Pints and half-pints

Family-friendly breweries in the Miami Valley

By Kevin J. Gray

Photo: Kids play pinball at Warped Wing Brewing Company, while adults taste the beers and take a tour

Several weeks ago, Dayton saw its first “Beer Geeks with Kids” event, a meetup designed to bring families in the craft beer world together. About 25 people, comprising about nine families (including this writer’s), met at Warped Wing Brewing Company when they opened on a Sunday afternoon. The event connected craft beer aficionados who aren’t likely to meet up otherwise. It also let the families mingle. There were about a dozen kids, ranging in ages from tots to teenagers. Co-organizer Hayley Fudge baked cookies and set up crafts for the kids. While the parents relaxed, the children darted from the craft stations to foosball to pinball machines. John Haggerty, one of Warped Wing’s co-owners and its head brewer, gave tours for interested parents and children alike, while his own family, often fixtures at the brewery, got to know some of the other local parents and children.

This event was part of a growing trend toward inclusivity within the craft beer world. A Nov. 20 New York Times article titled “Beer for Me, Apple Juice for Her” highlighted the role of families and their place within the craft beer world. The article focused on several family-friendly breweries and beer gardens across the country that see themselves not as adult-only bars, but, rather, as places where the entire community, kids included, can meet to socialize.

Not surprisingly, the article was not without controversy. While many readers welcome families to breweries, others were put off by the presence of children in a place where alcohol is served. The article calls into question fundamental questions about alcohol in society – is it something to hide from our children or is it an integral part of social life, where responsibility is to be modeled by adults for children?

It turns out most breweries fall in the latter camp, welcoming all patrons. In most cases, these establishments see themselves more like restaurants than bars, places for the community to gather outside of houses. The Dayton City Paper reached out to several of the Miami Valley’s breweries and found that, almost without fail, each saw themselves as family friends.

Joe Waizmann, president and another co-owner of Warped Wing, explained his establishment’s family-friendly stance: “Our philosophy is inspired by western Europe, where the brewery is a convivial gathering place for all, with communal seating, thus promoting conversation among families, friends and newly met craft beer fans,” he said.

Nate Cornett, co-owner of Yellow Springs Brewery, added to Waizmann’s comments: “Our taproom has been family friendly from day one. We’ve always tried to keep the lighting kid friendly and provide games, juice and snacks.” Cornett noted that creating a welcoming environment is part of his efforts in helping to build community.

“We have friends that are new parents who helped us with the brewery early on, so that was always in the back of our mind[s] to make the space comfortable for them,” he said. “It’s very common to see baby strollers parked out front of our taproom. We have a changing table in the women’s restroom, with future plans to put one in the men’s.”

As is often the case, breweries are family friendly because the brewers themselves have growing families. “I had a Pack’n Play in here, before opening, for my daughter,” explained Shane Juhl, brewer and co-owner of Toxic Brew Company. “And I still feel very comfortable bringing her to the brewery. She loves the taproom and the popcorn and knows her way around the brewery. You might even find chalk on the patio. I try to keep the taproom kid friendly, and we even have highchairs if asked for.”

Eudora Brewing Company, Hairless Hare Brewery and Star City Brewing all welcome children. Lucky Star Brewery, Fifth Street Brewpub and Lock 27 Brewery are breweries with kitchens, where patrons can dine with their kids. As Steve Barnhart, owner of Lock 27 explains, at his establishment, you can get “[a] great plate of food, great pint of beer and if you want to bring your kids, they are more than welcome.”

Come spring Carillon Brewing Co.’s beer gardens will open (although patrons of all ages are currently welcome inside their establishment). The soon-to-open downtown location of Dayton Brewing Company will also be family forward. “We will be offering craft sodas for the kids (they can even get their own flights, just like dad or mom!),” owner Pete Hilgeman explained.

For parents who venture out, observe a few general guidelines for the next experience:

Visit early in the day and leave the evening crowd to the adults.

Supervise your children, staying aware of them and their surroundings.

Ask for kids’ menus and highchairs. (Most establishments have them.)

Call in advance if you are wondering if your child will be welcome.

Designate a driver and model responsibility for your children.

Want to join the Beer Geeks with Kids? Email this writer for more details on the next meetup.

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.

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