”

Craig said he had sounded out gold traders who had told him that if the 330ml can really was solid gold, it would be worth up to £10,000 based on its weight, despite being hollow.

Based on the current gold price of approximately $1,780 (£1,281) per ounce, that would imply between seven and eight ounces of gold, about 250 grams.

In fact, the certificate provided by BrewDog shows the can is coated with gold plating three microns thick, or three thousandths of a millimetre.

Brewdog said it stood by the £15,000 value placed on the cans, 50 of which have been made.

It said the valuation was “reasonable based on multiple factors – including the price we paid for its manufacture, the constituent metal and quality of the final product, the standard retail markup and the rarity and uniqueness of the cans.”

But the company said it could not guarantee their value on the open market and declined to answer whether it would buy the can back for £15,000 minus costs.

A spokesperson also said BrewDog had immediately removed the “erroneous” mentions of solid gold in its competition marketing as soon as it realised the mistake.

However, Twitter posts from the company’s official account and that of Watt, referencing the “solid gold” cans and their supposed £15,000 value, remained online as of Monday afternoon.

“Importantly, the phrasing in question was never included in the detailed terms and conditions of the competition, nor in the wording informing the lucky winners of their prize,” said BrewDog.

The company said it had privately apologised to Craig.

Emails shared with the Guardian by Craig show that he initially struggled to strike up communication about the issue. He contacted customer services to ask about the discrepancy, only to have his email account blocked.

The disagreement, first reported by the Scottish Sun, is the latest in a string of controversies to hit BrewDog, known for its near-the-knuckle PR campaigns, such as its pink “beer for girls” or the launch of a “transgender beer” that drew criticism from Stonewall.

Craig said he felt particularly let down because he was an early investor in BrewDog who had often defended the company and had been sceptical of criticism it received from a group of ex-employees who spoke of a “culture of fear” at the brewery earlier this month.

“This piece of the puzzle fits in and makes me change my mind,” he said.

Finding the gold can also meant Craig received £10,000 of BrewDog shares, which are not freely tradable unless the company goes ahead with a long-anticipated stock market float, widely tipped to happen this year.

He also received an invitation to a VIP tour of the company’s brewery in Ellon, Aberdeenshire.

“I’m now wondering if they’d want me there,” he said.

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