As Ohio Beer ABV Cap Expires, BrewDog’s James Watt Discusses Big Brews, New U.S. Brewery

craft beer brewdog james watt columbus USA brewery ohio abv QA

The handcuffs are off!

Up until today, the state of Ohio had a limit on beer strength. Beer sold in the state could not exceed twelve percent alcohol by volume, a restriction that was a particular nuisance to both craft beer brewers and fans, alike. But today is a bright new day in the state home to a city once called the beer capital of the world. Brewers from across the state have been preparing for today since May 31st of this year, when Ohio’s governor effectively eradicated the disease of imposed (high gravity) temperance for the good people of the Buckeye State. In accordance, the land where the championship trophy from the first ever College Football Playoffs resides will see the release of at least three, new really big beers today.

craft beer brewdog columbus brewery

BrewDog USA will be comprised of a 100,000 square foot production facility and a full on brewpub.

Ohio is bearing witness to burgeoning craft brewing scenes in each of its six metro areas, and it has been said to have a top-five selection when it comes to craft beer availability, whether on the shelf or at the bar. Its capital city, Columbus, is one of those burgeoning scenes and is arguably the hottest beer city in the state, as a good percentage of breweries from the area are already sending or will soon package and send their suds statewide. Soon to be adding to the en-fuego Columbus craft brewing community is Scotland-based BrewDog, a U.S. newcomer, but a company whose brewing resume is written in combustible ink. BrewDog is currently prepping for the grand opening of its first stateside brewery, which will be located just outside of Columbus. Since the duo of James Watt and Martin Dickie, BrewDog’s founders, have a love for creating flavorful, higher alcohol beers, the repeal of Ohio’s ABV cap on beer couldn’t have come at a better time for their company.

I also thought there couldn’t be a better time to talk to James Watt, being that BrewDog USA will soon open its doors, that BrewDog recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for its American fans, and that a Q&A with a huge brew expert will make fantastic reading material for Ohioans raising glasses to higher gravity craft beer all over the state today.

So, check it out: my Q&A with BrewDog co-founder, James Watt.

Rick: For those few who are unaware of BrewDog, can you shed a little about you and your brewing philosophy?

James: Sure – we’re the fastest growing independent craft brewery in Scotland and this year we’re launching our US brewery in Columbus, Ohio. We are selfish, we brew the beers we want to drink. We make bold, uncompromising, flavorful beers with a soul and a purpose.

Rick: Of all the places in the U.S. for BrewDog to open a new facility, what was the draw to Columbus, Ohio?

craft beer brewdog james watt tattoo

Photo courtesy of BrewDog.

James: We chose Columbus for hundreds of reasons, but at the heart of it, we just absolutely fucking love Columbus. There are no other medium sized breweries in the region, and we can reach 50% of the US population within 500 miles, so for distribution it is exceptionally well positioned. We also just adored the people and the local vibe – it suits us, and we’ve been welcomed with open arms.

Rick: The 12% ABV cap on beer was in effect when you announced the U.S. expansion location. Were there discussions with Ohio’s Governor or his office about working to have the law repealed?

James: We’ve been available to support any changes along the way as it’s something that obviously is pretty relevant to us establishing our brewery in Ohio.

Rick: Ohio’s high barrel limit is 1,000,000 per year, much higher than most states. Did that also play a role in your decision to build in Ohio?

James: It wasn’t what swung it for us, to be honest, there are so so many reasons we chose Ohio, and we will be miles off that measure for a long time! But obviously it does allow for a little headroom.

Rick: You undoubtedly will soon have the largest group of “Punks” in the country. Can you talk about how that program works and who can join?

James: Absolutely! Equity for Punks USA invites anyone to become a part of our American brewing company. By becoming an investor, you will own equity in BrewDog USA Inc, and you’ll share in our future growth. You’ll also benefit from loads of other cool perks, including invites to our Annual General Mayhem (a beer, music and food party exclusively for Equity Punks), brewery tours and access to our online Equity Punk community platform. You’ll rack up extra benefits as you invest more too, and these stack. Up for grabs, there are signed books, homebrew kits, exclusive barrel-aged beers, merch kits, whiskies and more.

You can hit up to see more about the offer.

Rick: At the BrewDog opening ceremony in Columbus, what are the odds that Martin Dickie (BrewDog partner who has a propensity to drop trou at any moment) will keep his pants on throughout the entire night?

James: It probably will depend on how kind the Ohio temperature is to us that night…!

Rick: What sort of distribution plans do you expect to have when BrewDog USA opens? How many states will you distribute to or how far will your initial reach be?

James: We’ll initially launch locally and where we have established distribution agreements, but we’ll be looking to roll out far and wide as quickly as possible!

Rick: Now that the Ohio ABV cap is set to be history, how does BrewDog plan to take full advantage of that?

James: Well, that would be telling…!

Rick: On your visits to Ohio, has anyone yelled, “Go Bucks!” to you? Were you worried first about what it meant?

James: All the time!

Rick: Is there anything else you would like to share about BrewDog and your pending opening?

James: Long live Columbus!

Scotland-based BrewDog, plans to open its $30 million brewery in Canal Winchester, Ohio, just outside of Columbus, in the fall of 2016.


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Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, I have spent most of my adult life in Indianapolis, In., where my wife and I have raised two great kids. As a police detective for many years, I have written about a lot things but none of the events were fun or enjoyable. I wanted to change that and write about something that was: craft beer and its community. I also love all sports so feel free to chat with me about either topic. Cheers! Rick

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