A brewery explosion in the Miami Valley
By: Kevin J. Gray
Photo: At Lock 27 in Centerville, enjoy craft beer and high-end cuising in a hip, modern setting
If all goes according to plan, over the next six to 12 months the Miami Valley will have up to 12 breweries. With four active breweries and eight others in various stages of production, the Dayton area is poised to see an output of handcrafted beer, the likes of which we have not seen since before Prohibition. How did sleepy Dayton, Ohio, become the craft beer Mecca that it is evolving into?
This brewery boom has been a long time coming. Over the past 30 years, the Miami Valley has seen pockets of brewing activity, including startups like Roasters, Growlers, The Chicory, Hops and Mighty Casey. Yet these breweries have more or less faded from collective memory. Two breweries – Miami Trail (Xenia, 1998-2002) and Thirsty Dog (Centerville, 1998-2005) – made longer runs, but neither is around today.
So, why now? Why is it that breweries are popping up all over town?
There are several reasons. First, craft beer continues to see staggering annual growth year after year – 15 percent growth in the first half of this year alone. While craft beer still only accounts for a small percentage of annual domestic beer sales, each year the number of breweries, and the output of those breweries, grows. So much so that the big beer manufacturers, the BudMillerCoors of the world, are marketing mass-produced beer as craft-like.
There are also economic reasons for a brewery boom. The licensing laws in Ohio changed to make it easier for small breweries to start up and compete. Up until two years ago, breweries had to pay for both a production license and a license to serve on premises, which amounted to an $8,000 expenditure each year. Now the law allows production breweries to have taprooms onsite for the cost of a single license, about half of what breweries were paying before. This change may help explain why we are seeing breweries pop up across the state.
But there is also a cultural shift – one that relates to Dayton itself – that helps explain the growth in craft in the Miami Valley. Dayton has long been a craft-friendly town. Although in the mid 2000s Thirsty Dog was closing shop, AleFest Dayton was in its 7th year of educating Daytonians about craft beer. And just a few years later, Big Beer and Barleywines, the beer festival featuring mammoth beers, would launch. Boston’s Bistro & Pub had moved to a new location but was still serving up craft beer. Belmont Party Supply had established itself as a premier provider of craft beer and homebrewing supplies, setting the bar for other like-minded, craft-friendly retailers like Arrow Wine, Dorothy Lane Market, Miami Valley Wine and Sprits, The Market and BeeGees. DRAFT, Dayton’s homebrewing club, was going strong. All-craft distributors like Cavalier and Premium began working with bars to carry higher quality beers – it was around this time that the Trolley Stop instituted its “No Crap on Tap” policy, focusing on the likes of Dogfish Head and other growing craft breweries.
By the start of the next decade, Dayton’s craft beer movement was in full swing. Chappy’s offered a beer menu that made even the most jaded beer geek drool. South Park Tavern had taken the bold step of serving only craft beer and wine. Lucky’s was poised to open, and would eventually offer the largest selection of craft beer in the Oregon District. Local and regional restaurants like Spinoza’s, Dewey’s and Milano’s added craft taps. Over the past few months, King’s Table increased their tap total to 56 draft beers.
Given this level of craft beer commitment, it was only a matter of time before Dayton, the beer city without a brewery, started producing craft beer again. In late 2011 and early 2012, the first wave of breweries, most of which are open now, announced plans to start brewing. Over the last year, many more folks have joined the race. Can Dayton support all of these breweries? That remains to be seen, although Dayton’s beer geeks hope that each brewery cranks out fantastic brews with a workable business model that allows them to grow and allows Dayton become a regional brewing powerhouse.
Below is a comprehensive guide to the breweries of the Miami Valley. Some are already open. The rest are slated to open in the next six months or so. Try them all, and try them often. Be patient – it can take some breweries several months to dial in their brewing techniques. Your patience will be rewarded.
Open For Business
The following breweries are open. Stop in today for a pint. Better yet, gather a few friends and a designated driver and start a “Brewpubs of Dayton” beer tour.
Dayton Beer Company
912 East Dorothy Lane in Kettering
The Dayton Beer Company – technically in Kettering, but that is set to change soon – was the first to bring craft beer back to the Miami Valley. They opened in May of 2012, and from the start the reception was overwhelming. Their taproom on Dorothy Lane is cozy, with 7-10 beers on tap. Dayton Beer Company offers beers for every palate. Owner Pete Hilgeman started as a homebrewer who saw the lack of craft beer in the Miami Valley as an opportunity: “There was such a wonderful brewing history in southwest Ohio that had been lost and forgotten and I wanted to do my part to revive and rekindle this amazing industry.” The brewery in its current iteration produces 150-200 barrels annually. But Hilgeman has ambitious plans for expansion. He is scouting locations for a production brewery downtown, where he will produce up to 2,000 barrels in his first year, with growth upwards of 4,000-6,000 barrels. He plans to keep the taproom open as well, where he and his brewery crew can produce experimental brews.
Yellow Springs Brewery
305 N. Walnut St., Suite B, in Yellow Springs
Now you have a new reason to visit Yellow Springs – the Yellow Springs Brewery. Co-owner Nate Cornett was an avid homebrewer who volunteered with breweries in Cincinnati before reaching out to fellow owner Lisa Wolters and lead brewer Jeffrey McElfresh to turn his dream of brewing his own beer into a reality. The brewery opened this spring and has seen a huge reception from the community. Yellow Springs Brewery tends to brew sessionable beers – solid brews that you can drink a couple of in one sitting. Modest in size, they expect to brew about 600 barrels in their first year. Visit their taproom, which Cornett noted is a relaxed environment: “There are no televisions to distract you from carrying on a conversation or chatting with the staff. You can also step outside on the deck and watch the traffic on the bike path.” With ample bike parking, you can peddle to the brewery. Or find their beers on tap at places like Meadowlark, Chappy’s or The Winds Café.
