Huge, dumb booze producer Diageo orders industry association to give them the prize that had been awarded to small, spunky competitor

BrewDog is a spunky craft brewer in Scotland. Diageo is a titanic owner of booze brands, a kind of Wal*Mart of booze. The British Institute of Innkeeping is their mutual trade association.

Last Sunday, the BII's independent judges awarded BrewDog a prize for Bar Operator of the Year. When Diageo found out -- just ahead of the ceremony -- that a company affiliated with them hadn't won the prize, they threw a tantrum and said that they would cease all sponsorship of BII events unless the prize was given to them.

So BrewDog -- who'd been told in advance that they'd won -- sat at their table at the banquet with jaws on their chests as their competitor's name was read out by the announcer, and representatives from Diageo's chosen bar got up on stage to accept an award whose plaque clearly said "BREWDOG: BAR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR." The farce has turned into a scandal, and Diageo has issued a non-apology of the "mistakes were made" sort.

BrewDog is pissed:

As for Diageo, once you cut through the glam veneer of pseudo corporate responsibility this incident shows them to be a band of dishonest hammerheads and dumb ass corporate freaks. No soul and no morals, with the integrity of a rabid dog and the style of a wart hog.

Perhaps more tellingly it is an unwitting microcosm for just how the beer industry is changing and just how scared and jealous the gimp-like establishment are of the craft beer revolutionaries.

We would advise them to drink some craft beer. To taste the hops and live the dream. It is hard to be a judas goat when you are drinking a Punk IPA.

Walk tall, kick ass and learn to speak craft beer.

Diageo Screw BrewDog (Thanks, Chris!)


  1. I think you’ve got a bit mixed up here. Diageo is a huge international drinks manufacturer, not a bar chain (they make Guinness, Jose Cuvero etc), and are the sponsor of the event. The eventual winner of the prize was not Diageo, but another Scottish bar chain, who refused the award when they found that Brewdog’s name was engraved on the trophy.

    1. While Diageo may a conglomerate that bought and owns the companies that make the drinks, I’m finding it a bit hard to stomach the concept “they make Guinness, Jose Cuervo, etc”.

      They distribute it, they market it, sure.  But as an example of what I mean, to say they make it feels like saying that Capitol Records made “Sgt Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “OK Computer”.

      Well maybe Guinness, since Diageo comes from a merger that included the brewery.

  2. i’m happy to discover i don’t drink any diageo brands. i’m partial to the odd guinness but if i’m in the mood for stout i’ll go elsewhere from here on out.
    i’m a big fan of the brew dog brand and their camden bar is a great place to sample brewdog and other craft ales. they deserve every accolade they can get, imo.

  3. I’d never heard of BrewDog until Diageo tried to stiff them.  This corporate PR disaster may be the best advertising an upstart can’t afford to buy.

    1. My thought too. 
      What a lucky break for BrewDog to have been cheated out of this award. 
      Not even their competitor comes out looking bad, not accepting the award and all.  
      Just the international corporation involved looks immoral and soulless. 
      Diageo is seemingly run by morons who thought a competition for  “Bar Operator of the Year”, with  independent judges, could be handled like national elections and politics.  

      BrewDog, will you create something stout, yet light-hearted and not too bitter, to commemorate this event? 
      I suggest an “UnderDog Maibock”.

    2.  I never heard of Ben and Jerry’s until the doughboy (Pillsbury via Haagen Daas) tried to cut them off from their raw materials and distributors, in the mid 1980’s.

        1. Man I love that place.  They are the BOMB! OK, New England ain’t so bad. I kinda went off on it the other day.

    1. there are a lot of ways to “own”, in the same way there are a lot ways to “win”.

      1. Exactly, like “Made In America”. What’s “made”? “Manufactured in America” is a horse of a different color.  Some of these companies wisely switched to “Assembled in America”.

    1. Why the F are people talking so much about Diageo? What of the BII, who compromised their own “independent panel” this way? It takes two to tango, where’s their statement?

