A recent roadtrip presented an opportunity for some Brewdogging in Central Ohio. A friend of mine who is a shareholder in Brewdog told me about their building a U.S. brewery near Columbus and that their brewery complex incorporates what the company calls “the world’s first craft beer hotel.” Branded as “The Doghouse,” it offers 20 guest rooms and twelve suites for overnight stays.
Although the Doghouse is probably unique in the way it has been implemented, it seemed to me to be a pretty big stretch to call it the world’s first craft beer hotel. Brewery inns are a venerable tradition in other parts of the world and I’ve enjoyed staying in them since well before Brewdog’s existence. The hype is no surprise given Brewdog’s aggressive approach to spinning marketing claims – part of their “punk” branding I guess.
The Doghouse experience begins with check-in at a modest bar and the offer of a beer – a great start! The modern lobby had the feel of a co-work space with a viewing window to the brewery’s huge souring facility called OverWorks. OverWorks features a bunch of 90-barrel foeders along with hundreds of oak barrels. Making my way to my room entailed a short elevator ride to an open walkway inside of the same warehouse. There was a pleasant aroma in the air. The room was spacious and had a nice, hip beer vibe going. Unique appointments included a mini keg tap, a modern version of a turntable for playing vinyl albums, a small selection of albums (by artists I had vaguely heard of) to play on the turntable, a guitar to play along with the music, a stocked beer fridge in the bathroom, beer-based bodywash, shampoo, & conditioner, books on beery topics, and a minibar stocked with Brewdog selections. All these things lend a pleasant beery vibe to the place.
I did not use the tap and I doubt I would unless it was an extended stay or I was holding a party in the room. I also wish that I had brought some of my own vinyl – maybe a Franzl Lang album? Now that would be punk in my book!
The on-site amenities outside of the Doghouse are pretty nice, too. The brewery lobby enters into a well-done brewing museum with many interesting displays about beer, brewing ingredients & processes, and the Brewdog company. It is a free, self-guided affair and you can get a beer in the lobby to keep you company. There is also a taproom/pub you enter from the lobby. There are lots of taps and there is a pleasant outdoor component. An upper level provides a view into the brewery in case you like to see that and are there on a day when no tour is offered (as I was).
In addition to their brewery, Brewdog also has a couple of standalone taprooms in the Columbus area and one of them features another two suite lodging upstairs called The Columbus Kennels. I didn’t make it there, but this looks to be located in a more walkable area.
The energy behind the Brewdog enterprise is admirable but it sometimes makes me wonder whether their primary focus is marketing or brewing great beers. What they call punkish often seems to me to be more “stuntish” — or maybe they are just billion-dollar punks.
I was looking for a hike or a bike ride I could do without driving but neither the young lady who checked me in nor the beertender could think of anything other than short strolls on the expansive grounds. It is a big brewery in what probably used to be a cornfield and they told me that they are growing hops out in the back. As is often the case, I look on the map to see whether there are other close-by breweries and then map a route. Brewdog is near a traditional old town center called Canal Winchester where there is a brewpub so I charted a route. The route isn’t the most scenic, but there are nice spots here and there. Leaving Brewdog the ride passes through the congestion of various strip retail and chain businesses before getting to Canal Winchester. From there, it is a bit more interesting and if nothing else, good exercise.
Loose Rail Brewing is housed in a re-purposed 100+ year old building that once was the power house for the Ohio Valley Traction Company, an interurban trolley that operated in the area. Canal Winchester takes its name from the town’s location on the Ohio & Erie Canal – a transportation link to Lake Erie. The Loose Rail range features mostly ales.
I love the idea of breweries you can stay at or near. There must be many breweries out there that have spare rooms upstairs, are near an underutilized building, or are near an existing lodging that could use an additional marketing angle. Google the phrase “destination breweries” and you’ll return a list of several lists of what other people think are “destination breweries”. I looked at a few of these lists and they tend to be theme parky in the places they think qualify – I don’t think that is necessary. In my own (admittedly quirky) view, an interesting destination brewery has the following attributes:
- Good beer
- A cozy place to stay either in the brewery or within easy walking distance. It is a nice bonus if there is a tie-in to beer culture in the lodging.
- Welcoming hospitality both at the lodging and the taproom
- A nice option or two for a pleasant hike or bike ride
- An interesting pedestrian area within walking distance is a bonus and results in staying more nights. “Interesting” in this context means there are additional shopping, dining, cultural, and entertainment options beyond the brewery.
As you may have gathered by now, I am always on the lookout for destination breweries to visit. Destination breweries will become a bigger deal in the future.
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