BrewDog has said it plans to brew in China as part of a deal with Budweiser China to expand sales in the world’s biggest market for beer.
Budweiser China will start brewing BrewDog’s Punk IPA, Hazy Jane and Elvis Juice beers by the end of March at its Putian Craft Brewery near China’s south-east coast, the companies announced on Monday.
BrewDog is focusing on international expansion after a difficult few years in the UK. The company, headquartered in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, in December lost its status as a ethically certified B Corp after complaints over its treatment of workers. BrewDog apologised to employees in 2021 after a group wrote an open letter accusing the company of creating a “culture of fear” within the business.
It has also faced other missteps more recently, including a badly received advertising campaign focused on workers’ rights at the football World Cup in Qatar, and a “solid gold” beer can giveaway that was in fact brass plated with gold. James Watt, one of BrewDog’s founders, ended up paying winners of the promotion nearly £500,000 from his own pocket after some complained.
Watt said the company was focusing on international expansion in part because “the environment is very challenging in the UK”, in an interview with the Financial Times.
BrewDog already produces its beers in the US, Germany and Australia, allowing the company to get products to customers more quickly and reducing the costs and carbon emissions associated with shipping around the world.
The company has also agreed a deal with an unnamed affiliate of Budweiser China to expand BrewDog in South Korea, with options to collaborate in other Asian markets, the announcement said. BrewDog has another joint venture in Japan with Asahi. It said that Japanese sales have doubled since the deal was announced in September 2021.
The China deal will allow BrewDog to use “Budweiser China’s extensive sales and distribution network” to win a portion of the fast-growing market for “craft beer” – a term generally used for beers that deviate from the milder flavours of the biggest brands of lager. Budweiser China is part of a group majority-owned by AB Inbev, the world’s largest brewer.
BrewDog will open nine more bars in China, adding to one in Shanghai. The company runs 110 bars around the world.
Watt said: “We are very excited about further expansion into China. This is a genuinely transformational partnership which is going to bring BrewDog to every corner of the world’s biggest beer market, from a truly bespoke craft brewery which will help ensure the quality of our beers.”
He added: “Chinese drinkers love craft beer, but the sector is still very new.”