Building a new Hotel
with Brand Culture at its heart
West Coast Brewing

Business Establishment Support / Recruitment Assistance / Planning and Operation Support / Procurement Support


West Coast Brewing (WCB), a craft beer brewery in Shizuoka Prefecture, is loved by enthusiastic fans. Their commitment to the beer is not only shown by their ingredients, brewing methods, color, aroma, but also,in design and worldview in craft beer making. In July 2022, WCB opened its first lodging facility, “The Villa & Barrel Lounge”. Being located right across from the brewery, this hotel embodies their concept of -Staying at a brewery-. We are joined by Mr. Derrek Baston, representative of WCB, and Ryota Kuroki, General manager. Discover how “tomorrow’s” supported WCB on their challenge of starting their first ever lodging facility, as we share the stories over a beer.

Derrek Baston
Architect / Representative of WEST COAST Corporation
Born in Seattle. Founded West Coast Brewing with the desire to bring delicious craft beer to Japan, inspired by the craft beers he had in his hometown. While working on the design and construction of whiskey distilleries, he gained knowledge in sake brewing processes, equipment layout, and production line, which led to him deciding to launch his own brewery. Derrek’s establishments include: hotel “The Villa & Barrel Lounge'', restaurant “12 – twelve”, izakaya “Jūni (direct translation: twelve)”, beer bar “OASIS”, “WCB Daisanban Idoshiki Reizoko (direct translation: WCB The Third Mobile Refrigerator)”, gyoza restaurant “Pao PAO”, and establishments in Osaka “WCB UMEDA 1” and “WCB DARK LAB”.
→West Coast Brewing
Ryota Kuroki
General Manager of The Villa & Barrel Lounge
Joined the company in 2017. Involved in the launch of the first 12 establishments. After setting up new restaurants and supporting the brewing office, he took over as General Manager of The Villa & Barrel Lounge.
→The Villa & Barrel Lounge

Think outside the box, and be expressive

--Please tell us about your request to "tomorrows" for the launch of "The Villa".

Derrek: We were introduced to them by Mr.Yamanashi, the president of the ”Sozosya"*1. We were told that there was this nice guy, who is an expert in hotel establishment and can assist with the opening of a hotel. We were amateurs with no experience in hotel management, but we were confident about what we could do from the architectural perspective. Nonetheless, we felt it would be better to ask an expert to help us, as there was a lot we didn't know about running a hotel.

*1 A design office based in Shizuoka-city, that develops various types of commercial architecture, real estates and urban development projects.

Okada: Initially, there was a proposal to set up a hotel in Hitoyado-cho of Shizuoka-city, where Sozosya is based. Sozosya was going to be the developer , and WCB would run a hotel with a taproom. This idea in the end, took shape in the form of ”The Villa”.

--What made you decide to work with 'tomorrows'?

Derrek: I value first impressions, and Mr. Okada was very approachable and friendly. I just knew he was the right person.

Okada: Hahaha. Mr. Derrek, you are from the US, Seattle, right? From the very beginning, I had the impression you thought that craft beer and hotels would go hand in hand, so you wanted to create something that combined a brewery and a hotel. However, it was a challenge for you as an architect, whether to build a hotel or a brewery.

Derrek: I knew that sooner or later it would all work out, and we got off to a great start. While it was fun and exciting doing something I had never done before, there was a lot of uncertainty too. So it was good to have Mr. Okada to answer all the detailed questions I had. I was busy with the day-to-day tasks, so it was impossible to do everything on my own. So it made a lot of sense having another pair of hands, in this case a specialist like Mr. Okada, made a lot of sense. We were very lucky that the first person we were introduced to happened to be Mr. Okada, because it is not easy to find the right person.

-What were the specific tasks you provided support with?

Okada: I started with hiring. At this point we had no staff assigned to work at the hotel. We went through interviews and selected personnel including the general manager (GM) and the staff.

Derrek: We had a lot of confidence in the tangible aspects, but the intangible aspects are the key for running a hotel successfully. That's why I asked Mr. Okada to help me with the selection of people to work in the hotel. I also consulted with him about whether the GM must be someone with previous experience managing a hotel. I was very pleased that the answer was a 'no', because we had a candidate in mind, which was Ryota (GM).

GM: I had worked in the restaurant with WCB and was confident in my customer service skills, but I had never worked in a hotel before, so that was my main concern. When I first met with Mr. Okada, he told me I don't need to fit into stereotypes. I just need to be able to express WCB in a nonconventional way, and showcase our style and brand. This took away my fears.

Okada: During the pandemic, we saw many new players enter the hospitality industry, and new hotels, inns and saunas were being established. A common hiring failure is when they hire people with experience, but through external recruitment. This doesn't work, because they do not understand the company culture. This hotel we were building embodies the culture of WCB, so we definitely wanted to go with someone who had a full understanding of the culture. Ryuta-san was the right person for the job.

GM: Besides myself, three other members from our existing restaurant team were interviewed.

-Aside from the advice on staff recruitment, what other support did you receive?

GM: The procurement of fundamental hotel systems and equipment-related matters. Without that, I think it would have been quite difficult starting this project. In terms of operations, there were areas that we needed to be more creative, since we are a little different from most of the lodging services out there.

Okada: You can look around the world, and not find many facilities like this, that sell liquor, run restaurants and offer lodging.

Developing the Villa, with beer as its selling point.

--The Villa is a hotel designed around the craft beer experience, with a barrel lounge and tap room on the ground floor and taps in the guest rooms.

Derrek: It's like having a room attached to a restaurant, where people can immerse themselves in our worldview.

Okada: An 'auberge' is an inn that specializes in food. The Villa specializes in beer, so technically it's not an auberge, but I think there can be a new term that describes it. We don't need to use the old way of serving customers, which might not be very hotel-like but that could be more interesting.

