BrewDog boss orders independent review and takes ‘100%’ blame for ‘toxic culture’

BrewDog co-founder and chief executive James Watt has promised staff a wide-ranging independent review after a group of ex-employees complained of a toxic culture that left a “substantial” number with mental illness.

In an email to colleagues, a week after the allegations surfaced, James Watt apologised for a series of mistakes that prompted the open letter, saying it was “100% my fault”.

One former worker who spoke to Sky News said working at the company could be “horrific”.

Good morning everyone.We would like to share the following statement made by James this morning on the EFP forum, which we sincerely hope to be genuine, and not further spin and PR.

— Punks With Purpose (@PunksWPurpose) June 17, 2021

The 61 signatories to the letter, calling themselves Punks with Purpose, placed the letter on Twitter and described the craft beer specialist’s atmosphere, since its inception in 2007, as being built around a “culture of personality”.

It accused the business of being relentless, uncaring, publicity hungry and of telling “lies” to drive awareness of the Punk IPA producer’s rapid expansion from brewer to bar ownership.


Sky News has subsequently spoken anonymously to a former BrewDog employee – who worked for the company for three years – about her experience.

She said: “It was fast paced, yes, it was highly engaging, yes and that’s why we all joined.

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“But there was an element of if you don’t toe the company line, you’re out.

“If you challenge something that James or one of his senior leaders he respects says, you’re not going to have a good time.

Image: An ex-employee of BrewDog said working at the firm could be ‘horrific’

“I think that was an experience for a lot of people that had signed the letter… it was really good and it was a really enjoyable place to work – until it wasn’t.

“And when it wasn’t, it was horrific.”

Mr Watt told staff on Thursday: “In the hard and fast environment of high growth, I have all too often neglected many important people elements of our business.”

The BrewDog boss pledged to “throw my heart and soul” into changes to make BrewDog a better employer, including through a new employee representative group and career development.

He said the independent review would include anonymous contributions from both present and past employees, with the results to be shared internally and externally.

Mr Watt also admitted there were parts of the business where it was too “lean” and a separate structure review would examine this.

Image: There is a bar attached to BrewDog HQ in Aberdeenshire

A salary review – delayed in January – was to take place in July, he added.

“These are just the first steps and we’ll keep you updated with further actions that result from this listening and learning phase,” Mr Watt continued.

“Although this situation hurts a lot, I am determined to ensure that we use it as a catalyst to become a better business”.

Punks with Purpose used its Twitter account to welcome the statement and hoped it was not “further spin and PR”.