2015: Booze

Dayton beers it all

By Kevin J. Gray and Hayley Fudge

Photo: “Many critics note that kettle sours can be more one-dimensional than barrel sours, but [their] accessibility has led to a huge surge in demand for them.”

It’s no surprise that 2015 continued to be a big year for craft beer not only nationally, but also right here in the Dayton region. New breweries continue to pop up, and those in their toddlerhood are starting to evolve and find niches in a crowded industry. Here, we take a look at a few of the top trends we’ve seen in beer over the past 12 months.

Cans, cans, cans!

The canning of craft beer has exploded. The number of breweries canning their craft beers has more than doubled nationally in the past few years, and a few of our local Dayton breweries have jumped onboard the train. Canning beer helps maintain its taste qualities, as well as increases the portability of the product. Instead of the feared metallic taste, view your newly canned local beer as your own personal mini keg just waiting to be tapped. Besides, who wants to bust out a bottle during a hike or tailgate? Cans can also be cooled in less time than it takes room temperature bottles to get cold, and they are stackable, taking up less space in the already overcrowded beer fridge. Packaging beer in cans also allows breweries more opportunity to excite their customers with bright, bold artwork that connects the brand with consumers, which leads us right into our next trend.

Art and beer

Dayton has seen a close and clear connection between its local breweries and local artists. Both crafts tend to draw passionate people, not to mention those with a mutual desire to help the other make a living. The partnership affords breweries the opportunity to put more money into perfecting their products rather than spending it on taproom decor, and the artists profit from increased visibility and sales of their work. From the custom designs of the artwork we see printed on cans, coasters and posters in local taprooms, to breweries routinely featuring homegrown art on their walls and even hosting gallery openings and viewing parties, the ties between local art and local beer are stronger than ever. This sets Dayton’s breweries apart from sports bar competition, offering an ambiance and atmosphere with a more cultural, communal feel.

Kettle sours

Sour is the new hoppy, but for many breweries, dedicated space for aging sours isn’t possible. Traditional, barrel-aged sours use bacteria and yeast strains during a secondary fermentation in the barrel. The process takes a long time (often a year or more) and the bacteria and yeast that add acidity and funk to these beers produces off-flavors in a brewery’s flagship beers, so they must keep strictly separate. Enter the kettle sour. Brewers use bacteria called Lactobacillus to add acidity to their beers. Lactobacillus is one of the same bacteria used in barrel souring. With kettle souring, however, the bacteria is added to the raw wort, or unfermented beer. Brewers boil the wort to kill off the bacteria after it has reached the desired acidity level, then cool and ferment the beer as usual. The process allows for faster souring with less risk of contamination of other beers. Many critics note that kettle sours can be more one-dimensional than barrel sours, but the accessibility of kettle sours has led to a huge surge in demand for them. Styles like Gose (a sour, salted beer) or Berliner Weisse (a mildly acidic German wheat beer) have exploded in popularity in 2015. Yellow Springs Brewery’s Craft Truth Sour and Toxic Brew’s Till Death Do Us Tart are local examples of the style.


If 2013 was the year of the brewery openings in the Miami Valley, 2015 is the year of distribution. Warped Wing, Dayton’s largest brewery, is now in more than 850 accounts throughout Ohio, expanding into the Cincinnati and Columbus markets. Toxic Brew Company has also hit Cincinnati with about 450 accounts, and Hairless Hare, Yellow Springs Brewery and Eudora have stepped up distribution around Dayton. Dayton Beer Company has had a gargantuan year. Not only did they open a second, much larger location downtown that features their beer as well as others from around the state, but they also signed a distribution agreement with Bonbright Distributing. Dayton Beer Company is the first local brewery to join with a distributor, and their taps and newly minted cans are available in bars and retail establishments throughout Bonbright’s distribution area. Finally, Yellow Springs Brewery has undergone a massive expansion, renovating their brewhouse and upgrading production capacity. The brewery has started canning and self-distributing their beers, so now you can take Yellow Springs beers to-go. Demand for Dayton beer is high, and many of the other breweries are near capacity, so expect some of our other breweries to expand in the next year or so, and to follow suit with regard to distribution. This will mean more and more local beer available not only at bars and restaurants, but also at retail establishments.


Kevin J. Gray is Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geek. A firm believer in all things balanced, when Kevin isn’t drinking craft beer, he’s hiking or biking to keep his beer belly in optimal shape. Reach Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com.

Hayley Fudge is one of Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geeks. An enthusiast of craft beer and the culture that surrounds it, Hayley aspires to share her love of beer with others by whipping up beer-infused cupcakes on the regular. Reach Hayley Fudge at HayleyFudge@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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