In the latest installment of WYSO Curious, Christina from Kettering asked us, “What's with the craft beer movement in Dayton? Has it always been there?”
The short answer is, no, the craft beer movement hasn’t always been there: In just the last four years, the Miami Valley has gone from having no microbreweries to at least a dozen, and WYSO has covered the craft beer boom before. But Dayton’s growing craft beer scene has a couple new twists—and one very old one.
Craft Brews In The Miami Valley: Something Old, Something New
Dayton’s newest brewery isn’t in a gentrified neighborhood or a suburban strip mall; it’s in Carillon Historical Park, a museum with hands-on exhibits.
“We are the nation’s first museum to have a production brewery, and we’re the first brewery in the nation to replicate the historical brewing process,” says Tanya Brock, Carillon Brewing Company’s brewery manager and Brewster. “What we are doing here is replicating as much of the 1850s brewing process as possible.”
Both the costumes and the processes are strikingly authentic. Brock is dressed in an apron and plaid floor length dress as she stokes a roaring fire and explains how to make beer the old fashion way, sans electricity. She’s standing in front of a giant copper kettle.
“Every morning, just like what I’ve done right now, we have to start our fire that is underneath our 100 gallon copper kettle,” Brock says. “So, it’s going to take a good hour, hour and half for all of that water to come up to temperature.”
After the water heats up, she’ll use a bucket and a stick to ladle the hot water into a trough—just the first step in how beer was made in Dayton in the 1850s, another boom time for Dayton beer.
Microbrewers: We’re Collaborating, Not Competing
Carillon Historical Park is just one of the enterprises that’s cashing in on the micro-brewing trend. The Miami Valley now hosts five beer festivals and has two companies that provide chauffeured brewery tours. There’s even a micro-brewing consulting firm.
At one of those festivals, aptly named “BEER!,” Nick Bowman of Warped Wing Brewery talks about some of his company’s partnership beers. Warped Wing has made a coffee beer with a local café and a bourbon inspired brew in partnership with a downtown bar.
“The last one we did was ‘Esther’s Little Secret,’” says Bowman. “It was a collaboration with Esther Price Chocolates. We did a scotch ale and used their signature caramels. We sold out of that in three days...It’s all about highlighting some of the gems in Dayton.”
Dayton breweries aren’t just partnering with other small businesses; they’re actively working and planning together, choosing to collaborate rather than compete. They co-host events and even borrow kegs and ingredients, like barley and hops, from each other.
“We like to feel that we are working together as a group,” says Justin Kohnen of Star City Brewery in Miamisburg. “Because it’s about Dayton and Dayton beer. It’s not about us winning out over each other...We actually have meetings with each other to discuss better ways to promote and propagate Dayton beer, to make Dayton a spot on the map for beer.”
And Miami Valley brewers believe there’s room for more microbreweries in Dayton. The average American drinks over 20 gallons of beer a year, but the vast majority still comes from industrial brewers like Anheuser-Busch and Miller.
At the same time, recent state legislation has lowered licensing fees and allowed microbreweries to sell directly to bars and restaurants, creating larger profits for smaller breweries. That makes it easy to imagine a Dayton where microbreweries are as common as pizza parlors and coffee shops.
A Dozen Dayton Area Breweries:
Carillon Brewing Company: http://www.carillonbrewingco.org/
The Dayton Beer Company: http://thedaytonbeerco.com/
Eudora Brewing: http://eudorabrewing.com/
The Fifth Street Brew Pub: http://www.fifthstreet.coop/
Hairless Hair Brewery: http://www.hairlessharebrewery.com/
Lock 27 Brewing: http://www.lock27brewing.com/
Lucky Star Brewery: https://www.facebook.com/LuckyStarBrewery
Nowhere in Particular Brewing: https://www.facebook.com/nowhereinparticularbrewco
Star City Brewing: http://starcitybrewing.com/
Toxic Brew Company: http://toxicbrewcompany.com/
Warped Wing Brewery: http://www.warpedwing.com/
Yellow Springs Brewery: http://www.yellowspringsbrewery.com/
A Gulpful of Beer Festivals:
Big Brews & Blues: http://www.bigbrewsandblues.com/
Big Beers & Barley Wines: http://www.bigbeersdayton.com/
Dayton Ale Fest: http://alefest.com/
Great American Beer Tasting: http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20130417&content_id=45061248&fext=.jsp&sid=t459&vkey=
WYSO Curious is our series driven by your questions and curiosities about the Miami Valley. Is there something you’ve always wondered about the Miami Valley’s history, people, culture, economy, politics or environment? Send in a question now, and check back to see which questions we’re considering. WYSO Curious is a partner of WBEZ's Curious City, which was founded by Jennifer Brandel and is one of ten Localore productions brought to life by AIR.
Jason Reynolds is a 2014 graduate of WYSO's Community Voices class and an Assistant Professor at Southern State Community College.