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Photo by Collins Laatsch
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Photo by Collins Laatsch
Photo by Collins Laatsch

In The Hunt

BrewDog’s cofounder James Watt is not one to mince words. When explaining his decision to open are brewing operation here in the U.S. he was … blunt:

“When I first came back to the U.S. and tried the beer we were sending over, I was f*cking embarrassed.”

To be fair, most statebound craft beer aficionados couldn’t quite figure out what the fuss was about. On those rare occasions a BrewDog offering was to be had, it was lackluster. Another swing and miss by a Eurobrewer trying to win back some of that ground the traditional imports lost to the crafts long ago. Thanks for playing, but stop lobbing those malt bombs across the pond, boys.

Well, it wasn’t fair at all. The untold story of BrewDog’s journey back to the States (BrewDog, you see, was inspired by American craft brewing) involved long journeys on big ships, bookended by customs delays at the docks. By the time the beer was getting to the consumer it was due to be dumped for lack of freshness. BrewDog had a serious quality control issue, and now one with a serious solution—in their long-awaited, now-open DogTap location in Canal Winchester.

Finally tapping their first batch for the public at the end of last month, BrewDog’s sprawling facility will welcome guests with massive taproom overlooking the technologically advanced brew house.

To start, the taproom will feature the four core beers BrewDog will produce locally. Dead Pony Club Pale Ale, a “sessionable” offering brewed in the classic American Pale Ale style. It’s funny that some guys in Scotland would opt to eschew British pale ales in favor of our hoppy modification, but that explains why Brew Dog is achieving so much success catering to about two percent of the European beer market. Back home, they’re upstarts with an anti-establishment mentality, but here, they’re about as counter-culture as One Direction. The beers are very good, but decidedly reserved by contemporary craft standards. Punk IPA, the brand’s flagship beer, is balanced and highly drinkable. Elvis Juice is as wild as Brew Dog is getting right now, and that’s only because it’s infused with some grapefruit. Cocoa Psycho is a hefty Imperial Stout infused with coffee and aged on cacao nibs, vanilla beans, and toasted oak. It’s assertive and nuanced at the same time, but it’s not outside of the box by our standards.

But there’s another irony: BrewDog’s rep doesn’t come from wild flavors and risky combinations—it comes from bucking convention. BrewDog’s mix-it-up profile stems from the fact that they are unabashedly American in their approach to brewing beer, which makes them a perfect fit for a Columbus suburb—a worthwhile, welcoming destination for people on a weekend jaunt, be it on a bicycle, motorbike, or a cruise in the Family Truckster. The 10,000-square-foot taproom can wrangle a crowd, and the kitchen pushes out simple, but well-prepared pub fare. The ambiance is a clean, cool industrial vibe with lots of glass. In warmer weather the rolling doors will open up to let the outside in.

Watt is acutely aware of the fact that big craft brands are hitting a sales wall, but he isn’t worried. BrewDog’s primary objective here in the states is to be a good citizen, brewing great beer, embracing their community, and building their brand through inclusion. And there’s ways to innovate outside of the tanks.

“We launched our Equity for Punks here in the U.S., and we’ve already had a fantastic response,” he said of BrewDog’s unique crowd-funding model that allows fans to buy internally managed shares of the brewery. “As people come in and see what we’re about, and how committed we are to this area, it will only continue to grow. We’re very pleased with central Ohio and Columbus. Before we started construction we hadn’t been able to get to know the community, but over the past several months we’ve been around and we’re very excited.”

And so is BrewDog’s taproom. For those across town, it’s a worthwhile stop that should keep us sated until the ballyhooed pub in Franklinton opens for business.

For more about DogTap, visit brewdog.com/usa. Wanna invest? Visit bankroll.ventures/deal/brewdog.

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