Columbus Monthly's dining editor recalls 19 hours in BrewDog's beer hotel in Canal Winchester.
When I awoke in the middle of the night inside BrewDog's DogHouse, the room was black as stout—an attribute I love in hotels. The only light was coming from electric blue numbers on my bedroom's beer fridge, alerting me to its internal temperature: 39 degrees. There was something mischievous about these lights, which called out to me like the bottles in “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland”: Drink me. The fridge was stocked with cans of beer, and just above it was my in-room tap. I sleepily walked into the bathroom, where there was another beer cooler and more blue numbers that seemed to whisper: Hair of the dog? Go on, take one.
Welcome to Central Ohio's new beer hotel from the Scottish brewery BrewDog, where the smell of fermenting beer fills the hallways, and mini refrigerators tempt you at 3 a.m.
The craft beer company, founded by best friends Martin Dickie and James Watt, opened its 100,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters and brewhouse in Canal Winchester in 2017. Since then, the decade-old company hasn't stopped expanding its local footprint. Soon after the brewery landed in Canal, its restaurant and bar DogTap Columbus opened on the 42-acre campus. It added brewpubs in the Short North and Franklinton last spring, and opened the DogHouse hotel in August 2018 after raising $324,482 (more than 400 percent of its goal) through its Equity for Punks campaign on Indiegogo. Soon thereafter, the attached sour brewing facility, Overworks, started production. (Its brews won't be ready to bottle for several more months.)
Breweries attached to hotels and guesthouses are not exactly new. Europe is peppered with chateaus and monasteries where you can stay a night while enjoying the house ale brewed on premises. But after the world's first “crowdfunded craft beer hotel” opened in Ohio, it has been tough to resist. From the start, the DogHouse has garnered national media attention by promising its customers off-the-wall amenities: in-shower beers, drafts on tap in your room, access to limited-edition brews, dog-friendly rooms, brewery tours, malt massages at the spa and hot tubs filled with beer.
I wanted to know if the DogHouse was indeed worth the hoopla, so I asked my editor if I could spend a night there. Actually, I begged.
The Staycation Begins
The DogHouse is a boutique hotel with 32 rooms that are booked on weekends for the foreseeable future. I arrived at the BrewDog campus on a chilly Thursday afternoon, having reserved a standard room for one night. Certain rooms at the DogHouse allow dogs, but the hotel's more elaborate suites only allow human guests. One perk I wasn't going to pass up: having a growler of BrewDog's flagship beer, Punk IPA, on draft in my room for an additional fee of $16.
As I passed through DogTap's patio with my overnight bag at 4 p.m., the fire pits were already lit, a picnic table was set for a canine's birthday party (seriously), and I could see the property's dog park off to the right behind a pond. The hotel lobby was nearly empty when I arrived, except for a pair of welcoming bartenders behind the long bar, which operates as the front desk. And, as if he were placed there as a prop, there was Frank, a French mastiff with a hilarious underbite, sitting quietly next to his owners on a couch.
The attractive space was filled with black and brown leather Chesterfield sofas from Wayfair and wooden communal tables topped with games such as Connect Four and Scrabble. Light streamed in from the floor-to-ceiling garage doors in front, while the back of the lobby lent a first glimpse of the sour beer facility. There was a noticeable (and welcome) absence of TVs, a nonconformist touch that matches the BrewDog founders' ethos.
It was the kind of lobby I wanted to hang out in, especially when I saw the beer options. All beers at the hotel bar and in the room cost extra, but at check-in you're kindly offered a complimentary welcome beer. I picked the Clockwork Tangerine Session IPA and headed to my room.
A Hotel Fit for Smell-O-Vision
When the elevator doors opened on the second floor, the smell of fermentation immediately grabbed my attention. Not everyone will enjoy the hotel's persistent, yeasty aroma, but I imagine it's what heaven smells like to beer geeks. It was my first time in a hotel where a funky smell was both intentional and pleasant.
The door to my room was facing an atrium with great views into the Overworks sour facility filled with foeders (or large barrels) and wine barrels. When I entered my room, the first thing I did was gawk at the beer fridge next to the shower. The room was industrial, yet inviting, and decent in size. Then, because it was there, I poured myself a Punk IPA from my very own tap.
