There are few expressions of joy so pure as your dog greeting you at home after a long day at the office. Those wide, expectant eyes, a furious wag in their tail, with a lick and slobber so ebullient and unrestrained. What monster would send that back to its kennel and go out to a brewery? So hop in the car, Fido, daddy needs an IPA and a couple rounds of pinball.
As our four-legged companions become more common fixtures at local taprooms, even the most ardent dog-lovers among us are taking pause. Is this the right environment for our precious pups? Is it safe? Is it hygienic? Or is it just like anywhere we take our dogs: responsible owners make it fun, and irresponsible owners spoil it for everyone?
For a more lighthearted debate, we’ve asked craft beer industry member Liz Foster and HeadFlyer co-founder Neil Miller to offer takes on both sides of this canine conundrum.
By Liz Foster
Liz Foster works at Urban Growler Brewing Company and visited 120 Minnesota breweries in 2019.
Have you ever walked into a brewery for a pint with a friend and wondered if you’ve accidentally crashed a dog party? My first experience of at least five of the 120 Minnesota taprooms I visited last year were these thoughts exactly. I absolutely love dogs. However, I’ve had some not so pawsitive experiences.
I’ve witnessed a dog walking free in a taproom use the side of a bench to mark its territory—to make matters worse, an unsuspecting woman’s purse received the bulk of the stream. I’ve witnessed a dog pull itself free from its parent and attack a senior dog resting at the feet of its owner. And then there are the ear-piercing bark fests. Two of the breweries I visited in particular, that are already popular without canine companions, created a maze of tails and low bodies to navigate and attempt not tripping over while carrying a full flight of beer.
I get it. You’ve been gone all day and want to spend time with your fur baby in a social setting. But many fail to consider that maybe not everyone else wants to spend time navigating around your pup in their social setting. And we’ve all encountered dogs that are clearly not happy to be there and it’s obvious that they would rather be home laying in their bed, your bed, or a comfy couch.
It is a touchy situation as the responsibility falls to the owner to know their dog and how it will behave with other pups and in public. There is at least one brewery that has struggled with these issues and now has rules posted on your dog being present in the taproom. It has also been brought up in many brewery staff conversations on how they should handle situations when one or two dogs aren’t behaving and it is affecting the enjoyment of other patrons (or dogs patrons) in their taproom.
It isn’t so much a problem in the summer. Several breweries reserve some outdoor space for your pup to run around or they can sit with you at a table. But as things move indoors for winter, you are reminded that dogs need to be brought inside as well. Breweries seem to be part of a unique category where it is expected you can bring your dog, while it wouldn’t be expected for a bar or restaurant. Hygienics should be considered in this situation—you wouldn’t want airborne dog dander in your food, so why is it allowed in spaces where beer is made and consumed?
You’ve likely heard the expression: “One apple can ruin a basket.” Don’t be that rotten apple. It’s not your dog’s fault if they are just reacting to the scenario based on their true animalistic nature. Even the best-behaved pups can be put in a situation where there are too many unfamiliar people or dogs around, leading to an instinctive reaction that can come across as aggressive. Most dog parents are respectful and recognize that their sweet pup is being a disturbance. But every once in a while, if the owner is wrapped up in the moment or zoning out during a situation like this, their brief negligence can easily ruin the experience for everyone else.
It all comes down to knowing your pup best. If you decide to bring your beloved furry friend out with you, please consider the environment, their maturity, their disposition and respect other patrons there to enjoy a quiet pint. All of these factors can affect the experience of everyone in the room pretty quickly!
By Neil Miller
Neil Miller is a co-founder and the head brewer of HeadFlyer Brewing Company in Minneapolis.
Taprooms are a great social gathering space that caters to a wide range of activities. In 2017, the Minneapolis City Council granted that dogs will be allowed in taprooms if certain basic rules are followed. Many taprooms have already applied for the appropriate paperwork and are officially welcoming dogs and their owners. By allowing dogs, taprooms can provide a more enjoyable space for dog owners while compelling them to stay longer and return more frequently.
Many people consider their dogs members of their family and seek out activities that the entire family can participate in together. Dog-friendly taprooms are more likely to be visited by these families and tend to enjoy a longer stay. By including their dogs, taprooms give owners the ability to stay longer and remove the need to head home “to let the dog out.” Active dogs are happier due to increased mental and physical stimulation. Dog owners seek out activities in which they can participate together.
By including their dog in activities, dog owners can enhance the social experience and increase their chances of meeting new people. While the number of opportunities may not actually diminish, people perceive that it’s harder to meet new people as they get older, according to some articles. Along with our harried lifestyles and preoccupation with devices, it’s challenging to take advantage of those opportunities. Those challenges don’t seem to apply to our dogs. Dogs are more than happy to approach new groups and say hello. By allowing dogs, taprooms can encourage more socialization and make their taprooms a more entertaining destination.
For much of the year, Minnesota is a challenging place to find activities for dogs. Lakes and parks become less desirable for many dogs and their owners during the colder months. By allowing dogs, taprooms provide a much-needed opportunity for activity and socialization of dogs. Many taprooms also include great outdoor experiences in the warmer months providing more gathering space for dogs and their owners.
Those who don’t support allowing dogs in taprooms will bring up safety concerns. The variance addresses these by prohibiting dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs, per Minnesota statute. This is further reinforced by requiring all dogs to be licensed and properly tagged before entering a taproom. Minneapolis requires proper vaccination and verifies dogs have not been deemed potentially dangerous. Many breweries have specific rules ensuring proper socialization of visiting dogs and will ask that dogs that can’t follow them be removed.
Another argument against allowing dogs are health concerns related to the preparation of beer in the presence of dogs. The variance allowing dogs in taprooms only allows that variance for establishments where “minimal food preparation” occurs. Brewery production is only loosely associated with food prep and since most of the production occurs in sealed vessels it is very rare that a dog’s presence would affect the process. Many breweries also separate the taproom and brewery areas to further ensure that no taproom activities have the potential to affect the brewing process.
By allowing dogs, taprooms can increase the frequency of visits by dog owners. Dogs and their owners can improve their overall health by adding group activities that provide proper stimulation and socialization.
It seemed clear that the connection between dogs and taprooms was cemented when we started drinking IPAs out of bowls!