Inside The Craft Brewery That's Gone To The Dogs

Mar 16, 2017

Sitting at a table in the BrewDog tap room, Ryan Toledo and Ason Sunkle have set up shop with a couple of beers and a game of checkers. Laying besides them is Toledo's black lab, Sven - an odd sight at most bars, but par for the course at this brewery.

"This would be the first time I could say I brought him to get a beer," Toledo says.

BrewDog has been packed almost every weekend in Canal Winchester since opening its doors in February. Even on a Tuesday, Toledo and Sunkle - who live just around the corner - are happy to spend an overcast afternoon in the tap room. And BrewDog's acceptance of furry friends just makes it more appealing.

"Every single bar we have around the world, and we have over 45 bars around the world - we allow dogs to come in," says Ben Stewart, BrewDog USA's head of sales and marketing.

The craft beer company is based in Ellen, Scotland, but picked Canal Winchester to house its first American brewery and U.S. headquarters. At 100,000 square feet, the facility will handle four of the company's beers to start, including their flagship Punk IPA. 

When BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie were looking at the American market with the hopes of producing domestically, it was Columbus' overabundance of local breweries that attracted them here.

"It just means that the consumer here is already educated," Stewart says. "Back in the U.K., we were about 10 years behind the craft beer scene, so people don't understand what craft beer is."

BrewDog, which allows employees to bring their dogs into the offices, announced in February it would begin offering "pawternity leave" to new puppy owners.
Credit Gabe Rosenberg

In fact, Central Ohio knows beer so well that BrewDog already had to announce plans to expand.

"Probably the busiest bar opening I've seen in my 14 years in this industry," Stewart says. "It was pretty scary."

Not only will BrewDog add on to its Canal Winchester tap room, the company is searching for a bar location in the Short North. 

But what's really wagging tails is the company's announcement of The DogHouse, a "craft beer hotel" and spa that will sit on top of the Canal Winchester brewery. It would be the first of its kind in the world, and in less than two weeks, the crowdfunding campaign has raised almost $200,000.

"I could confidently say there's nothing else like it," Stewart says.

BrewDog plans to open a "craft beer hotel" and spa at its Canal-Winchester location.
Credit BrewDog

Those aren't the only creature comforts the brewery offers. BrewDog just announced it would begin offering to its employees "pawternity leave." Like maternity or paternity leave, but for dogs.

"What that basically means is, if you get a new puppy or adopt a dog or rescue a dog, we will give you one week's full paid leave," Stewart says.

Sure, it's a publicity hound. But Stewart says that BrewDog, true to its name, is just a dog-loving company. Both its U.S. and U.K. offices allow employees to bring in their dogs; one quality control manager flew his dog over from Scotland to join him in the states.

The puppy perk is so new, Stewart says nobody at the Canal Winchester offices has had a chance to use it yet. "Caternity leave," though, is still off the table.

"We're not called BrewCat," Stewart jokes.

Just add that to the wish list. Sitting with his own dog at the tap room, Toledo added one more request.

"I asked them if they had dog beers," Toledo says. "They said they were going to look into it."