  4. “Diageo is a titanic owner of bar chains”
    Diageo is bit more than that. A quick trip to Wikipedia:
    It is the world’s largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine and the 12th largest company on the London Stock Exchange . Brands include:
    Guinness, Smirnoff, Hennessy, Johnnie Walker, Gordon’s Gin, etc.

    1. Piss.. in other words.. I am not surprised.. Whop.. wait. Checked the list, they market Oban?! O noes, say it ain’t so. Oh well, I had more or less stopped drinking whiskey anyway. Now, where is that Haandbryggeriet Norwegian Wood I had saved for a rainy day.

  5. Diageo is more the GM of brewing, with a huge number of mega-brands: Smirnoff, Guinness, Capt Morgans, Johnny Walker, Bushmills, Baileys, J&B, Jose Cuervo and many, many others. I used to work for their tourist trap Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, the stories I could tell…

    1. From the brands you mention, it would seem that they are the GM of distilling rather of brewing.  Or both.

      1. It’s all confusing, it’s supposed to be, right? Probably like their accounting. We’ll be hearing about that later, I’m sure. 

  6. What shocks me is not that Diageo would be evil, that seems to be common; but that they would think that this flavor of evil could possibly be a good idea.

    If you already have a large chain operation, it seems likely that your customers are not overly concerned about whether you are operator of the year or not. The upside of being so named probably isn’t zero; but the PR bonus of having a little star to stick somewhere pales in comparison to the PR hit of looking pitifully childish and deeply petty.

    It makes one wonder if somebody’s PR flacks are actually that stupid, or if somebody’s HQ enjoys a bit too much discretionary power for their poor impulse control and narcissism to cope with…

    1. It’s what I call the Human Inequation at work:

      1. What I want is more important than what you want.
      2. I will fight to keep the power that I have; I will lie to get more.

    2. They are apparently the RIAA of the brewing world if they’re willing to pull this kind of drek.

  7. I would certainly prefer Brew Dog most other purveyor of alcoholic beverages, but they aren’t quite the underdogs they’d like you to think they are. Their ‘craft beer’ is artificially carbonated like lager, and their pubs are dripping with corporate faux-punk oh-we-just-threw-this-together-look-how-quirky-we-are decor. 

    Wherever you are in the UK, there are usually much better alternatives if you like good-tasting beer.

    1.  “artificially carbonated”?  Is that the basic distinction between Real Ale (what we call “cask” beer here in the US) and EVERYTHING ELSE?  Can a “good” beer be artificially carbonated, or is it all just crappy macro-lager if the chemically identical CO2 comes from a tank instead of live yeast?  I’m actually interested in your response since I don’t get to talk to many UK beer drinkers and over here there is really no interest at all in how something is carbonated.

      As for Brew Dog they are really just trying to ape Stone, Rogue and other US craft brands.  Comparing them to traditional UK ale producers would be a mistake.

      1. I don’t know that either would disqualify a beer from ‘craft’ status, but bottle conditioning and artificial carbonation can have considerably different effects.

        Injecting pure CO2 just adds carbonation and has no other effect on the beer’s flavour.  Leaving the beer to rest and do its final fermentation on a small amount of yeast can have a significant effect on the beer’s taste.  Depending on the yeast used, they can produce a variety of esters, reabsorb some sulphur compounds from the beer, etc.

        1.  Right.  Naturally conditioned beers do have a unique quality.  I was just curious about the initial comment that force carbing = “like lager”.   In my mind, cold fermentation temps and lager yeast are what make a thing = “like lager”.  Ales have ale yeast and warmer fermentation temps.  More fruit, more esters, more character.  The method of carbonation seems somewhat irrelevant to the style, but OP makes the distinction.  I was just curious if that is typical for the average UK beer drinker – that ale has to be live, or else it’s just like lager. 

          1.  Ah, that I don’t know.  I wouldn’t have thought there was any reason lager couldn’t be bottle or cask conditioned, for that matter.  Certainly every batch of lager I’ve made has been bottle conditioned, because I don’t have a keg system.

