BBC report accuses BrewDog chief James Watt of 'inappropriate behavior'

The 59-minute documentary, dubbed 'The Truth About BrewDog,' includes interviews with more than a dozen former and current BrewDog USA employees

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
The BrewDog DogTap Columbus in Canal Winchester, Ohio.

A new report aired by the BBC news program "Disclosure" accuses BrewDog founder and CEO James Watt of engaging in patterns of "inappropriate behavior." 

The 59-minute documentary, dubbed "The Truth About BrewDog," includes interviews with more than a dozen former and current BrewDog USA employees, including staffers from the brewery's Franklinton taproom, as well as its flagship facility in Canal Winchester.

Some of the accusations made against Watt in the documentary include: 

  • Watt kissed an intoxicated customer.
  • Managers would adjust schedules so certain female employees were not present when Watt visited.
  • One bartender said she felt "powerless to avoid unwanted attention from Watt.

Katelynn Ising, who worked at the DogTap in Canal Winchester, said female staff would dress down when they knew Watt would be visiting. "We would make a point to warn new girls, like, 'Hey, just so you know, James Watt's coming to town," Isling told the BBC, adding that female staffers avoided doing their hair and makeup prior to Watt's visits to avoid "catch[ing] his attention."

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Watt declined to be interviewed by the BBC, but through his attorneys the CEO said the allegations were false and denied engaging in any inappropriate behavior.

The "Disclosure" team started to investigate BrewDog last year after a group of former employees signed a letter to Watt accusing the company of "fostering a culture of fear" and prioritizing growth at any cost.

“There’s this generally prevailing attitude of growth and production over everything: over safety, over employee retention, over professional development,” local brewer Doug Garrison told Alive in July 2021.

In response to the 2021 letter, BrewDog said it would be taking a number of actions, including bringing in Wiser, a global consultant group, to conduct a full review of the culture within BrewDog.

At the time, local brewer Kayla McGuire, who was also interviewed by the BBC, said she had considered looking for positions with another brewery, or even leaving the industry altogether, ultimately deciding to stick with BrewDog in the hopes of sparking a larger change within the company.

"If we’re not vocal, if we’re not actively working on it, then it’s not going to change for anybody," McGuire said in 2021. "I have to stay and make it better for the next person that comes in, because, ultimately, that’s going to make it better not just for women or queer people or people of color, but it’s going to be better for every single person who works in the industry."