By Alex McCann
James Watt of BrewDog wants travelers to disregard an instinct they might not be used to ignoring. He would encourage his guests to open the mini fridge in their hotel room instead of fearing a charge when they open them.
If you’re staying at BrewDog’s DogHouse in Canal Winchester, you’re going to want to take a look inside the fridge.
While staying in one of the DogHouse’s 32 rooms, guests can crack open the mini fridge, for no added cost, to access a selection of BrewDog’s beers—and that’s just the beginning of the hop-filled fun that could include DogHouse patrons sipping stouts and ales with their bacon and eggs as well as with their midnight snacks.
Taps in each room are personalized to visitors’ preferences. The rooms, located adjacent to BrewDog’s Columbus brewery, are within smelling distance of vats of freshly brewed beer. When it’s time to wash up, the rooms’ showers feature craft beer soaps and a second fridge full of beer. (Don’t worry, only pure water cascades out of the rainfall showerheads.)
For those who drink, sleep and bathe in beer, this is a pilgrimage that’s worth undertaking—and for those in Southeast Ohio, it’s only an hour up state Route 33.
Canal Winchester sits simultaneously in Fairfield and Franklin counties, smack dab in the gray area between Southeast Ohio and Central Ohio. According to the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society, the history of the town involves land and legacy. In 1828, when Reuben Dove became enraged that the construction of the Ohio & Erie Canal ran through his wheat field, the canal builders suggested he build a town instead of suing the state. Dove named that town Winchester. “Canal” was added in 1841 to distinguish it from the five other Winchesters in the state.
So why would BrewDog—a multinational, independent brewing company that’s based in Scotland and operates bars everywhere from Barcelona to Budapest—choose a humble suburb of Columbus for its U.S. base of operations and its signature beer hotel?
That’s a question Scottish owner and founder James Watt is accustomed to answering.
On May 5, 2015, Watt sent out a tweet from @BrewDogJames: “What are the best beer bars to check out in Columbus?” Watt received dozens and dozens of suggestions.
“My phone just blew up with replies—the community was massively welcoming, and the beer scene was just next level,” Watt says.
Expanding to the U.S. was already on Watt’s mind. Now, Columbus was on his radar, too.
With the DogHouse, Watt intended to create a hotel for people like him: beer nuts. “The DogHouse has always been a dream of ours, to create a beer utopia for people who are just as passionate about craft beer as we are,” Watt says.
But creating a “beer utopia” is no small affair. Watt met with Columbus’ mayor at the time, Michael Coleman, to discuss how BrewDog could operate in the area. By October 2015—just five months after Watt’s initial trip to Columbus—they broke ground on the Columbus BrewDog location.
Since then, Watt has developed the DogHouse, a brewery, and a 6,000-square-foot beer museum at that location. The museum takes DogHouse guests and visitors even deeper into the brewing process, going back through the history of brewing and how it relates and influences even the most modern variants of IPAs.
“Plus, you can take a tour with a beer in hand—I bet they don’t let you do that at the Smithsonian,” Watt says.
All those amenities were partially funded by a crowdfunded campaign that was so successful it surprised even Watt, who thought he already knew how passionate the community was. The initial goal of the campaign was to raise $75,000 in 30 days, a reasonable but somewhat lofty achievement.
“The campaign blew up,” Watt says.
Within a week, BrewDog had raised $160,000—more than double the goal, and in a quarter of the time. The company eventually increased the goal and finished the crowdfunding with more than $300,000 in its pockets.
Watt thanks the “global community of beer evangelists” for the success of the campaign and the resulting reality of a “beer utopia” vision.
While Watt says Canal Winchester is just the beginning for BrewDog’s U.S. operations and for DogHouse locations, he can’t yet divulge where the next stop on the beer train is.
For now, though, he’s created a land of magic for beer enthusiasts around Ohio—a haven for those who crave a cold lager every minute of the day.
“This is the hoppiest place on Earth,” Watt says.