A beer drinker’s guide to downtown
By Kevin J. Gray
The Dayton craft beer scene has seen steady growth over the last decade and nowhere more so than downtown. The Oregon District has become a hub of better beer, with arms branching out throughout the downtown area and into the suburbs. Below is a list of places to whet your whistle within walking distance of downtown. Most of the establishments are concentrated in the Oregon District, but over the next few years, expect further growth as breweries like Warped Wing move into the Foundry building and Dayton Beer Company expands into a production brewery in an as-of-yet undisclosed location somewhere downtown.Walking into the District from downtown, hit Thai 9 first. Most people know the restaurant for the first class Thai dishes and sushi, but the expansive interior also houses a comfy bar. Rob Strong, owner of Thai 9, is a fellow beer geek and reliably taps interesting kegs. Watch their website (thai9restaurant.com) for beer pairing dinners and exclusive taps. Or sit on the upper deck of the patio and check out the hops that Rob planted this spring.
Next door to Thai 9 is Oregon Express, or “the OE.” Mostly known for kickass pizzas and quality bands, the Oregon District anchor has recently expanded their craft beer offerings. The OE is the perfect place to kick off a happy hour, with extensive seating and a nice patio to take advantage of the warmer weather.
Across from the OE is relative newcomer, Lily’s. The building once housed Boulevard Haus and Café Boulevard. Today, the bar has been revamped and is clean and modern. While there are only a few taps, the beers are generally first class and the cocktails offer upscale choices for your non-beer-drinking friends. The back patio offers a respite from urban landscapes.
Diagonally across Fifth Street, look out for 5th Street Wine and Deli. Known for well-crafted sandwiches, they also stock an extensive selection of bottled and canned craft beers. It’s definitely the best carryout selection within walking distance of downtown, and watch for tastings on weekend nights on their patio.
A few doors down from the deli, swing into Blind Bob’s. Don’t let the hipsters out front fool you – there’s more to drink here than PBR. Bob’s reliably has multiple crafts on tap, and is one of several bars in the area that participates in an Oregon District growler fill program – Thai 9, Lucky’s, Trolley Stop, and South Park Tavern are the others. Purchase a growler at the bar, have them fill it up and take the craft beer with you.
A short walk up Fifth Street takes you to Toxic Brew Company. This long-awaited microbrewery is now open and serving hand-crafted beers Friday and Saturday nights. The bar is housed in what was an old pawn shop and the vaulted ceilings, exposed brick and a hop-lined patio give the brewery an open, funky feel that pairs well with their Belgian, Bavarian and American-inspired beers. Be sure to sample the Porn or Pawn Pale Ale, inspired by the building’s location.
Moving further east, Lucky’s Taproom & Eatery is a must-see destination. This laid back bar has the largest selection of craft beer on tap downtown, and the selection is consistently changing. Look for rare and interesting beers here – owner Andrew Trick is a craft beer aficionado who regularly serves firkins of hard-to-get cask ales and other rarities. Survey the beer menu, a binder that not only lists each beer, but also provides flavor profiles and suggested pairings. Two doors down is The Trolley Stop, one of downtown’s original good beer establishments. About a decade ago, Trolley instituted a “No Crap on Tap” policy. Trolley was one the first in the area to serve Dogfish Head and consistently gets Three Floyds kegs. Come for the beer, but stay for the food and the eclectic music selection. Bands range from rock to rockabilly to blues to zydeco to folk.
Capping the Oregon District at its eastern end is the Dublin Pub. This authentic Irish pub serves up pints and conventional Irish fare, as well as a large selection of whiskeys. The Dub Pub makes the perfect lazy Saturday lunch spot, complete with a pint of Guinness.
Feel like hoofing it a bit further from downtown? Follow Fifth further east, into the St. Anne’s Hill district to get to the Fifth Street Brewpub, Ohio’s first cooperatively owned brewery. Or head down Wayne Avenue to South Park Tavern, order a pizza and check the chalkboard for daily beer offerings. And on the other side of South Park, near Miami Valley Hospital, don’t miss the newly renovated Jimmie’s Ladder 11, with drink specials and live music regularly.
Want to take a break from craft beer but still want an artisanal spirit? Head to The Century Bar, just south of East Third at Jefferson Street. The Century is the Miami Valley’s first bourbon bar, carrying more than 80 different bourbon labels. This Gem City gem was recently names one of the top 55 bourbon bars in America by The Bourbon Review, a bourbon industry publication. Don’t know much about bourbon? Fear not – the friendly staff loves to educate bourbon newbies.
So whatever your taste, whatever environment you’re looking for, take a walk around downtown and you’re certain to find a quality pint and make some new drinking buddies.
Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com