What Brewpub Hotels Tell Us About Our Industry

October 23, 2018

The genesis of the craft beer movement is usually traced back to the 1960s-70s, when big brewers strengthened their grip on the market and forced a lot of regional players to close down. Brewing made a move into private homes, and a new era of experimentation began. 


By the 1980s, craft beer had nudged into the mainstream. Today, it takes up serious space at your average bottle shop. According to a recent report by Orbis Research, the global craft beer industry will be worth AUD $700b in 2025. That’s a lot of beer!


Whether or not you like the taste of beer, the rise of craft brewing demonstrates a broader shift in tastes – particularly in the world of food, drink, travel and hospitality. This has also extended into new distilleries for gin, whiskey and other spirits. This can be described (in basic terms) as a shift toward the uniqueness of experience. We see it in kitchens throughout Australia, as chefs experiment with new ingredients and new types of fusion. We see it in the growing demand for unique and localised travel options. We see it in the way hotels jockey to compete in the mercurial post-AirBnb landscape. 


Of course, part of the game plan for hotels involves plugging into fresh cuisine, craft beverages, wellness trends, artisan goods, and local experiences. In some cases, hotels are being reimagined on these grounds. 


Enter the brewpub hotel


It’s not exactly a new thing. The Traquair House in Scotland is a converted royal hunting lodge with an onsite brewery dating to the 18th century. The Abbey D’Orval in Belgium is a guesthouse, functioning monastery, and one of eleven breweries worldwide that brew genuine Trappist beer. The Zábřeh Chateau in the Czech Republic has been brewing since the late 16th century, and it even pipes beer directly from tank to tap. Lord Nelson’s Hotel in Sydney got into brewing in 1986, and has offered an award-winning beer-hotel experience ever since.


But let’s face it: Not every hotel can be a stately manor with centuries (or even decades) of history and brewing behind it. A new crop of brewery-hotels is coming up, and they’re making new inroads into the idea of the hybrid hotel experience. 


The Doghouse Hotel and Brewery, located in in the US city of Columbus, calls itself the “world’s first crowd-funded craft beer hotel.” The brewery is located just next door, and every guestroom has a tap where pints of the flagship IPA can be pulled at will. There is a beer-filled mini-bar in the shower, should guests get thirsty whilst bathing. The spa makes use of hop oils and malted barley in its massages and treatments. The crown jewel (or crown gimmick, some will surely say) is a hot tub filled with IPA in the luxury suite.


In Southern California, the Stone Hotel is set to open in the winter of 2019 with a bit more of a straight face. The four-story property cost US $26m and features 99 rooms next door to a brewery. The rooms are oversized, with floor-to-ceiling windows that flip open to allow balcony access. There are some very interesting ideas being incorporated, such as a waterfall in the lobby, boulders throughout the property, and a 929 sqm roof garden next to the pool deck. The hotel is tapping into established California style, and while the brewery is part of the branding, the guest experience does not revolve around beer. In an interview with the San Diego Tribune, the founder of Stone put it this way: “It’s an environmental experience, a culinary experience, a cultural experience. It’s not really beer-themed — you won’t come in and experience flowing rivers of beer or hops motifs all over the place.”


A brew hotel like Doghouse might draw comparisons to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or thought provoking. These modern takes on ancient brewery-hotel combination are here to remind us that every hotel is a unique experience. Obvious comparisons are to be drawn with home goods stores that have entered the hotel market, or the hotel that doubles as a museum. 


In the future, we might see greater numbers of hotels move towards the curation of craft goods and local experiences. Producing any product in-house is a way to expand a hotel’s identity, and to create a culture of ownership, commitment and quality. This surely gets at the heart of what the guest experience is all about where we create memorable moments for our guests to savour both then and when remembering them later. A good experience then is exactly like a good beer – a great look, a great taste, and no post-purchase regret.



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