Brewdog flouted US laws over beer imports

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Chippy_Tea

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Scottish beer giant Brewdog sent multiple shipments of beer to the US, in contravention of US federal laws, a BBC investigation has found.

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Staff at its Ellon brewery told the BBC they were put under pressure in 2016 and 2017 to ship beer with ingredients that had not been legally approved.
One US-based importer said they had been deceived by Brewdog.

In a social media post on Wednesday, Brewdog CEO James Watt admitted to "taking shortcuts" with the process.
BBC Scotland's Disclosure programme has been told that staff at the Ellon brewery in Aberdeenshire knew that two of its flagship products, Elvis Juice and Jet Black Heart, contained extracts which would not be approved in the US.
One former worker told the investigation: "The pressure was enormous. 'Just make it happen', that was the culture. It was clear to us this was coming from the top - from James [Watt]."
Another said: "We were continually told to ship beer to the USA, despite everyone knowing the beers hadn't been approved.
"Everyone was worried they'd be [fired] if they didn't do what was asked."

The BBC has seen evidence that suggests US treasury officials from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) were given false information on at least five occasions during a six-month period, which meant that potentially hundreds of kegs of beer were sent with incorrect labelling - a violation of TTB laws.

All beer imported to the US needs to be declared to the TTB and given an official label before being shipped.
UK breweries provide the details of their beers to a US-based importer, who make the label application on the brewery's behalf.
If the beer has any unusual ingredients, like flavourings or extracts, these need to be declared so that a special label, referencing the beer's formula, can be approved before it can be shipped.
Each extract needs to be deemed safe for consumption in the US before an approval is granted, and this process can sometimes take months.
False information provided to the TTB can be prosecuted under US perjury laws.

Brewdog sources have told the BBC that the only way to have shipped Elvis Juice and Jet Black Heart to the US in that period was to not declare the extracts.
Former TTB labelling specialist Battle Martin said: "I think it's serious. There's a lot of people out there putting a lot of effort into complying with the regulations.
"There has been a deception here," he said. "In my view, based on the number of products and based on the number of times this has happened, I think it warrants further investigation, because it shows a pattern."
The claims are to be broadcast as part of a 60-minute documentary on BBC One Scotland on Monday 24 January at 19:00.
The BBC wrote to Brewdog last week detailing its allegations.
In a LinkedIn post on Wednesday - entitled My Biggest Mistakes As Brewdog CEO - Mr Watt said: "We made some mistakes with the paperwork on the first few shipments [to the US] …all taxes were paid in full, but the paperwork was not always correct."
"In hindsight, there were oversights ... due to the fact we were trying to run a growing business on one side of the Atlantic and start a new business on the other."
Mr Watt said the company self-reported the issue to the TTB, who told Brewdog there would be no further action taken.
It is not clear if Brewdog self-reported the issue at the time, or after the BBC wrote to them.
The TTB told the BBC that a three-year statute of limitations prevented any enforcement action being taken, and in any case, it would have to have been initiated against the US-based importer, who is legally responsible for the shipments.
Importers face losing their import licence for serious breaches of TTB regulations.
Mr Watt said Brewdog had consulted a lawyer who believed the errors made would not risk an importer's licence.


Daniel Shelton, who imported one shipment for Brewdog, said he was deceived by the company.
He said: "I was misled. I had every reason to believe that they would tell the truth.
"We believed what we were told and we weren't told what was actually going on.
"They did lead somebody in my company to falsify documents. And, of course, I'm not happy about that; I don't respect that, I don't like it."
Another importer, Massachusetts-based MHW, told the BBC: "Our focus is to comply with all Federal and State laws and we rely on all our suppliers for whom we import to provide truthful and accurate information as to all the ingredients in their products so we can determine the required Federal compliance processes to be executed.
"Regarding the two products in question, we executed the Federal compliance based on the information provided by the supplier at the time, which we believed to be truthful and accurate."


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Brewnaldo

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Keep it coming. Maybe someone can make money bottling the tears of all the "equity punks" that bought into their wee cult.
 
