JACKSON TWP.: Royal Docks Brewing Co. has grown significantly since John Bikis opened the English-style brew pub of his dreams in September 2015 in a strip plaza here.

Less than three years later, Royal Docks has released 15 of its beers in cans, in a variety of styles that includes the new Backyard Crusher summer beer. The beers are being distributed to about 4,000 bars, grocery stores and other retailers around Ohio.

Until recently, Royal Docks beers, from recipes created by brewmaster Dave Sutula, were brewed and canned in Columbus by Four String Brewing Co.

Ambitiously, Royal Docks has moved its beer operation back into Stark County to an elaborately equipped brewhouse and cannery in the former Foxboro roller skating rink at 5646 Wales Ave. NW. It’s only one block from the popular taproom in The Marketplace at Nobles Pond. The brewing operation, which employs 22 people, “will definitely be up and running by July 4,” Bikis said.

The company’s rapid expansion caught the attention of The Brewers Association, a national organization with about 4,500 member breweries. Recently, it named Royal Docks the fifth fastest-growing small and independent craft brewery in the country. By comparison, Cleveland’s Platform Beer Co. ranked 35th.

“I was shocked, for sure. I knew we were doing well. We just keep seeing opportunities for growth,” said Bikis, a GlenOak High graduate.

For an idea of Royal Docks growth, consider these numbers. In only one year, from 2016 to 2017, Royal Docks expanded from 1,002 barrels of its beers to 3,700 barrels.

“When we started, the plan was to be at 1,500 barrels by our fifth year,” Sutula said. “Now we’re thinking in the 7,000 range.”

Bikis was encouraged by the recognition and positive comments he received recently when wearing a Royal Docks logo sweatshirt at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Much of the brewing equipment came on a ship from Italy, where the company, Simatec, is based. Bikis and Sutula met Simatec reps two years ago at a craft brewers conference in Philadelphia, then traveled to Europe and visited seven breweries with Simatec equipment. Simatec reps recently traveled here for two weeks to visit Royal Docks.

The Royal Docks brewhouse is more than a beer factory. Public tours are being offered monthly, which for $25 include two beers and a limited-edition T-shirt. Details can be found at the Royal Docks Facebook page.

Frequent visitors to other area brewers, Bikis and Sutula are all about networking and support. “The only other business I can think of that has the same collaborative spirit as brewers and breweries is musicians,” Sutula said. “There’s that camaraderie when you share the same passions.”

Royal Docks is making its canning line available to other breweries.

The large front lobby area with a large window into the brewing operation will be available for parties and other rentals, with a full liquor license and eventually a patio. “We’ve already got three weddings booked,” Bikis said.

“What’s great about this plan is we’re not rolling the dice,” Sutula said about the events aspect. “People have been asking us for this. This can hold 50 people to 500.”

To preserve the building’s roller-rink history, the original curved wall has been retained.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia for the actual rink,” Bikis said. “People tell us, ‘I met my wife here’ or ‘I had my first kiss here’ or ‘I stubbed my toe on that wall.’”

The Royal Docks taproom, which serves food alongside draft beer, remains a lively gathering spot. “What surprises me is the range of people we get,” Sutula said. “Older, younger, all there together.”

“The whole idea of pub culture is creating a community hub,” Bikis said. “There’s no downtown in Jackson.”

Both men are enthusiastic about the overnight success of Backyard Crusher, their lighter summer beer sold in 16-ounce cans.

“The (craft beer) industry is so gung-ho on what style beers are. This is a beer that’s confusing a lot of people because there’s no style listed,” Sutula said.

“The only question I want to ask is: ‘Do you like it?’” Bikis said.

“The flavor is still complex. The roundness comes from a little sea salt, and there’s acidity from the lime zest we’re using,” Sutula said. “It’s not meant to dazzle you. Hopefully it’s refreshing.”