            The CAMRA test for “real ale” is that it be cask conditioned.  I don’t think CAMRA cares one way or another about lagers – there isn’t an equivalent CAMRL that I know of.

            CAMRA doesn’t really care about scale or adventurousness of style either – Guinness could win CAMRA’s designation as a real ale if they sold some of their beer cask-conditioned, but that wouldn’t make it a craft beer, any more than (I think) artificial carbonation makes Brewdog’s products not craft beers.

  8. boy – o – boy  sounds like a fact checker is in dire  need here. 
    cheers and good luck  BREW DOG ! – Here’s Tae Us – Wha’s Like Us – Damn Few And They’re A’ Deid 

  9. I recently found out that almost all Scottish whisky distilleries are now owned by Diageo or companies of the same ilk. Their operations are extremely mecanized, and they ship their water and grain from all over the world. Only a handful of independent operators remain, such as Bruichladdich on Islay (and they are awesome!). This would be a very interesting subject, IMHO.

    1. Having toured several distilleries in Scotland last year, that wasn’t quite the impression I had. The larger ones like Glenfiddich and Glenlivet  were certainly mechanized, but they were still using local water sources and malted barley, or at least claimed to be. Given the EU protection provided to single malt whiskey, I doubt they could call their product scotch whiskey if the water or grains came from outside the UK. We have a single malt in Canada (Glen Breton) which can’t call itself a scotch for this reason. I imagine that shipping the quantities of water that would be required would also be insanely expensive.

      The smaller distilleries that I visited (Cragganmore, a Diageo imprint) were still making whiskey pretty much the same way they did 75 years ago, new vats notwithstanding. The same could be said for many of the other small distilleries.

      I’m not defending their business practices, and what Diageo did to BrewDog is shite, we just shouldn’t sacrifice the facts for the sake of a good narrative.

        1. Yes, it’s the “key” to flavor.

          I forget whose ad that was, but it does help one remember.

    2. Pinch of salt on this comment. There’s hardly a shortage of water in Scotland. SCOTLAND

  10. This story has become extra confusing.  I came to ask the questions everyone else was, i.e. Diageo make drinks they don’t run pubs. 

    What I really want to say though is “Craft Beer”? What?  On this side of the pond I always thought the preferred term was Real Ale.

    1. Craft Beer and Real Ale can be different but might at times be the same…I guess Craft beer is a term for smaller breweries trying new and unusual things but isn’t necessarily Real Ale which by definition should be served without any additional gas and with the yeast still in the cask.

      afaik it’s not unknown for Brewdog to kick up a fuss with CAMRA about their strict Real Ale policy when selecting beers for their festivals…

      Personally I’ve never been over keen of Brewdog’s beers (particularly the Punk IPA) and while their record setting strong beers do have cracking names (Tactical Nuclear Penguin for instance) the way they get them that strong feels like cheating…ho hum, can’t please everyone eh :-)

      1. I’m happy to hear I’m not the only one who can’t stomach Punk Ipa.. 

      2. I’m turned off by the branding of this type of beer and would never normally buy it (which is dumb because for all I know they taste good, but whatever because I hardly ever drink), but I will confess that if I saw a beer labeled Tactical Nuclear Penguin I would not be able to resist buying it :)

    2.  ‘Real ale’ has a very specific definition laid down by CAMRA

      ‘Craft beer’ is generally used to mean whatever the person using it wants it to mean, but it usually refers to independent, quality-led brewers who ‘fail’ the CAMRA test by pasteurising their beer, serving it via keg etc.

      (BTW, don’t worry too much about poor little Brew Dog being badly abused; they love generating any kind of publicity and will be laughing their socks off at this opportunity falling into their lap.)

    3. BrewDog don’t make real ale, though, or at least not exclusively. Their flagship beers are their Punk IPA, which is very much in the American style of super-hoppy IPAs, and 77 Lager. They’re closer to the American “Craft Beer” movement than they are to, say, CAMRA. That said, yeah, it’s not a phrase I would have used myself.

