Spring 2021 Exclusive The Bookshelf

BrewDog: Craft Beer for the Geeks by Richard Taylor, with James Watt & Martin Dickie

James Watt and Martin Dickie love beer. That’s not surprising, considering the two founded one of the UK’s finest craft breweries, BrewDog, together. But from the first pages of Craft Beer for the Geeks – the pair’s second book, written with help from author Richard Taylor – it’s clear that they won’t rest until the entire world loves craft beer as much as they do.

Since 2007, the BrewDog founders have opened three breweries (with an Australian outpost on the way), over 100 bars and the world’s first craft beer hotel. But despite becoming beer world celebrities, Watt and Dickie haven’t forgotten the little people. In fact, their business is all about connecting with and fostering the craft beer community, from hosting their AGM (Annual General Mayhem) to investing in achieving racial equity in craft beer. This year, BrewDog partnered with Crown & Hops Brewing Co. on the 8 Trill Pils Initiative (named after a statistic which suggests that the U.S. stands to realize an $8 trillion gain in GDP by closing the racial equity gap by 2050). The initiative awarded a total of a $100,000 to five Black-owned craft beer businesses in 2020 to provide financial support for business development, growth and sustainability.

And as Watt and Dickie write in Craft Beer for the Geeks, “craft beer is powered by people,” a common sentiment that the brewery takes to the next level. Take their Equity for Punks program. The multi-round crowdfunding effort has brought in over $100 million since 2009 and recently pivoted to become Equity for Punks Tomorrow, emphasizing BrewDog’s dedication to sustainability. Every penny the program raises will go toward investing in projects like alternative energy, electric delivery vehicles and a 2,050-acre carbon sink in the Scottish Highlands dubbed BrewDog Forest. And with consumers becoming increasingly concerned about the impact their beer of choice has on the environment, BrewDog took steps to make their business carbon negative, meaning they have the net effect of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But enough about BrewDog’s trailblazing initiatives – what about the book? Reading like a gently meandering conversation with friends over a pint, Craft Beer for the Geeks is many things: a love letter to beer geeks, a forum for Watt and Dickie to praise their brewing heroes, even a recipe book – whether you want to whip together a batch of five alarm chili or BrewDog’s Punk IPA. Yes, you read that right. Craft Beer for the Geeks includes excerpts from the brewery’s popular DIY Dog program, a totally free collection of homebrew-ready recipes for every beer they’ve ever brewed.

The book also contains some hot takes, especially about the mass-produced lagers that led the rebellious founders to start their brewery. Though the majority
of Craft Beer for the Geeks is a conversational exploration of craft, the claws come out when Watt and Dickie discuss Big Beer. These punks have no time for corporations that buy up craft breweries or produce “pseudo-craft” brands – the only good thing BrewDog has to say about their corporate cousins is that the emphasis they put on the cold chain helps keep beer fresh.

Yet, as Watt and Dickie themselves point out, 90% of the beer enjoyed world-wide is lager. So, are their gripes just sour grapes? That’s up to the reader to decide, but we prefer to focus on the passion of these self-professed beer geeks, passion that drove Watt and Dickie to produce some of the world’s most groundbreaking brews. Say what you will about Big Beer, but they never produced a 55% ABV ale packaged in taxidermized squirrels or brewed a beer at the bottom of the ocean just for fun. That kind of thing is for the geeks.

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Draught Lines is a seasonal magazine dedicated to the craft beer experience.