Read the Angry, Funny Letter From a Defiant Scottish Brewer Winning the Web

An Indie Beermaker Engages in Some David-vs.-Goliath Posturing

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This week Dead Pony Club, a beer from the independent Scottish brewery BrewDog, was slammed for "its association with bravado and immoderate consumption." But BrewDog, a famously puckish brand that recently released a brew mocking Vladimir Putin, decided to apologize to its antagonist, U.K. trade association the Portman Group.

Er, make that "apologize."

"On behalf of BrewDog PLC and its 14,691 individual shareholders, I would like to issue a formal apology to the Portman Group for not giving a shit about today's ruling," co-founder James Watt said in a statement. "Indeed, we are sorry for never giving a shit about anything the Portman Group has to say, and treating all of its statements with callous indifference and nonchalance."

"Unfortunately, the Portman Group is a gloomy gaggle of killjoy jobsworths, funded by navel-gazing international drinks giants," Watt went on. "Their raison d'être is to provide a diversion for the true evils of this industry, perpetrated by the gigantic faceless brands that pay their wages. Blinkered by this soulless mission, they treat beer drinkers like brain dead zombies and vilify creativity and competition. Therefore, we have never given a second thought to any of the grubby newspeak they disseminate periodically."

Watt goes on from there, believe it or not, also taking the regulatory body to task for objecting to another Dead Pony marketing phrase, "We believe faster is better," and suggesting that the Portman Group "should try and catch up with the rest of the world instead of insulting the intelligence of consumers with such a thin veneer of impartiality."

The Portman Group seems to have some teeth, telling licensees and retailers not to order Dead Pony Club any more.

But it's certainly not the end of the world for BrewDog. Beyond its core beers -- Dead Pony Club among them -- the indie brewery has introduced and discontinued all manner of cheekily named brews, including Clown King, Nanny State and Trashy Blonde. It also runs a chain of more than a dozen brewpubs throughout the U.K.

And with its delightful turns of phrase and David-vs.-Goliath posturing, Watt's open letter to the Portman Group is predictably being celebrated in social media, with Twitter users declaring it a "brilliant" and "beyond fantastic" response. Earlier today, BrewDog tweeted thanks to its supporters:

It should be noted, though, that not everyone is so charmed:

Indeed, Watt and his fellow BrewDog co-founder Martin Dickie -- who were notorious enough to land their own travel show, titled "Brew Dogs," on the Esquire Network -- are pretty clearly just borrowing from a well-thumbed (and still usually successful) marketing playbook.

P.S. It's worth adding here that five years ago, The Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Md., tussled with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission over its Raging Bitch Belgian-Style India Pale Ale, which the regulatory body banned after finding that its label was "detrimental to the health, safety, or welfare of the general public."

That label included this language: "Remember, enjoying a RAGING BITCH, unleashed, untamed, unbridled -- and in heat -- is pure GONZO."

As Ad Age's E.J. Schultz reported in June 2011, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission eventually reversed its ban, citing a Supreme Court ruling favoring commercial free speech rights over state regulations.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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