Dog Days of Summer

Quirky Scottish brewery makes splash with two new pubs.

The grand opening of a new BrewDog bar isn’t announced with the tolling of bells or the cutting of a ribbon. Instead, on opening day you’ll hear the buzz of tattoo artists etching the craft beer company’s logo onto the bodies of select diehard fans who arrived early enough to be toward the front of the line.

Anyone lucky—and spirited—enough to get one of these free tattoos can flash their ink at any BrewDog bar around the world to get 20 percent off their tab.

The tattoo machines buzzed in April and again in May to signal the opening of the company’s second and third bars in the country. BrewDog Short North, which specializes in craft beer and pizza, opened in April. Then, not even a month later, the Franklinton brewpub cranked to life on May 11.

BrewDog Franklinton is the latest addition to a block that’s becoming a craft beer destination, with Rehab Tavern, Strongwater Food & Spirits, and the Land-Grant Brewing Company huddled nearby. The new bar sits in a sizable cinderblock building that used to be a car repair shop. In addition to the sour beer that’s made on the premises, it has a bar featuring an impressive line of taps that dispense BrewDog’s locally brewed liquid gold, plus guest beer offerings and selections from BrewDog’s home base in Scotland.

Unlike the pizza-centric Short North location, BrewDog Franklinton’s menu is all about burgers. You can enjoy a craft beer and a stacked burger inside by the bar, on the street-level patio, or upstairs on the breezy rooftop terrace.

Opening two new bars within weeks of each other may seem like a bold undertaking, but the company isn’t done yet.

“We have huge growth ambition,” BrewDog USA CEO Tanisha Robinson said. “Once we got beer moving, we’ve not only opened a couple of bars, but we have a hotel opening in August.”

The hotel in question is under construction at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Canal Winchester. Each guest room will have its own beer tap, and every bathroom will house a mini-fridge to encourage guests to enjoy a beer while they shower.

Free tattoos and shower beers might sound eccentric, but they’re hardly the craziest stunts BrewDog has pulled during its 11-year existence. In an effort to drum up publicity, BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie projected a giant image of themselves, nude, on the Houses of Parliament in London. They also briefly held the record for world’s strongest beer, a concoction that had 55 percent alcohol-by-volume. They sold a limited run of it in bottles encased in the bodies of taxidermied animals. And then there was the time they brewed beer on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Clearly, BrewDog management thinks outside of the box, and that goes for how it gets much of its funding as well. Through BrewDog’s periodic “Equity for Punks” program, anyone can buy stock in the company during certain windows of availability. “To date,” Robinson said, “we have over 75,000 investors and have raised over $75 million.” The company’s marketing materials call it an “anti-business business model.” Robinson says the equity program and the hotel are all part of the same drive: “Our mission is to make people as passionate about craft beer as we are.”

The mission seems to be working. After the Scottish company grew throughout the U.K. and established bars in many other parts of the world, the U.S. was the obvious place to continue the path toward world domination. Robinson said the U.S. “is the center of the universe for craft beer, since this is where it all started.”

So why start in Columbus? When BrewDog founder James Watt was looking at potential locations in the States, he came to Columbus and asked his Twitter followers where he should go to get a beer. “By the time he grabbed his bag he had over 500 responses,” Robinson said. “So he toured around Columbus and decided BrewDog was going to build a brewery in Columbus, Ohio. And two years later, it opened.”

Now that BrewDog has a foothold in Columbus, it has no plans of slowing its growth. The beer brewed in Columbus is currently distributed in eight states, with more coming later this year. If all goes according to plan, more BrewDog bars will be dotting the map soon. “We’re actively looking at sites in Indiana, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Detroit,” Robinson said.

All of which is to say, don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more about BrewDog in the coming years. For a company that claims to be anti-business, business sure seems to be booming.

BrewDog Short North is located at 1175 N High St. and BrewDog Franklinton is located at 463 W Town St.