Sunday May 6th was the 2012 BII Scotland Annual Awards, put on by the BII organization. The awards are designed to “celebrate success in the license trade in Scotland” and BII states its mission is “to raise standards in licensed retail” but this past weekend not only was that mission not met, but the organization took a huge blow to its credibility by succumbing to corporate bullying and petty blackmail.
The independent craft beer company BrewDog, Scotland’s largest independent brewery, which also runs four BrewDog craft beer bars in the United Kingdom was nominated for the “Bar Operator of the Year” category at the Awards, and were expected to do quite well.
In fact, according to judges on the independent judging panel BrewDog was actually the clear winner, and they voted as such. The trophy for the award was even engraved with “BrewDog” as the winners, but when it came time to announce it, the award went to someone else – much to the disappointment of BrewDog and the puzzlement of the judges from the independent panel.
The named recipients even refused to accept the award, as (after seeing the trophy) they knew it did not belong to them, and that there must have been some sort of mistake.
So what happened?
Well, apparently Diageo – the spirit, beer, and wine company that makes Guinness, Hennessy, Baileys, Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo, Smirnoff, Red Stripe, Kilkenny, Harp, Johnnie Walker, and Buchanan’s (amongst many, many others) – was the main sponsor of the event, and expressly told the awards organizers that BrewDog could not be given the award, or they would pull their sponsorship from all future events.
This was directly admitted by Kenny Mitchell, Chairman of the BII in Scotland and Chairman of the Award Committee, on the phone in a call to BrewDog on Tuesday, May 8th.
We are all ashamed and embarrassed about what happened. The awards have to be an independent process and BrewDog were the clear winner.
Diageo [the main sponsor] approached us at the start of the meal and said under no circumstances could the award be given to BrewDog. They said if this happened they would pull their sponsorship from all future BII events and their representatives would not present any of the awards on the evening.
We were as gobsmacked as you by Diageo’s behaviour. We made the wrong decision under extreme pressure. We should have stuck to our guns and gave the award to BrewDog.
Diageo issued the following statement, admitting culpability and apologizing for the incident:
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. We would like to apologise to BrewDog and to the British Institute of Innkeeping for this error of judgement.
BrewDog has expressed their thanks to Kenny Mitchell and BII for their honest in the matter, and not attempting to cover up the incident. Though obviously they are (rightly) upset that a spiteful sponsor was able to bully them out of an award they worked hard for and won fair and square.
BrewDog co-founder James had the following to say to Diago on the website’s blog:
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.
If you are interested in expressing your outrage to Diageo for their deplorable behavior, we suggest contacting them through their website and letting them know that this type of corporate bullying is shameful and unacceptable. If you are curious what their full product line-up is so you can avoid their brands in the future, you can view that information here.
To learn more about BrewDog’s bars and craft beers, you can visit their website here.