17 years after co-founding Scottish multinational brewery and pub chain BrewDog, CEO James Watt will step down from his position and assume a new role of ‘captain and co-founder.’

According to The Guardian, Watt informed the company board of his plans to step down last year, and COO James Arrow will take the reins as CEO. Watt will still own a 21-percent stake in BrewDog, and will remain active in company affairs and brand direction as a non-executive member.

“For almost 2 decades pretty much every second of my waking existence has been focused on this amazing business,” Watt wrote in a LinkedIn post. “During my time at the helm of BrewDog, there have been highs and lows, up and downs, crazy successes and incredibly hard challenges. When I look back on the last 17 years (119 Dog Years) my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude.”

BrewDog, started by Watt and Martin Dickie in a garage in Fraserburgh, was founded on anti-establishment ideals before rising to become one of the biggest names in the modern beer landscape. In addition to owning a distillery, cidery, several breweries, and hotels, it currently operates as the parent company of over 100 bars across the globe. As of 2012, the brand established its new headquarters in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

BrewDog — and Watt himself — have drawn criticism in recent years. In June 2021, an open letter signed by over 100 former employees accused Watt of creating a “culture of fear” in the workplace.

“You have inflated egos and fostered a culture within craft beer that deifies founders, and gives weight to sexist and misogynistic brewers who claim to be standing up for free speech,” the letter claimed. “You have become a lightning rod for some of the worst attitudes present on both the internet, and in real life.”

Watt has since apologized to staff, but the controversy has continued. In December 2022, BrewDog lost its B Corp certificate, which is given to companies with an ethical commitment to the environment, its staff, and community. In January 2024, BrewDog faced industry-wide backlash after revealing that it would stop hiring new staff on the U.K.’s established Real Living Wage, opting for a starting rate at the lower legal minimum wage.

What lies ahead for BrewDog? Time will tell. As for Watt, he plans to take “some time off for traveling & adventures,” and “[spend] more time with family & loved ones.”