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Four years old "news "...
I would add it's a shame how two homebrewers who done quite alright for themselves get so much grief.
There's loads of big,household name companies out there most of us use every week who have worse track records.
And if there was a forum for that type of product then they would get a slamming there. Our interest is beer, these guys, homebrewers or not are shameful and their business as.out grown them and their ability.
 
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I see now they've something wrong, it's 'Scottish' beer giant Brewdog, rather than British beer giant Brewdog...

Andy Murray Syndrome! :D
More to do with where it's coming from :
The claims are to be broadcast as part of a 60-minute documentary on BBC One Scotland on Monday 24 January at 19:00.

Four years old "news "...
That's to do with the fact that there's a three-year statute of limitations for this stuff in the US, so they're safe now. But it's shocking from a reputation POV, no distributor will want to work with them now that they've admitted they were lying to distributors about something the distributor is legally liable for.
 
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I don't recall seeing "Brewdog" here. I'm going to look to see if I can find it.
As far as the article above, it depends on what ingredients, exactly, were not approved, meaning. I would find it hard to get worked up over it unless it's something dangerous which I also find hard to imagine.
 
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I don't recall seeing "Brewdog" here. I'm going to look to see if I can find it.
They're one of the leaders of the 21st-century "craft" movement in the UK, who take pride in positioning themselves as the underdog and "punk" but they're now producing 800,000hl (~barrels) per year, which make them arguably the biggest "British" brewery - they're bigger than Bell's, about 2/3 the size of Sierra Nevada.

They have a 100,000hl brewery in Columbus, Ohio so I imagine it should be relatively easy for you to find?

They've got a bit of a reputation for "edginess" turning into "behaving like dicks", with allegations of a toxic culture of systematic sexism and more during the brewing "MeToo" moment a year ago. Which is why it's no surprise that they're prepared to break US food laws in order to get that sale.

Europe has much stricter regulations on what they allow versus what we do. That's why I'm wondering "what ingredients"?
Hmm - I think just "different", and in some ways the US laws, particularly in relation to alcohol, can be much "pickier".

Since the two beers mentioned are a grapefruit IPA and a vanilla milk stout, I would guess that the grapefruit peel and either lactose or vanilla are from a European source that hadn't gone through US approval at the time, and the TTB would insist on equivalence being demonstrated before letting them in.
 
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@Northern_Brewer
Based on what you said (and I seem to recall them being rebels now that you mention it), it's not a place I'd want to give business to. Regardless of my feelings, if what they did is as harmless as it appears, I say give them a $10K fine (slap on the wrist) and be done with it. If Americans want to buy product from a place that appears to be run by jerks, so be it; they probably would garner respect and admiration for their behavior with a lot of people here.
I'm not a good example of an American homebrewer, I think, in that I know surprisingly few brands. Part of it is the branding--too-fancy cans I have to spend time to read the font--and partly I buy two-three kinds of beer. I run between Belgian Triples, Imperial Stouts and Old Ales.
As far as who is looking out for their country better regarding food rules, I'm not that up on it. Perceptually, I thought you had us beat by 1.61KM.
 
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if what they did is as harmless as it appears, I say give them a $10K fine (slap on the wrist) and be done with it.
Too late now, it's been lost to the statute of limitations. The bigger hit is in getting a reputation for screwing their distributors, in the US and beyond. But I guess they're big enough now that they don't really care.

As far as who is looking out for their country better regarding food rules, I'm not that up on it. Perceptually, I thought you had us beat by 1.61KM.
When it comes to eg microbiology, you guys are way behind. The US stats for food poisoning are amazing, something like 45% of USians get food poisoning each year, compared to 5% of Europeans or something like that. (don't quote me) For ingredients I suspect it's more of a wash, this is more about getting caught up in the red tape of US brewing, which is a total mess - you guys have way more red tape, and variation in red tape between states, than the EU has between countries.
 
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This one's turning out to be "there is no such thing as bad publicity." With what most would consider a minor offense, it won't stick negatively. I never heard of them before. If I had, they were a quiet noise in the background.
Now, I know a little more and was curious about their line of product.
Granted, there wasn't one product they sell that I would drink (juicy, hazy, sour, chocolate cake type of things), but I did look.
 

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