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A cream colored golden retriever lounges casually on the concrete floor peering out from behind an equally golden pour from Block Three Brewing Co. The captions reads: “Did someone say #thirstythursday? 🍻🐾🍻 : via @goldengirlfrankie.” Frankie is the latest star to hog the spotlight on the immensely popular Instagram account Dogs on Tap, featuring the most adorable dogs alongside craft beer.
A lover of both animals and ales, Bethany Vinton started the Instagram and eponymous website dogsontap.com in 2014 to fill a void. Unable to find a community that celebrated both, Vinton created her own.
Vinton, a dog enthusiast first, found her own canine companion twelve years ago while living in New Jersey. Her brother originally had the plans to take home a pet, but when Vinton tagged along to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center she noticed a little fluff ball in the back of one of the cages. She adopted the 12-week-old Carter the next day. “He was the only fluffy one in his litter. I don’t know why nobody adopted him,” Vinton said. “I fell in love with him from the get-go.”
Her love for craft beer came years later when her brother took her to a local growler station in Portland. After returning home to New Jersey, Vinton and her beloved border collie mix began trekking to dog-friendly breweries and bars. During one particular jaunt to Pennsylvania to pick up a case of Deschutes, Vinton snapped a picture of Carter proudly prancing on top of the box of Twilight Summer Ale. The captured memory became the first post on Dogs on Tap. Since then her pooch and pint-focused Instagram has flourished into a 36,000-strong community of canine-cuddling and ale-drinking aficionados. “I really loved dogs and then I fell in love with craft beer and I asked myself how do I put these two together.”
We called up Vinton to chat one-on-one about which bar Carter would go to for the rest of his life, if any animal can overtake the dog as craft beer’s next best friend (hint: it’s bearded), and why one incredibly cute dachshund appears to be trying to pop the tab on a can of Marble Brewery Double White Belgian wheat ale.
Grace Weitz: How did you get involved with craft beer? When was that moment of revelation that you wanted to bring your love of dogs and beer together?
Bethany Vinton: I was a PR and broadcast journalism major in college, so I’ve been in the marketing field for a long time. I actually started and worked in the dog industry for about five years. I had an Instagram for my dog, Carter, and from there this idea progressed. My brother moved out to Portland about five years ago and when I visited him I fell in love with beer. At that point, I was like, “How do I combine these two things that I love: Dogs that I work with every day and beer?” That’s exactly how Dogs on Tap started.
GW: I actually went all the way back and found the first picture in your Instagram of Carter on top of the case of Deschutes, but I didn’t know the backstory behind it.
BV: I used to travel to PA (sic) quite often to pick up Deschutes. When my brother moved out to Oregon the brewery in that town was Deschutes, so Red Chair was the first craft beer I ever had. Since then I just fell in love. No one can touch Deschutes for me; they have such a special place in my heart.
GW: Can you describe to me the first time you had a Deschutes? What do you love so much about it?
BV: It is so good because my experience falling in love with craft beer started with Red Chair. My brother kept telling me how great craft beer was in Oregon. There was this little place in his town called the Growler Guys, which was a growler fill station. I knew nothing about craft beer, but my brother said, ‘you have to go to Growler Guys when you’re here it’s pretty awesome.’ I had no idea even what a growler was. We got a growler of Red Chair. I distinctly remember sitting in my brother’s little studio apartment with a beer from his fancy Deschutes glass growler (because my brother was a big Deschutes fan too) and thinking, ‘This is delicious and crazy. Why up until this point have I been drinking horrible beer?’ Because of that experience, I will always say, ‘Red Chair might not be the best beer I’ve ever had, but it is by far my favorite.’
GW: It’s funny, I think we all have a story like that. Same for me. In college, I just drank Busch Light.
BV: I drank way too much Keystone in college!
GW: Let’s talk about the evolution of Dogs on Tap. From that first post of Carter on top of the case of Deschutes how has the style and the focus changed over the past few years?
BV: When it started out, anytime I would get a submission I’d just be so excited. Since then I’ve evolved and realized how great other photographers are. My photography has changed in that time as well. I love the opportunity to give tips and tricks, especially on dogsontap.com. I found the style of what I like and how it features beer and that’s how it has expanded over time.
GW: If you had to describe the style of Dogs on Tap in one sentence or three words what would it be?
BV: Happy dogs and good beer. I look for really happy dogs in photos.
GW: I like that a lot. That sentence just makes me happy inside. You mentioned you have some tips and tricks online, but can you share your top three tips to taking a picture of your dog with beer?
BV: My number one tip is always have treats because the dog will always look at you if you have some way of rewarding them. My dog has taken a picture so often that he knows how to look. He’s like, ‘Yes, human another photo I know how to take it.’ He’s so rehearsed that when I bring him to a brewery people stop and look at him and comment on how good he is. I just tell them ‘Well, he’s done it before.’
Number two: Always make sure the beer is nicely placed in the photos. If there is a label make sure the label is facing forward. We’ve been reposted by big breweries like Goose Island and a plethora of other breweries and they like beers that have the label front and center. I always say, ‘A good label will get you far.’
Lastly, I always say the trick to a happy dog is to have the dog panting – it’s a dog’s natural smile. A panting dog makes people like the photo so much better. I play fetch with my dog before he does anything.
GW: Where do you find a lot of your photos for Dogs on Tap?