      1. I don’t think they do at all now. They used to – we had some of their beers at Southampton beer festival a few years ago – but they now exclusively use kegs (and bottles).

        This is partly because they think their beers taste better when lightly carbonated; I’m not sure whether I agree with them, but that’s because I personally dislike fizziness in any drink, I can see why they think it suits their beers.

        Many people suspect it’s also partly because engineering a falling-out with CAMRA gets them publicity. And not just any publicity, but publicity that shows them as being independent minded and not bound by tradition, perfectly emphasising the image they wish to project..

      1. Well that’s me told (in general reply to everyone).  

        Craft beer is still not going to enter my vocabulary.  My general preferred phrase will have to remain “decent beer”.

    4. To your fist question

      Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but many pubs in the UK will sometimes exclusively carry a certain brand of beer, and advertise this. Diageo was complaining b/c a pub carrying one of their imprints didn’t win.

      1. I think the usual term is “preferred partner” — someone contracted to buy your products long-term.

        That is, Diageo threatened to take their ball and go home because one of their “preferred partners” didn’t get the prize.

      2. Those pubs are normally those owned by a brewery, normally but not always one of the medium sized regional breweries. They tend to stock only their own real ales, plus lagers etc from the main national and international brands.

        I don’t think Diageo own any ale breweries, so this isn’t relevant here.

        But just about every pub or bar in the country has Guinness, and a selection of spirits including many from Diageo. Brewdog’s bars, as exclusively “craft beer” bars, are among the very few that don’t carry any Diageo products at all.

      3. This totally happens here in the states too.  eg-places that don’t have Coca-Cola, but Pepsi instead.  The same is for beer in many pubs/bars: Budweiser vs. Heineken

        1. Budweiser v. Heineken? You need to get out of Brooklyn more often. Maybe Bud products v. Miller products, but even that’s pretty unusual.

  11. I recently (March 17th) grabbed some Guinness to bring to my sister’s house for a Corned Beef/Cabbage dinner.  The the beer was mediocre but fine. A couple of cans made it back to my fridge. We tried one last week and it was just WRONG. Dumped it.  I’m spoiled by my own homebrew and craft beer, but this was just bad bad bad.  

    I’m sure Guinness was a great product at one point in time that its brewers took pride in.  Unfortunately, I think that pride tends to fall by the wayside when one works for a large faceless corporation.  I’m happy to give my dollars to people who care about their product and don’t have the entitlement issues that Diageo seems to have.

    1.  Guinness was at one time part of an Irishmans staple diet, and rightly so because of it’s components and brew practices. Now it is just another flavour on the market, sad really…..

          1.  I have tried nearly all of them. Most are too syrupy/strong.

            Don’t misunderestimate my knowledge and understanding, name one under 3,5% and I’ll go find it.

          2. @mdhatter03:disqus 
            I hope you’re being funny with “misunderestimate”, but you clearly don’t know your Guinness. 
            The three regular products vary between 4.2 and 7.5%.

          3. @boingboing-66bd939ad7010829ab65a6aaf28c9a96:disqus I was merely trying to steer towards the good advice I was seeking, and away from pedantic douchebaggery, via comedic exageration. Perhaps I fell into the sarchasm. It happens.

      1. My mentor, an OB/Gyn suggested Guinness when I was having trouble with let down while breast feeding.  Stating, when she visited Ireland in the 70’s? she saw signs for Guinness as “best for the breast”.  Don’t know if it was true but indeed, it had been a very vitamin enriched nutritional supplement.

    2. Guinness is okay but requires certain conditions to be okay.

      1. It was never meant to be in a can, it still isn’t even though it’s in cans. Tap only, doesn’t even need to be a clean tap.

      2. Room temperature only, and not a cold room either. Cold makes it too bitter and changes the texture somehow. If you are unlucky enough to have a can of it don’t refrigerate it.

      3. Drawn and sit, it’s better if you let that shit settle. You don’t eat fresh bread right out of the oven because it burns. Think of Guinness or like as a loaf of fresh bread, let it cool (But don’t chill it yo) before you dig in.

