Royal Docks Brewing Co. founder John Bikis and brewmaster Dave Sutula are tired of driving to Columbus.

At least twice a week, the pair head to the state capital to check on their beer that’s being made and canned on contract at Four String Brewing Co.

Those visits will come to an end when Royal Docks opens its production brewery in Jackson Township in a few months.

Royal Docks has taken over the former Foxboro Roll-A-Rena at 5646 Wales Ave. NW and is transforming it into the Royal Docks Brewhouse and Cannery, a nearly $2 million project. They hope to be brewing on May 7, with public tours starting later that month.

Bikis and Sutula see the production brewery as a way to “defend our fort” — their phrase for trying to own the craft beer market in Stark County and not be pushed around.

Royal Docks, which makes brands such as Leatherhand, Baba Yaga and Vlad the Impaler and sells its beer on draft and in cans, also wants to be seen as more than just a brewpub.

“We’re a brewery and by the way, we’re in 4,000 retail locations around the state of Ohio,” Bikis said.

The 21,400-square-foot facility will feature event space, a kitchen, taproom, patio, offices, quality control laboratory and a 30-hectoliter Simatec brewhouse on display behind bulletproof glass reclaimed from Diebold Nixdorf. Tours will be offered on Saturdays.

Knowing how beloved the former roller rink was, Royal Docks even incorporated part of a curved wall from the rink.

“One of my main goals is to have a very tight quality assurance program,” Sutula said, adding that the brewery has hired a microbiologist to oversee the program. “More testing than I’ve ever done before will go on here.”

Royal Docks had announced plans in 2016 to open a production brewery at the corner of Mount Pleasant Road and Mayfair Road/Pittsburg Avenue Northwest in Green. But that potential site and building turned out to be too expensive to pursue and they refocused on the former roller rink.

The production brewery will be right around the corner from the current Royal Docks brewpub at 7162 Fulton Drive NW. That site will remain open and be branded the Royal Docks Taproom & Kitchen.

Bikis and Sutula also stressed that they didn’t shut down or push out the popular Dairy Queen that was next door. The Dairy Queen just happened to close right as they began renovating, they said.

330 beer

Speaking of Royal Docks, the brewery plans to release a new beer celebrating the 330 area code this summer.

Three Three Zero will be available on draft and in 16-ounce cans.

What style is it? Well, Sutula doesn’t want drinkers to focus on that, saying it will be a little darker and in the Märzen or Vienna realm.

“It’s really just an easy-drinking beer,” he said. “I don’t want you sitting around thinking about it. I want you to crack open a couple of those without thinking about it.

“There’s thinking beer and drinking beer. This is supposed to be the latter.”

The beer will be available in six-packs and sell for $9.99.

Three Three Zero isn’t the first 330 beer. Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. has a 330 Summit IPA.

HiHO coffee tasting

HiHO Brewing Co. and Akron Coffee Roasters will hold a special tasting Saturday featuring coffee, beer and coffee beer paired with German-style baked goods at the brewery, 1707 Front St., Cuyahoga Falls.

Head brewer Jon Hovan and roaster Albert Macso will lead the tasting, called Brewed: Coffee, Beer & Coffee Beer. There are two sessions: 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Tickets are $30 and must be purchased in advance.

Hoppin’ Frog

The Akron Civic Theatre is auctioning a chance to brew at the award-winning Hoppin’ Frog Brewery as part of its annual Spirits of the Civic fundraising gala.

The gala is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the theater, 182 S. Main St., but people can bid online now at

The high bid for the Hoppin’ Frog experience was $550 as of Tuesday morning.

The winner will help design and name the beer, and help with the brewing and the bottling. The beer will be available on tap at the brewery and in bottles to go.

Hello, cans

Lager Heads Brewing Co. is saying goodbye to bottles and hello to cans.

The Medina brewery, 325 W. Smith Road, released 12-ounce cans into the market last week. Bed Head Red, Barnburner lager and Five Wire IPA (formerly High Five IPA) hit store shelves in six-packs. The seasonal Witte is expected to follow soon.

“It’s a better package for the beer,” Lager Heads co-founder Matt Kiene said about the switch.

The brewery also wanted to rebrand its packaging and the change comes at the right time. Lager Heads is using Iron Heart Canning Co., a mobile canning service.

“Craft beer drinkers certainly don’t look at cans negatively,” Kiene said.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or Read his beer blog at Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.