Here’s a frequent occurrence in my life: A friend is headed to a particular city for either vacation or work and then asks me for a list of breweries they should check out while they are there. This anecdote is illustrative of two things:
1. Yes, I have friends.
2. More and more, people associate traveling with visiting breweries.
A Travelocity survey last year revealed that more than three-quarters of people surveyed said they would like to go on a trip where they visited craft breweries and sampled local beer. This makes sense because craft breweries are truly local flavor — both in the product being served and, usually, in the community atmosphere they cultivate. Also, you know it’s a trend when we’ve all agreed on a grating marketing term like beercation to define it.
The craft beer industry is definitely self-aware of its position here, and it’s led all sorts of breweries to make big bets on this drawing power.
The biggest brand names in craft beer, the ones that truly own the location they are in, are trying to go all-in as destinations by offering places to stay — honest-to-god hotels. This concept isn’t exactly sweeping the industry because of how bold it is, but the fact that there is more than one of these in existence (or planning) is illuminating enough for us to prove the point. Now, how well these will work out is another matter.
The Dogfish Inn, opened in 2014, is one of the most successful craft beer hotels and the perfect basecamp for exploring coastal Delaware, featuring 15 modern rooms (seven pet friendly) and a “Cottage Sweet” for up to four guests. More than just a place for people to stumble in and crash after slamming 90 Minute IPAs all day, the Dogfish Inn is a brand extension for the brewery.
Dogfish Innkeepers — friendly beer and exploration ambassadors — are on-hand to share travel wisdom and local tips, making it easy for guests to embrace the wealth of geographic treasures available during their stay. Sam Calagione, CEO and founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, has even been known to host Fireside Chats at the Dogfish Inn chatting all things beer, music, art and spirits. The inn doesn’t offer any off-centered ales on site, but each room is handily equipped with an exclusive, complimentary 32-oz growler for guests to take, fill, bring back and drink around the fire or take home.
Moving to the opposite coast, Stone Brewing and San Diego-based hospitality collective Untitled Hospitality made a huge announcement in 2016 for the Stone Hotel, located on 13 acres of land adjacent to Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens — Escondido. The $26 million, 100,000-sq ft build-out would include a bar-style lobby check-in to 99 oversized guestrooms, all in excess of 375 sq ft. Rooms are to incorporate signature BASILE Studio details such as custom designed furniture and floor-to-ceiling window systems, which flip open to an expansive balcony, providing an open-air in-room experience. Stone Hotel’s event facilities will comprise of an 8,000-sq ft ballroom, a 10,000-sq ft rooftop garden located adjacent to the pool deck, as well as nearly an acre of outdoor event space.
The renderings are jaw-dropping:
At the time, Greg Koch had this to say:
“You can’t rush a good thing. After originally envisioning a hotel on the property more than six years ago, we had put the project on permanent hold due to our need to focus on our core obsession of brewing. When Robert and Untitled Hospitality approached us with the idea of them taking the ball and running with it, we found a partner who was fully engaged in the idea of executing on the Stone ideals, ethos and creativity. Years of thought have gone into the development of Stone Hotel, and it will be reflected throughout every corner of the place. I can’t wait to give our fans this amazing extension of the Stone experience.”
The goal was to open this bad boy first quarter of this year, but that will not happen. According to Lizzie Younkin, PR Manager for Stone: “We’re still in the very early stages. I can’t yet commit to an opening date, but we expect to see shovels in the ground before the end of this year.”
BrewDog took to Indiegogo last year to attempt to raise $75,000 in 30 days for its own brewery destination hotel, the Doghouse, to complement its Columbus, Ohio, location. They overshot the mark by 433 percent, raking in $324,482 and are looking to open toward the end of the year. The DogHouse, in typical BrewDog fashion, will be over the top, boasting a craft beer spa with beer-based treatments, a craft beer tap in every room serving the brewery’s flagship beer, Punk IPA, and an in-shower beer fridge so guests can sip whilst they shower. Guests who stay in the luxury suite will also get to enjoy a hot tub filled with the brewer’s award-winning Punk IPA. The campaign will also be used to fund a new sour brewing facility on site, allowing BrewDog to experiment with new beer flavors and brewing techniques. Patrons of The DogHouse will not only be able to trial these new beers fresh from the brewery but view the oak foeders (used to age sour beers) from their bedrooms.
If you can’t build ‘em, join ‘em
Obviously a majority of craft breweries do not have the funds or even the desire to build a hotel or expand to “destination” proportions, but that doesn’t mean they are ignoring the beercation customer.
Take Schlafly for example. As part of its HOP in the City festival, the St Louis brewery partners with Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM) to create suds-inspired rooms in conjunction with the HOP in the City fest at two of the group’s hotel properties — St. Louis Union Station Hotel by DoubleTree and The Cheshire, with features from brews chilling in the sink to beer-scented soap.
It’s not just beer. It’s classy cuisine and rad swag too. Guests will be greeted by beer and food pairings from Cheshire’s Executive Chef Rex Hale, like smoked pork ribs with gochujang, pickled radish and local berries paired with Schlafly Expo IPA, an exclusive release in St. Louis. The suites also include beer books for bedside reading, Schlafly swag for attending the HOP in the City festival, a growler of the exclusive HOP in the City beer, bottled beers on ice in the sink, a Schlafly robe and more. Schlafly also worked with sammysoap, a St. Louis company, to offer handmade beer-scented soaps based on Schlafly’s beer styles. The company creates all-natural, small batch soap bars and supports employment of adults with disabilities.
But this isn’t just business for hotels. How many times have we read in the last few years of a brewery planning a “destination brewhouse” complete with beer garden, bar games, etc.? Here’s a couple grand plans that come to mind:
The end result of these plans is to revamp the 22-year-old brewery into an ultra-sleek and modern property, remaking the industrial park into (what it looks like in the renderings at least) a museum-quality campus. 3 Floyds looks to double its size to more than 136,000 sq ft, add a terraced garden, build classy glass facades and construct gobs of new manufacturing, warehouse, retail, brewpub, restaurant and office space.
This new location is replacing Fat Head’s previous Middleburg Heights production facility that had a small casual taproom carved out. The new spot will double brewing capacity (30,000 to 60,000 bbls) and more than double its food production and service capacity (going from about a handful of picnic tables and bar stools to 300+ seats with the patio).
The first phase of the expansion, scheduled to open in spring 2017, will be nestled on 24 acres of land between West Creek Parkway and Tuckahoe Creek, featuring 27,500 sq ft of brewing and packaging facilities, a 7,150-sq ft taproom and music venue, a private event loft, food truck plaza, bocce courts, a natural amphitheater and walking paths connecting to a planned creekside trail system.
Of the total space, 21,485 sq ft will be dedicated to the brewery, and 9,480 sq ft will be reserved for a tasting room with office space located directly above. Additionally, there will be an outdoor patio and green space for seasonal use.
“Our vision for this brewery is to create a place where people can walk the trail system or go cross-country skiing, and then take a tour of our brewery and sample Sebago beers paired with small plates from our wood-fired oven in the tasting room,” said Adams. “It will be a great place to gather in the community and the ideal use of this unique land at the gateway to Gorham.”
Some destinations are even being planned by the cities themselves.
The city believes it is a great opportunity for: an established brewer looking to expand, a business guru looking for the next investment or the passion-project type who’s driven by the love of beer, good food and community.
Now, these aren’t all with tourists in mind, but building specifically to be a “destination” (that’s a big, bold word) is placing a bet to become a local landmark, not just a quaint community corner. And given the trends, we think these bets could really pay off.