Before I start, I have to emphasize that I thoroughly enjoy Diageo products. They are the largest producer of spirits and one of the major producers of wine and beer. Diageo currently holds the brands of one of my favorite scotches (Talisker) and an exceptional beer (Red Stripe). I have also supported Johnnie Walker for some time and have even written about my experience at their free tastings. I usually have nothing but great things to say about Diageo. That being said, what a bunch of fucking assholes.
It was recently brought to my attention that Diageo may have done some unethical and clearly shitty things at the 2012 British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) Scotland Annual Awards. The article that I read, “Beverage Giant Diageo Screws Independent Brewer At Scottish Awards Show” by Dave Leiberman, concisely recapped the issue. Apparently, a Scottish independent brewery by the name of BrewDog was set to win “Bar Operator of the Year” at the show. However, Diageo saw it fit to threaten to to pull their support from the show and any following event that the BII would put on if BrewDog was announced the winner. At this point, I am trying to be unbiased. I don’t like huge corporations to begin with, especially when accused of something bad, so it’s very hard for me to keep a level head. I decide to look into it, I don’t want to blame anyone unjustly. I was not attempting to demonize Diageo. Unfortunately, they did it themselves.
BrewDog posted a blog going into detail about what happened. Not only were the rumblings of them winning the award true, but the trophy already bared the brewery’s name. The “new winners” refused to accept the award for this reason. On top of this, the BII reached out to the brewery, apologizing for their decision. They were quoted: “We are all ashamed and embarrassed about what happened“. There seems to be no ill will towards the BII from BrewDog, seeing as how the brewery went on to say:
“We would like to thank Kenny Mitchell and the BII for their refreshing honesty here and for initially giving the award to BrewDog before their overbearing and blackmailing sponsor undermined the independent judging process completely by bullying them at the last minute to deny BrewDog of an award they rightfully won.”
The blog post goes on and tears Diageo a new one, right fully so. James Watt (Captain, Co-Founder, and writer of the post) used words like “rabid dog”, “wart hog”, “dishonest hammerheads” and “dumb ass” to describe Diageo. They seem all too kind considering the complete disregard for ethics and decent behavior that Diageo has exhibited.
Diageo responded to 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”. Quick and to the point. They might as well have said: “Sorry for screwing you over BrewDog. Sorry for blackmailing you BII. Our bad.” Big companies have the ability to do these sort of things, to use their status against striving independent companies that have not reached the all too great heights that the behemoths have. Just because they have the ability, it does no mean that they should wield it with such indifference. Clearly big companies have and can use their power for “good”, but cases like these diminish any positive reputation they have accumulated. Additionally, Diageo has tarnished the reputation of the BII, putting them in a position where they couldn’t say no. There is so much that Diageo has simply fucked up here that it’s unbelievable.
Unfortunately, big corporations have so much power that it is nearly impossible to get out from underneath them. I most likely will not stop buying their products. They control so many brands that if I were to boycott them, I would surely unwittingly buy some random drink that contains a Diageo product and be a hypocrite anyway. Plus, boycotts are rarely effective and I generally dislike this sort of negative method of eliciting change. Then again, Diageo does produce Rumple Minze, so fuck them (I really don’t like Rumple Minze).
However, what I will do is support BrewDog and other independent brewers. Better that some positivity come out of this than any more negativity (sorry about all the cursing/bashing/sarcasm Diageo). Visit the BrewDog website and go buy their beer or beer paraphernalia. You can also check them out on twitter @brewdog.