You won't find a Bible in the bedside table at the DogHouse, but you will find how-to books on sour beer, homebrewing magazines and, naturally, co-founder James Watt's book “Business for Punks,” described on Amazon as “an anarchic, DIY guide to entrepreneurship.”
It became clear early on that the DogHouse knows its target audience: You will be the focus of marketing efforts for all things beer when you stay there, from the lotion that uses BrewDog's grapefruit-forward Elvis Juice brew (made in partnership with the local Glenn Avenue Soap Co.) to the BrewDog-stocked bathroom beer cooler to the BrewDog-branded wall art. Some visitors may find it off-putting, but others embrace it and book another night.
At 5 p.m., I still hadn't finished my welcome beer or my bedroom pint, but it was time for my complimentary brewery tour. I walked over to the brewery's entrance and joined a small group of folks wearing fluorescent safety jackets and glasses. One was a brewer from Nashville, and another was a gentleman from Dublin celebrating his 74th birthday with his family. The tour guide handed us each a can of Punk IPA. I realized then that it was a bad idea to skip lunch.
Lasting almost an hour, the brewery tour was a real highlight of my stay. Our friendly and knowledgeable guide walked us through the 170-barrel brewhouse, an impressive forest of kettles, fermentation tanks, centrifuges, 5 miles of piping, canning equipment, empty cans, hoppy-malty aromas and metallic sounds. When the tour ended back at the DogHouse, one fellow invited the group up to check out his room—the prized 645-square-foot Brewmaster's Suite with windows that open into the Overworks facility. We snapped photos for posterity, and I enjoyed how the hotel seemed to stoke conversation and camaraderie: What are you drinking? What's your dog's name? Do you homebrew? Isn't this place wild?
Finding a meal was imperative at this point, so I bid my newfound tour buddies goodbye and met a friend for dinner at DogTap. We ordered more beer, smartly opting for BrewDog's Nanny State, a low-ABV pale ale.
Although BrewDog thrives on pushing boundaries, it's not evident in DogTap's food menu. The pizzas are adequate for soaking up alcohol (and the leftovers come in handy at midnight). There's a nice pretzel, and the mac 'n' cheese and tacos are pretty standard. Sure, these things go well with beer, but I wish BrewDog had infused its punk instinct into the restaurant. I would've loved to see true Scottish pub fare in Canal, instead of yet another tacos-pizzas-burgers spot.
After dinner and a game of table shuffleboard, I grabbed my leftover pizza and headed to the lobby bar, which stays open until 2:30 a.m. There was a smattering of guests there, so I sipped on a dense stout from the Canadian brewery Brasserie Dieu du Ciel, until I remembered it wasn't the weekend. Time to call it a night.
At this stage of the evening, I could've slept on plywood with a bit of straw, but one of the DogHouse's best amenities was its bed. The pillow-top king mattress was dressed with a slate gray duvet and comforter that offered the perfect weight. It was one of the most comfortable hotel beds I can remember, and I wish I'd booked a second night just to sleep in it. I turned off the red neon sign above my bed and quickly fell asleep.
Farewell to the DogHouse
After my middle-of-the-night reverie involving talking beer fridges, I awoke the next morning with absolutely no intention of using the running shoes that I'd so dutifully packed. But for those interested, there is a small fitness room decked out with Rogue Fitness equipment.
Instead, I headed to the lobby for a nice continental breakfast that runs 7 to 11 a.m. I went straight for the tasty French toast strata and Stauf's coffee (also available in the room). As I checked out at 11 a.m., I recalled some of those much-touted amenities that didn't pan out: Thankfully, perhaps, the health department objected to the suds-filled hot tubs. The spa with its malty massages “may happen one day,” an employee told me, but not yet.
Looking back on my stay in the DogHouse, I feel like an abettor to one of BrewDog's biggest marketing stunts. That said, it was an interesting experience that I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys the science of brewing and drinking the results. BrewDog may be a company that espouses recklessness and action over thoughtful deliberation, but its first-ever hotel doesn't feel like a rush job. It was apparent that the staff I met like where they work—that kind of positivity rubs off on the guest experience. I'm glad that I don't have funky brewery odors and an on-demand tap in my bedroom, but for one night it was a treat.