breweries marketing

Pondering BrewDog Brewing Stone

When BrewDog announced that it would be brewing a version of American brewery Stone’s famous Arrogant Bastard Ale, it set us pondering.

And despite what seemed to us a prickly reaction from BrewDog employees and loyalists when we said so on Twitter, we do just mean pondering — our reaction was not instinctively negative. That’s because we think, in certain circumstances, played the right way, brewing beers under licence on other continents might be a pretty good idea, especially if it means we get them (a) fresher and (b) cheaper.

We don’t, for example, have a fundamental problem with Shepherd Neame brewing Sam Adams Boston Lager in Kent — it’s just that we don’t trust that particular brewery to do it well, or to be clear with customers at the point of sale (POS) — we suspect lots of people buy the UK-brewed variant thinking they’re getting a ‘premium’ imported product.

We’re confident that BrewDog, however, will make a good stab at replicating the original Arrogant Bastard, or at least capturing its spirit; and both they and Stone are making a point of being highly transparent, which we expect to (hope will) carry through to POS materials in BrewDog bars.

What happens in future, when this one-off is over, is when it will really get interesting: it’s hard not to see this, and BrewDog’s recent homage to Stone’s Enjoy By, as test projects on the path towards a more permanent, longer-term licence-brewing agreement which will see BrewDog producing Stone beers for the wider UK market.

In other words, we’re not convinced, despite the talk of ‘experiments’ and ‘journeys’, that this is anything other than (very sensible, perfectly legitimate) business, which might or might not be good news for consumers depending on how it is handled.

18 replies on “Pondering BrewDog Brewing Stone”

With Stone Berlin set to open next year (I think), would there be a need for BUL, or would that not cater for Europe’s demand for Stone beers

We *think* there would still be a financial benefit to brewing in the UK rather than Germany – we can’t get German or Belgian beer cheap here in the UK cos the alcohol tax is topped up on import. (Have we got that right?)

But it might just be some arrangement for a particular beer or two, specifically for BrewDog bars, or even Wetherspoon.

Or maybe we’re way off the mark.

(very sensible, perfectly legitimate) business, which might or might not be good news for consumers

Blimey! Are you sure you want to stir up this much controversy so soon after starting up again?

Mere sarcasm, I’m afraid – it seemed like the mildest, most balanced, least provocative conclusion anyone could possibly come to. Which doesn’t mean it’s wrong – or, for that matter, that it won’t get somebody riled.

weird. Why buy stone branded beer brewed by brewdog when you can buy brewdog branded beer brewed by brewdog. Its not like it tastes a whole lot different if we’re honest. Is it Stone beer brewed at Brewdog, or Brewdog beer branded as Stone? What’s the difference?

We should have more brewery branding swaps like this. Adnams to start brewing Fullers beers and Fullers to brew Adnams. Lets see if anyone notices.

It’s an odd choice given Stone is a slightly tired brand now. But its not really about bleeding edge of anything, just a safe marriage of loud brands. I’d love to know more about what this means: “a good stab at replicating the original Arrogant Bastard, or at least capturing its spirit.” It’s not really that hard to replicate so why do you expect them to miss the mark?

It doesn’t seem to be that easy to replicate exactly even quite straightforward beers — what was that story about Sierra Nevada struggling to nail Pale Ale when they changed the shape/size of the fermenting vessels?

Certainly Shepherd Neame’s take on Sam Adams is by most accounts quite different, though we haven’t side-by-sided ourselves.

If it was, say, Greene King rather than BrewDog brewing AB, we might expect it to be toned down considerably.

I suspect your second example was a tweet to local tastes given how Sam Adams is a bit of a dull beer in its native environment. And I would guess the SN story is really PR puff. Nothing like overcoming difficulty even when manufactured to keep your large industrial enterprise appear to be the small operation you pretend it to be. I presume brewers at this scale with their skill, equipment and labs resources can hit within a tenth of an IBU. Deviations are to taste. Habit if not intention.

The comment about Sierra Nevada struggling for PR purposes seems plain silly. Any new brewery has to be conditioned and dialed-in to account for many factors, water constitution, shape and quality of the vessels, even geographical elevation. This doesn’t seem like a PR angle to me in the sense that I’ve never heard of a different scenario playing out for any new brewery.

They did everything they could manage to eliminate external factors, such as shipping hops and grain from the exact same lots (not just the same growers, but actual lots) in order to focus on technical aspects that might otherwise go unnoticed when replicating the recipe.

Oh dear. We do live in hope. No one said struggling. Feeding puff to the marketplace for the susceptible. They are excellent brewers. And as has been observed many times, a good brewer is one who makes the same excellent beer even with crappy ingredients. I am sure they cracked this nut with little sweat. But, yes, some opportunity on the PR front.

I’m slightly puzzled. Like Barry M, I was under the impression that Stone’s new plant in Berlin was the way forward for them in Europe. Isn’t there talk of other US brewers doing likewise?

Some proper context for this seems in order

Stone is taking Arrogant Bastard on a “road trip” of sorts, inviting breweries across the U.S. (and Brew Dog) to brew a batch of the famous beer. It’s a bit of collaborative marketing.

While I wouldn’t rule out a future contract brew relationship, that’s doesn’t seem to be the goal here.

Arrogant Bastard is a bit of a declining brand for Stone, especially compared to recent successes like Go To IPA, Enjoy by, and even the Saison. This idea for Areogant Bastard seems aimed at reminding people about the brand and making some friends along the way, although I know plenty of breweries who have declined the offer.

It’s a bit too much like throwing yourself a party and inviting your friends to do all the work. Which I supoose is arrogant in its own right.

But the pondering over the nature and implications of a contract brewed Stone beer ongoing seem misplaced here. I don’t think either company is suggesting that (or at least hasn’t done so yet).

Hey Boak and Bailey,

I just wanted to add some clarity to a potentially confusing situation.

We have no intention of brewing any Stone beer under license.

This is just a one off beer as Stone’s Bastard Hits the Road program

We are just brewing one batch. Just for keg and just for our own bars.

I would imagine all Stone beers for Europe will be brewed in Berlin which is an awesome thing.

Keep up the good work – your beer blog rocks 🙂


Thanks for your input, James. Hopefully it was clear to people that we were just guessing about stuff — no insider knowledge claimed!

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