GM: I don't really like to be put into a mold, and I never learned the traditional ways of doing things. So when Mr. Okada told me that I can be myself and free-styled my work, I felt more comfortable and had more confidence in what I was doing.

Derrek: We live in an era, where customers have a completely different set of expectations towards a hotel. It wouldn't have been the case 30 or 40 years ago. The world is changing, and that is why we have the opportunity or privilege to 'freestyle' this.

Okada: However, it does not mean customers have low expectations, because The Villa does cost 4-50,000 yen per night, which is not cheap. After the opening, I kept on attending the monthly meetings for consultations. For most ideas that come up, our approach is 'Why not just give it a try?'.


-What kind of things do you talk about in your monthly meetings?

Derrek: Mr. Okada plays an important role in giving us a second opinion, or rather a confirmation. I think it's important to be able to have confirmation with another person, as it gives us more assurance.

GM: Mr. Okada gives me ideas for packages and events, and I implement them. We give him feedback, and he comes back to us with more suggestions. It's a repetition of these steps. I am very grateful for the advice he gives me on what the hotel can look like in the future, because it makes it easier for me to take action towards that goal and broadens my perspectives.

Okada: On the other hand, Mr. Derrek no longer takes part in meetings. Which is a good thing, the level of responsibility you leave to your staff is on point.

Derrek: As the captain of this ship, I just look ahead and see if there is any danger ahead. Ideally, I want the staff to come to me and go "This and this is what I want to do '' and I reply "sounds good to me!". I am happy to see my staff being enthusiastic about their work. They will be proactive and spontaneous. As a CEO, I do not have much understanding of career development as a company employee. However I try to be aware of their opportunities to grow, and consciously put them in situations where they have something to look forward to. To achieve that, a hotel with only 5 rooms might not be sufficient.

Don't be afraid to be a little crazy

--Mr. Okada, what do you consider to be the main reason for the success of the WCB's hotel business?

Okada: The beer is good. In addition, we have created a place and service that our loyal fans are pleased with. It's the contents we provide, but also the concept we believe in. Our loyal fans will bring more fans to us, and this really worked magic.

GM: A lot of guests we accommodate at the hotel were originally customers at the WCB. We consciously try to come up with plans and ideas for them to be able to enjoy our beers. The beer taps in the guest rooms are one of them. It's also unique to us, so Mr. Okada has advised us to keep pushing it. Happy Hour was also Mr. Okada's idea, right?

Okada: What time does happy hour start and end?

GM: From 7am to 10.30am.

Okada: We understand it's a little crazy, setting happy hours from 7 to 10:30 in the morning. But so is the sales from this haha. Have you ever seen a restaurant in the US that does this>

Derrek: I don't think there is, haha. In the US, we don't drink in the morning. Japanese people do a lot of things they don't normally do only when they travel. They are very bold with their spending, and they start going out for breakfast which they wouldn't normally do on daily bases. They usually have light breakfast at home, but when they stay at a hotel, they always try to have breakfast in that hotel. I can't say for sure but I think this is unique to Japanese people. They also buy a lot of souvenirs, and we benefit from that culture immensely. Twisting a beer tap in the guest room is not something you normally do. People who like beer can get a beer at any time of the day. As soon as they wake up in the morning and at midnight right before they go to bed. This is what I love.


GM: In rooms without a loft, the tap is placed one meter away from the bed. For guests, the tap is physically closer to them than to the toilet. We loved the craziness, so when this idea came up, it was implemented the next week. However, it's hard for us to always stay objective, so Mr. Okada gives us sound advice based on his experience and perspective. The approach of 'just give it a try' encourages us to do something fun.

--Isn't it quite rare for a consultant to work with a craft beer brewery?

Okada: The WCB is a company that accepts individuals that are different, and have personality. So the whole team turns out truly unique. So proposing something conservative, only kills their character. Of course there are boundaries, but the more unique and different we are, our fans love us more. Our most enthusiastic fans are also our inspirations.

The ever-changing scenery of the city of Mochimune

--I hear the region of Mochimune, Shizuoka City, where WCB and The Villa are located, has a thriving community building scene.

Okada: I think what WCB created deserves an award from the city. There has been a dramatic increase in people visiting, and searching the word "Mochimune city". WCB made this happen!

Derrek: The vast majority of our customers come from outside the prefecture. "CSA Real Estate", have been developing other facilities and tourist attractions, for example Mochimune Onsen.

GM: Many of the employees of CSA Real Estate are a bit crazy like us. I think we all share the same goal, to make Mochimune cool.

Okada: Every time I visit Mochimune, there are new shops and the streetscape is different. I think it will change again in the next couple of years. I'm sure WCB will be contributing to this. There is talk of wanting to open a bakery and a coffee shop. Bakeries can now be considered a town's infrastructure,or as an indicator. A good city always has a good bakery, and it's not an exaggeration to say that some people will not consider moving to a town if there is no good bakery there. I think the existence of good bakeries is that important.


GM: There is a brewery in Mochimune, so I want to use it as a hub for various projects. Many of our fans want to go on pilgrimages.

Okada: Everyone in WCB is highly motivated to start something interesting. In order to do that, we need money and more staff so it will take time and effort. However in spirit, we are all in. My involvement at the moment is limited to monthly meetings, but I always feel that I have to contribute more than that.

Derrek: In the end, if we do what we think is fun and right, there is no wrong answer. On the contrary, has Mr. Okada ever told you not to do something?

GM: Not really. He informs us of the risks in advance, and will bring us back on the right track if things start to go wrong.

Derrek: Good to know that our business is in good hands.

Text / Edit:Shota Kato
Photography:Naoto Date
Design:Mayuko Kanazawa