      4. Pint glass or glass/ceramic mug. Plastic and metal suck for any brew, doubly so for Guinness.

      I don’t drink, not at all anymore. But I still have fond memories of a regular after-work pint meeting the conditions above. I had a very physical job too, and just a pint put me square til supper.

      1. Interesting that on my last visit to the UK (about 5 years ago) most of the pubs had both Guinness and Guinness Ice (I think) which was served extra-super-esimko-style-cold. I tried it, but it wasn’t great. A regular Guinness with a brandy dropped in to kill the “egde” was way better.

  12. Good on the other bar operator for refusing to accept the prize. Their actions in this debacle were probably the noblest, yet I can’t find their name anywhere. Still, I suppose supporting them would in some way be supporting Diageo.

    1. Their nobility would depend sharply on whether their decline was a ‘No, this prize clearly belongs to somebody else and we refuse it even if our corporate overlords wish otherwise.’ or a ‘No, this prize doesn’t have our name on it, go back and make a better one!’…

      If the former, they definitely come out as looking pleasantly spineful.

      If the latter, poor form sir, poor form.

      Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find anything about them at all, much less a blow-by-blow.

  13. … the integrity of a rabid dog and the style of a wart hog.

    Yet again the noble wart hog is casually, wantonly associated with bad things. The poor sod just cannot get a break.

  14. Clearly British Institute of Innkeeping awards are a farce. I’d be surprised if anyone other than Diageo supplied bars even show up.

    1.  Are there any others, it does seem that they have rather cornered the market. Perhaps the BII should change it’s name to the Diageo Institute of Inkeepers, perhaps that would keep them happy…..

    1. The weight of entitlement isn’t surprising, certainly not POSING as indie, but the pairing of the trophy with the deserved winner’s name on it is news.

  15. Fromthe Diageo site:

    Diageo has provided the following statement in response to communications from independent brewer, BrewDog, in relation to the British Institute of Innkeeping Scottish Awards on Sunday 6 May 2012.

    Diageo spokesperson: “There was a serious misjudgement by Diageo staff at the awards dinner on Sunday evening in relation to the Bar Operator of the Year Award, which does not reflect in any way Diageo’s corporate values and behaviour.

    We would like to apologise unreservedly to BrewDog and to the British Institute of Innkeeping for this error of judgement and we will be contacting both organisations imminently to express our regret for this unfortunate incident.”

    1. There was a serious misjudgement by formerDiageo staff at the awards dinner on Sunday evening

      is how that needed to start.

      1. Truth. There are no possible excuses for such epic fail. They should be fired if they haven’t been. Doesn’t matter if the big bad corporation is evil or not, because evil can be performed correctly too.

  16. Diageo is also in the news today for dropping support for the Heartland Institute after the infamous Unabomber advertisement.  Why the were supporting Heartland in the first place, I don’t know but I’m going to guess that large corporations in general are Heartland’s biggest fans.

  17. Here’s a new advertising slogan:

    “Diageo Brand Booze – Brewed and distilled from the tears of crybaby corporate pusscakes. Smooooooth.”

  18. I always like how some individual moron who works at a corporation makes a extremely stupid move and the anti-corporate folks start bashing the corporation itself and calling it evil.  Based on the apology Diageo has written this was the action of a group of mis-guided employees.  There’s no pattern of wrong doing here.

      1. Do tell more, I’m interested to learn  about the corporate culture at Diageo.  It sounds like you may have worked there or at least know a few different folks that have. 

        1. Behavior like this is indeed quite indicative of the culture of a corporation. It means some mid-level flack thought (a) this was a good idea, and (b) that he or she would be rewarded in the corporate food chain for it. That speaks volumes about the message that they are getting from above.

        2. Why don’t you tell US how it’s just an accident? You know, because they’re all such stellar guys otherwise.

      2. Wait a minute, I thought corporations were afforded the same legal status as people? So Kevin, what you are saying is that if you stab someone you are allowed to say “Hey, it wasn’t me, it was that damn pesky hand of mine!” They can’t have it both ways, if they want the ridiculous charade of corporate personhood to continue then they have to accept everything that follows with it.

