Hanging with the big dogs

Ohio’s beer scene headed to higher level

By Hayley Fudge

As if Ohio’s massive presence in the national beer scene hasn’t been exciting enough as of late, things are set to get a lot more thrilling in the coming months.
For starters, last week the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 37 by a vote of 79-7, eliminating the 12 percent alcohol by volume cap on beer that’s made and sold in Ohio. Gov. Kasich now has 30 days to sign the bill, which would go into effect in 90 days. Needless to say, it’s a happy time for Ohio beer lovers, brewers and distributors.

But that’s not all that’s going on. Just about the time Ohio Bill 37 goes into effect, the brand new BrewDog USA facility that’s currently under construction about an hour away from Dayton in Canal Winchester (just outside of Columbus) will be just beginning to brew the innovative, bold beers they are known for in Scotland and throughout the world.

Last year, the Scottish-based independent brewery based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire blew the Buckeye State’s mind by announcing they’d be investing more than $30 million to build and operate a brewing facility and adjoining DogTap brewpub in the Columbus area. The brewers of the highly regarded Punk IPA are known for their outlandish style and bold beers.
I had the chance to chat with BrewDog USA’s vice president of sales Jason Davis about what’s to come in the next several months.

With the vote to lift Ohio’s ABV cap, this obviously opens the door for some exciting projects for BrewDog. What does that mean for you?

Jason Davis: We are already speccing a pilot system for the brewery for small-batch offerings, so this is going to work out really well. We’ll be able to create special offerings that we’ll keep in our DogTap pub to allow consumers who visit us to come in and try them onsite. It’s a very exciting thing for us.

You are an Ohio native. Have you ever spent any time visiting Dayton’s local brew scene? Any thoughts?

JD: I think Dayton is a lot more progressive in the amount of breweries and quality of beers coming out of them than in many other parts of the state. I remember back 15 years ago when the Oregon District was already offering craft beers. I’ve been impressed with what’s coming out of Dayton.

I’m going to assume you’ve drunk a ton of beer in your lifetime, given you’ve worked in the beer industry for many years (most recently with Sierra Nevada). There’s also a tremendous amount of quality beer being crafted these days. What is it that drew you to BrewDog, and what sets it apart?

JD: It’s the bold, irreverent, unbridled spirit of the company. They absolutely have no fear in anything, and it exemplifies in our beers. (Since opening in 2007) they’ve only been highly innovative and willing to take risks.

What’s the worst trend going on now in the craft beer industry?

JD: I’m worried that as brewers we’re feeding the promiscuity of the market right now. We’ve gotten into a situation where people are turning their taps almost daily. That is not instilling any form of loyalty to the retailers or the brewer itself. It reminds me of the cigar and scotch bar craze in the early 2000s—and there’s not many of those places left. It’s just not a sustainable format when things change every day in an attempt to stay new and exciting.

Does BrewDog plan to collaborate with other Ohio breweries? If so, any ones in particular?

JD: I won’t say there’s anyone specific we want to collaborate with, but there’s a few that we’re very excited about the opportunity to work with and the conversations are already happening. I expect that we’ll look to collaborate as soon as we’re up and running, and maybe even sooner at their facilities.

What will BrewDog be introducing beer-wise in the Columbus facility?

JD: While some of that is still to be determined, Punk IPA will be our flagship. It accounts for about 70 percent of our sales volume in the UK, and I imagine it will be similar here. We’ll have four to five other beers ready for the launch that will likely be our core offering going forward. We will also be canning in 12-ounce six-packs, 12-packs and 24-packs and 16-oz. cans, as well as kegging 1/6 barrels and half-barrels.

You said you expect to be brewing beer by this fall. When do you expect the brewery and DogTap restaurant will be operational and open to the public, and what’s going on with construction now? 

JD: We hope by early 2017 everything will be up and operational. The concrete in the 100,000-square-foot facility was poured in the last couple of weeks. The brewing equipment is being manufactured in Germany now and will make its way over in the next few weeks. Things are starting to take form here.

Can we expect to see offerings such as traditional Scottish haggis at the DogTap brewpub? If not, what will the menu be like?

JD: That’s all still being determined. We haven’t hired a chef yet, but I’m sure he or she will want to put their thumbprints on our offerings. So, we’ll see.

In five descriptive words, what can beer lovers expect the BrewDog Columbus experience to be like? 

JD: Bold. Irreverent. Passionate. Unbridled. Loud.

And to all that, let’s all lift a glass and toast this soon-to-be reality in true BrewDog fashion: Dog. Bless. America.

Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at HayleyFudge@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at HayleyFudge@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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