BV: A lot of photos are user submissions while some are of my own dog or of my friends’ dogs. You can use the Hashtag #dogsontap. We actually just hit 20,000 submissions! I’ve established such a relationship with so many of the people that follow Dogs on Tap and I’ve connected with some people’s dogs so much that I feel like I know them even if I’ve never met the dog. I can never recall humans names, but I’m great at recalling dogs names! I see the same dogs over and over and I love it. Once when I went through Idaho I met up with Barley the Brew Pup. I love Barley’s mom and dad. Overall, I just love our community.
GW: I love that there is a great community out there of people who want to take photos of their dogs and their beer.
BV: Exactly. It’s such a great community. There is this group that I constantly see and then outside of Dogs on Tap I see they are all friends too. We all follow each other through this little community and I absolutely love it! You featured a lot of them in your story Our 12 Favorite Beer Drinking Pets on Instagram.
GW: I think that is a quality that also translates well into the beer community.
BV: That’s why I love the beer industry. I actually moved to Oregon last year to start working at Orchestra Software (which makes software for craft breweries). I love the people that I work with and I love our clients. The craft beer industry is the best industry to be in.
GW: I’m with you there. I sold beer for a while and we all considered ourselves neighbors. Yes, we were all fighting for shelf space, but in the end, we all just loved craft beer, so we would help each other out. I had never worked in an industry like that before.
BV: It is so true. I’ve never been somewhere where people are not competitive. They just love working together. Even collaborations between breweries are at an all-time high right now.
GW: There was one picture on Instagram with a little Dachshund which you did a caption contest for. It is so cute. He’s at Marble Brewery and it looks like he is trying to open or drink from the can. I’m wondering if you have a few favorite captions from that photo?
BV: I looked at this photo and thought, ‘this is too hilarious. and it features a puppy.’ Any time a picture has a puppy, people lose it. I totally understand. I am the same way. People are so creative that I wanted to hear what other people had to say about this photo. My favorite captions on that photo had to be:
@stephstef610 Pictured: Half-Pint (left) ; Full-Pint (right)
@naenae1187 This beer looks like a weiner!!!
@Sarastarstuff Puppo 2 smol to be 21 even in dog years. 12/10 would continue to allow him to have a good time under proper doggo supervision.
GW: Could you share a few favorite photos from the Dogs on Tap Instagram that stick out in your head?
BV: I don’t even have words for how adorable this post is, nor do I even understand how they got this photo. It’s AMAZING!
I think it’s clear I’m a sucker for puppies, and these ones were actually up for adoption. Amanda over at Dark Sky always has the best puppy photos, but I love to feature adoptable dogs.
It’s my pup (on the left) and his girlfriend. We had a bad wildfire in the Gorge out in Portland and this area was closed to the public for a while. When they finally opened we went out to Thunder Island Brewing, put the pups on some Adirondack Chairs and enjoyed the view.
GW: Now that you’ve chosen your favorites, of course, I had to pick a few my own. What are some behind-the-scenes details for these three posts?
BV: All I can say is it appears someone had a fun time with Trillium (who doesn’t). However, I think I’m going to need to see some ID from this pup because I do not believe they are old enough to drink. I personally like to photograph puppies, because even though they tend to move a lot, they are typically great at freezing in a new situation.
Essentially this dog is my spirit animal, down for the party and drinking good beer. This is one of those photos that benefits from your dog knowing commands. It can make for a super unique photo, and make the pup look like a real party animal.
Elvis is awesome, he is the king of the breweries in Chicago. He has excellent taste in beer. This photo is another example of what I tell people to do often, which is to take multiple photos. You never know what you will get in your “outtakes.” Super cute and probably not the original photo they were going for.
GW: Here is a big question. Where do you see the future of Dogs on Tap?
BV: Dogs on Tap has exceeded my wildest expectations. I thought it would be something fun I did on the side. It was just a nice hobby, but it got to the point where it has expanded into something more than that. The future is limitless. My future goal would be to have a nice coffee table book of all these awesome dogs and beer. There are some many great photos out there of adorable dogs and good beers.
GW: If you had to name the next successful animal and beer pairing on Instagram what would it be? Can any animal outpace dogs?
BV: I don’t think so. Unless you find a really extreme animal. I feel like on Instagram those overnight ones that are really bizarre do well. You guys featured a picture from @thebeerdeddragon – the bearded dragon is the coolest animal next to beer ever. I’m obsessed with the bearded dragon. They are ridiculously awesome. But, dogs are just animals that people love so much. Since so many breweries across the country are dog-friendly, that’s why they are so popular. Out here I can’t go to a brewery without seeing multiple dogs. It’s the only animal you can bring to all these places.
GW: Speaking of, if you and Carter had to pick one brewery to drink at for the rest of your life what would it be?
BV: It would be a brewery from New Jersey that I absolutely love called Conclave Brewing.
GW: I haven’t heard of it.
BV: It’s down in Flemington, NJ. They aren’t actually dog-friendly, but that would be a place where Carter and I could grab a beer to go. They have a Mexican morning stout – it’s a milk stout with different kinds of cinnamon spices. It is by far the best beer I’ve had in my entire life. Living out in Oregon I miss that beer so much. They are not a big brewery, but they are absolutely phenomenal.
GW: And would Carter agree with you or would he pick another brewery?
BV: I think he would agree with me on that one, but if he had to go to one brewery for the rest of his life…let me think. He has been to so many. His personal favorite to go to is Crux down in Bend, OR. They have a huge area outside that is super dog-friendly and he absolutely loves it.
We also have our taphouse that we go to all the time. Orenco Taphouse is dog-friendly, so I’m always there. Carter is always there. He’s the greeter. He lays right in front of the bar where you order beer because he knows people will pet him if he stays there. I love any place where I walk in and they say, ‘Carter you’re back!’