The hospitality scene in Columbus, Ohio got a little warmer and fuzzier this week with the opening of “the world’s first crowdfunded craft beer hotel.”
The DogHouse Hotel is a project of Brewdog, the iconoclastic Scottish brewery. It includes 24 standard rooms and eight suites with a view of the fermentation tanks. Each room is outfitted with a working tap and stocked fridge; there’s another beer fridge in the shower, just in case you get thirsty. There’s also hot and cold running water, for those madcap moments when you’ve had enough beer.
The concept isn’t exactly new, although Brewdog has taken it further. In the 1970s M.F.K. Fisher wrote a piece for Westways magazine about a hotel in Dijon that advertised four special Burgundian Rooms. The highlight of those rooms was—you guessed it—white and red wine coming out of the faucet taps. At the DogHouse, at least water and beer are separate.
Brewdog was founded in 2007 by Martin Dickie and James Watt, two 24-year-olds who were “bored of the industrially brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominated the U.K. beer market.” Initially they brewed in small batches, bottled by hand, and sold their beer locally out of the back of their van. Brewdog went from two employees (not counting the dog) and two shareholders to over 1,000 employees and 80,000 shareholders today. In the course of their first decade they brewed beers at the bottom of the ocean and on the deck of a fishing boat, projected themselves naked onto the Houses of Parliament, brewed the world’s strongest beer (Tactical Nuclear Penguin, at 32%), and opened 46 proprietary bars.
Their record-breaking growth was fueled by crowdfunding, or what they call Equity for Punks. The DogHouse Hotel was built as a result of Equity for Punks USA, which raised over $7 million from 8,000 investors. Those investors own a piece of the Columbus facility; they also get discounts and first access to limited-edition beers, as well as other tiered benefits depending on the size of their investment. A portion of the company’s profits is divided among the work force, and another chunk goes to the Brewdog Foundation to support charitable causes.
Too good to be true? When they get the inevitable buyout offer from Anheuser-Busch InBev years from now, will they tell them to shove it? Hopefully so. In the meantime, the DogHouse should remain unique until the first marijuana-themed hotel opens in the near future.
Mark Spivak is an award-winning writer specializing in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He has written several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture. His first novel, Friend of the Devil, is available on amazon.com; his second novel, a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, is due out in Spring 2019.