BrewDog has defended the sale of its beer in Qatar, despite having launched a vocal protest campaign against the hosting of the FIFA World Cup in the country.

The Scottish craft brewer announced yesterday (7 November) it was to donate profits from the sale of its Lost Lager for the duration of the World Cup to charity. It described the move as an “anti-sponsorship” of the competition, aimed at highlighting alleged human rights violations in the country.

BrewDog said 6,500 workers have died in the building of stadiums in the Gulf state, while also highlighting the criminalisation of homosexuality and the use of corporal punishment in the country. According to an investigation by The Guardian, more than 6,500 workers have died since Qatar was awarded the World Cup in 2010.

“That’s why we’re kicking off,” the brewery said. “And we’re putting our money where our mouth is, with all the profits from our Lost Lager sold during the tournament going to fight human rights abuse.”

However, Just Drinks can confirm the Punk IPA brewer continues to profit from the sale of its beer in Qatar via an arrangement with a third-party distributor connected to the Qatari government.  

In a widely-shared image on social media, BrewDog beers were seen on sale in Qatari riyal currency (QAR), accompanied by a poster bearing the logo of the Qatar Distribution Company (QDC). The company is the sole authority in the state of Qatar for importing, distributing and retail selling alcohol and is a subsidiary of the Qatari government.

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QDC is also the permit-issuing authority for all individuals, hotels, clubs and restaurants in Qatar. Just Drinks understands BrewDog does not deal directly with QDC, instead selling its beer to a third-party distributor, which in turn sells to the state-owned alcohol authority.

In a statement to Just Drinks, BrewDog confirmed its beers were available for sale in Qatar but argued this “doesn’t mean it endorses human rights abuses” in the country.

“We are pleased our campaign has struck a nerve and successfully raised huge awareness of the continued human rights abuses in Qatar,” a spokesperson for BrewDog said. “We don’t sell direct to Qatar but we do have a relationship with a distributor that sells into multiple Middle Eastern markets, primarily into Dubai but including Qatar. Apple sells iPhones in Qatar – that doesn’t mean it endorses human rights abuses. Neither do we.

“We are doing our bit to raise awareness of these scandals and injustices and will keep doing so. If people want to attack brands, maybe they’d be better off turning their attention to the likes of adidas, Kia and Visa who are all official partners of FIFA.”

BrewDog will also continue to show matches from the World Cup in its UK bars, despite its criticism of the decision to host the tournament in Qatar. The brewery said it had made the decision to sell more Lost Lager so it could “raise a lot more money” for the unspecified charities throughout the competition.

“We thought long and hard about whether we wanted to show matches in our bars but decided to do so for two reasons,” BrewDog said. “One, if you love craft beer and you also love football you shouldn’t be denied the chance to enjoy them together just because FIFA is corrupt. Two, all profits from Lost Lager sold during the tournament will be donated to human rights charities. We will raise a lot more money if we show the matches in our bars.”

Earlier this year, BrewDog founder James Watt admitted to hiring digital investigative specialists to obtain information about former employees over an alleged “campaign of harassment” against him.

Watt said allegations of misconduct made against him were part of “a two-year-long coordinated criminal campaign” and vowed to protect his business from further reputational damage.

Last year, the BrewDog CEO was forced to apologise after an open letter from former employees was published alleging a “rotten culture” at the craft brewer. The letter, posted under the name ‘Punks With Purpose’, claimed the Scottish craft brewer is built around a “cult of personality” of Watt and fellow co-founder, Martin Dickie.

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