Dayton beer memorabilia … or lack thereof
The Buchers and beer history in the Miami Valley go way back.
I’m the proud descendent of Robert Edgar. “Who is Robert Edgar,” you say? Well, first, he’s my great-great grandfather, with maybe a great added or subtracted here and there. He helped build George Newcom’s Tavern, which now sits in Carillon Park. Without that, where would the locals or weary travelers go to wind down after a hard day’s work at the blacksmiths or local dry goods store in the early days? He was the Norm from “Cheers” of his day. OK, maybe not that, but he and George offered early pioneers a place to let their wigs down and imbibe. George and Robert also brewed beer there. Yes, Dayton’s first brewery.
No need to thank me, but maybe that’s where I got my love of beer and all things beer-related. So much so that as a kid I, like many of my friends, collected beer cans.
Yes, beer cans.
In our neighborhood, we had at least 10 collectors. We would trade, buy and swap to increase our collections. Beer cans are colorful, cool looking and some labels were pure works of art.
I know what you’re thinking, “This guy’s nuts, maybe even beer nuts!” But it’s what we did.
Matter of fact, I still have my collection in the basement and am still a member of the BCCA – the Beer Can Collectors of America, now called Brewery Collectibles Club of America. The group has morphed from beer cans only to collecting coasters, signs, hats, bottles and just about anything beer-related.
OK, now you’re wondering, “Buch, is there a point to this story?” To which I respond, “Has there ever been a point to any of my stories?”
Here it is, the one thing my collection lacks is Dayton beer stuff. I was always told most of Dayton’s breweries shut down during Prohibition, but one – The Olt Brothers Brewing Company – reinvented itself. They began selling cereal beverages (a poor substitute for beer), Vita Cream, Superba and Olt’s Orange. They also branched off into selling milk products, including cream and buttermilk. After Prohibition, the company began again producing beer, which now brings me to the next point.
Around 1935, the beer can was introduced.
Way before Ermal Fraze invented the pop-top can, breweries packaged their beer in what is affectionately called a “cone-top can.” Sorta like in “The Wizard of Oz,” the Tin Man’s funnel he wore on his head, with a beer bottle cap on the top.
Along with Olt, a few other breweries reopened after Uncle Sam gave his OK to brew beer again and hung on for many years after 1935, which means they produced beer cans.
Whew, took me that long to get to it, but what my collection lacks is one of those elusive cans.
But for some reason, citizens of this time period didn’t think that one day a slew of teenage boys would collect their empty beer cans. They just threw them away. How dare they!
Well, lo and behold, a few years ago while perusing a yard sale, I struck up a conversation with a homeowner in one of Dayton’s historic neighborhoods. The subject turned to beer can collecting and my love for it.
He said, “Take a look at this, found it under my back porch as we were remodeling.”
And there it was, not quite the Holy Grail I was looking for, but pretty close. In his possession was a brown Olt Brothers Brewing Company beer bottle, empty of course, with a chip out of the bottle neck, but in pretty good shape.
“I gotta have it,” I said.
“It’s yours,” he replied, and he gave it to me.
I still have it. Pretty cool looking, too.
You wonder how it got there under the porch. Was it a homebuilder taking a break with a cold one as he and other were finishing up the now-100-year-old home? Was it a youngster back in the early 1900s that swiped a brew from his father’s stash, polishing it off under the porch to avoid punishment? Could it have been dad with some of his neighbor buddies discussing the problems of the day or complaining that the wife was nagging him about fixing the washboard or replacing the shoes on the family horse?
Guess we’ll never know, but it is fun to wonder.
It is also kind of cool to think of what else is out there under the porches or in the attics of old Dayton homes. Could that rare Dayton beer can be far behind? While remodeling in the 1940s, could a laborer have popped open a cold one and pitched it behind a wall? Is there an old advertising sign stuffed somewhere, out of reach and sight? We may never know, but to our loyal readers, could you take a peek for me?
Come on, what are you waiting for? That crawl space under the porch isn’t going to be there forever.
The views and opinions expressed in On the Beat are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes only.
For more than 25 years, “Buch” has been a local television icon. Known and loved by thousands in the Miami Valley, his followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and a role model. When it comes to promoting your business, Buch has the ability to grab your customer’s attention. Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.