The world according to James Watt

Adrian Tierney-Jones

Adrian Tierney-Jones

06 August 2019

BrewDog co-founder James Watt talks to Adrian Tierney-Jones about Captain Planet, ketchup and the North Atlantic


I studied law for four and a half years then spent a few years working on my family’s fishing boat. The North Atlantic in January is a tough place to be. A couple of times when I was out we lost one of the crew members, but on both occasions we were lucky to get them back.

My favourite TV cartoon character as a kid was Captain Planet. The show was on on Saturday mornings, one of the very few occasions when I was allowed to watch TV.

The first two batches of Punk IPA were a complete disaster. We had bought a very cheap piece of hose to connect to the fermenting tank and it made the beer taste like plastic.

With BrewDog Airlines, we wanted to put together an experience for the Equity Punk community. We had to charter a plane before we started selling tickets, but they sold out quickly and we have 500 people on the waiting list, so we’re doing this again.

There are a handful of things I would like to take back. For instance, we would absolutely not do Pink IPA again. Did we believe in the concept at the time? Yes. Did it work for us? No.

Between having ketchup or brown sauce with bacon sandwiches, it’s got to be ketchup. I used to have them on the fishing boat on long nights and we always had ketchup.

My first beer was Budweiser. I was 16. I tasted it and I thought, ‘What the hell is this? It’s terrible’.

When I am not drinking beer I drink bourbon Old Fashioneds – I love making them.

My advice for getting on in this business is: Don’t care what anyone thinks, don’t take no for an answer and act on your gut instinct.

BrewDog was a big gamble. As well as working on a fishing boat I was also getting more into the craft beer scene. When I went on the Stone Brewery website it blew my mind. I realised that beer didn’t have to be this mundane, watered-down thing.

If we wanted to sell this business we could have sold it 10 times over, but we’re still passionate about it as much as we were when we set it up 12 years ago.

James Watt's CV

2007 Set up BrewDog at age 24 with former Thornbridge brewer Martin Dickie in Fraserburgh, Scotland
2009 BrewDog clash with the Portman Group over the release of the 18.2% abv Tokyo
2010 Opened the first BrewDog bar in Aberdeen.
Released the limited-run End of History, a 55% abv bottled beer packaged in stuffed stoats and grey squirrels
2011 Celebrated opening the first London BrewDog bar by driving a tank around Camden
2016 Awarded MBE along with Dickie
2018 Released Pink IPA for International Women’s Day but was criticised for it being a marketing stunt
2018 The DogHouse Hotel is opened at BrewDog’s North American brewery in Columbus
2019 Organised the inaugural flight of BrewDog airlines to Columbus with over 200 equity punks

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