        And EH, you’re right on the money. Corporate culture is corrupting, and that was some badass alliteration. Oh yeah.

        1. Paul, I appreciate your comments.

          I completely agreed that corporations should not be allowed to have it both ways. If a corporation commits a crime it and the individuals who facilitated the crime should be punished. I would say if a corporation makes a mistake, a non-criminal mistake, and they apologize and take steps to rectify the
          situation it is good.

          Maybe their culture does call for this sort of action, maybe it doesn’t.  Maybe the CEO called down and told that mid-level flack to do it.  Maybe Diago is secretly run by the devil, I don’t know.  This alone does not appear to rise to that level.

          I simply do not view all corporations as evil instruments of corruption. That is where we may have to agree to disagree.

        2. Paul, I appreciate your comments.

          I completely agreed that corporations should not be allowed to have it both ways. If a corporation commits a crime it and the individuals who facilitated the crime should be punished. I would say if a corporation makes a mistake, a non-criminal mistake, and they apologize and take steps to rectify the
          situation it is good.

          Maybe their culture does call for this sort of action, maybe it doesn’t.  Maybe the CEO called down and told that mid-level flack to do it.  Maybe Diago is secretly run by the devil, I don’t know.  This alone does not appear to rise to that level.

          I simply do not view all corporations as evil instruments of corruption. That is where we may have to agree to disagree.

    1. Yes, the actions of a corporation reflect its company culture. What excuse do you have for your own stupidity?

      1. So the every action of every employee automatically reflects the culture of the corporation.  I am so glad they finally got that mind control system to work.  That whole free will thing is so pesky for corporations.

    2.  Everything a corporation does is done by people. 
      Every time a corporation fucks up they have fall guys. 

  19. If you want a craft beer, a real beer, a decent beer – noble, honest, real modern classics  brewed by artists not PR people then please search out and try beer from Gadds brewery in Ramsgate, England – they tick all the boxes and do a range from IPA to Stout.  (I have no association to this brewery but just love their beer and their enjoyment of the brewing process)

  20. After reading the story, some press, tweets, this thread, I think BrewDog really lucked out here. As they grow as a business, it will be harder to maintain their working-class “Punk” image. Diageo really did them a solid here. Sure, getting kicked out of GBBF and arguing with CAMRA gave grist to the spin-mill, but eventually someone will point out that they are all Avril Lavigne behind the curtain. Of course, with an expected turnover of £10m in 2012, they are no Hot Topic, but still, when you are publicly traded you are, at least in some way, part of the establishment.

    1. “I think BrewDog really lucked out here. As they grow as a business, it will be harder to maintain their working-class “Punk” image. Diageo really did them a solid here”

      Yes, more indies should definitely be humiliated and stomped on by astroturfing megacorps.

  21. These small brewers are about the only “artisans” left in our system of trade. 

    I find it heart (and gut) warming that there’s an industry of people who simply want to share something with the rest of the world because they KNOW they’ve made something tasty, not having to act like some huge corporation who spends billions in advertising to convince us we’re not man enough to wrap our lips around their brown necks or maybe we’ll get hot chicks if we drink their chemical swill. 

  22. As many others have pointed out Brew Dog might make good beer (certainly not great beer), but they’re not the tiny craft brewery they try to make themselves out to be. You’ll find their beers in every second decent bottle shop anywhere in the world with a craft beer scene. They don’t quite deserve to be categorised with the giants, but like others have pointed out their version of punk is like the Avril version of punk. It’s all hair and make-up and a very big marketing strategy.

    1. indeed, i deride every global product with a global strategy. How foolish and shallow of them to be presentable in every marketplace AND have the temerity to be available on top of that. Clearly they were begging for this sort of outrage by their very existence.

    2. The beers I’ve bought from them have been great beer.  The fact that they’re doing okay doesn’t mean they aren’t a legitimate craft brewery.  They might even be doing okay because they make great beer?

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