Toxic Brew Company
431 E. Fifth Street in Dayton
Toxic Brew is located in the Oregon District – the first brewery within the city limits in 40 years. They have lovingly restored a 130-year-old building into a first-rate brewery and taproom. Toxic opened earlier this summer and serves a variety of beers – the Pawn or Porn ale series is a favorite, as is the Three-Two Throwback Porter. Headbrewer Shane Juhl explained that they brew “for the art of brewing, rather than trying to brew beer to strict style guidelines.” Toxic produces a wide range of beers drawing inspiration from Belgian, American and German styles. In their inaugural year, the team plans to produce about 700 barrels. Juhl, a research scientist and a material engineer, designed and oversaw the production of the seven-barrel brewhouse – which were fabricated locally. He shared his dream with Co-owner Jason Hindson, as well as a few friends and family members, who helped make it a reality. Drop in for the only shuffleboard table in the Oregon District.
Lock 27 Brewing
1035 S. Main Street in Centerville
Located on State Route 48, near the massive Krogers, Lock 27 opened its 300-500 barrel brewery earlier this year and serves a mix of their own beers, guest beers and an extensive wine list – all paired with high-end cuisine. Owner Steve Barnhart has traveled to five of the seven continents and seeks to bring a taste of his adventures to the Miami Valley. He explained, “At Lock 27, we strive to serve inventive dishes with world-class ingredients in a way that people haven’t seen them before.” This ethos translates to his brewing as well. Barnhart, a homebrewer since 1996, noted during that time, ingredients were less widely available than they are now, leading to a lot of improvisation. This adventurous spirit holds true today. “At Lock 27, we’d rather brew a variety of beers than focus on one particular style,” Barnhard explained. “Our smaller capacity is an advantage that allows us to be broad based in terms of ingredients. In our taproom, we’ll never limit ourselves to one kind of grain, hop or yeast. We’re always experimenting with new ingredients to push craft beer forward.”
Expect craft beer to flow from each of these folks in the coming months. Estimated opening times are noted, when known, but there are a lot of factors in play in opening a brewery, so be patient and check their websites for up-to-date news.
Fifth Street Brewpub
1600 E. Fifth St. in Dayton
Fifth Street is a bit of a grey area. The pub in St. Anne’s Hill has been beautifully restored and is open to the public. They are serving great beers, but are not yet brewing their own. As Ohio’s first cooperatively owned brewpub (and second in the nation), Fifth Street Brewpub has done a remarkable job raising their public profile. What makes this pub unique is that you can own a share of it. Their lifetime shares each entitle holders to claim partial ownership, to have a say in the pub’s development and to various members-only programs. Once the brewery is running, expect them to produce about 500-700 barrels annually. Co-founder Brian Young explained that the beers will range in style: “We would like to produce different styles and flavors and have some fun with it. We will have staples, but want to give the public things they can’t get anywhere else.” Visit their location to try their beers and during warmer weather, be sure to check out their patio.
Warped Wing Brewery
26 Wyandot St. in Dayton
Alefest Founder Joe Waizmann has joined distributor rep Nick Bowman and John Haggerty, former brewer of Michigan’s New Holland Brewery, to form Warped Wing Brewery. The name is a nod to Dayton’s aviation history and the brewery will bring innovative beers to the Dayton market. Warped Wing will be located in the former Foundry nightclub and the facility could be open as early as this fall. Expect a large-scale production brewery with a taproom. Bowman detailed the types of beer they intend to brew: “Our flagship beer will be a proprietary style created through the collaboration of Joe Waizmann, John Haggerty and me. We are also in the process of developing other innovative recipes and beer creations based on existing styles and sub-styles. In addition to our core offerings we will ramp up a barrel-aged program.” This trio has more than 60 years combined experience in the industry and knows their stuff. Brewmaster Haggerty is a graduate of Berlin’s prestigious VLB Brewing Institute and has brewed in every type of brewing operation.
Eudora Brewing Company
4716 Wilmington Pike in Kettering
Slated to open in late October, Eudora will be the Dayton area’s first brew-on-premises. Owner Neil Chabut started homebrewing three years ago and wanted to contribute to the Dayton brewing community. He decided to follow the model set by the Cleveland area’s Brew Kettle, the Strongville, Ohio brewery that started as a brew-on-premise years ago and now has become known for world-class beers. In addition to helping customers brew their own beer, Chabut will run a small taproom, where he will pour his own beers – he anticipates producing 400-500 barrels annually. Expect predominantly American-, German- and English-style ales from the University of Dayton grad. A philanthropist, Chabut plans to give part of his proceeds to charity. He explained, “We’re also donating a portion of every sale to a charity that helps bring clean water to those in need all over the world. It’s our way of giving back.” Learn more about the non-profit at charitywater.org.
Hairless Hare Brewery
738 W. National Road in Vandalia
Homebrewers Matt Harris and Mike Legg have worked together in the manufacturing industry for over a decade and are making the leap into brewery ownership. Their mission is to “bring quality craft beers to the everyday beer drinker, helping them to explore new avenues in their beer drinking experience and to offer the subtle and full flavors expected by the experienced craft beer community.” The only Miami Valley brewery slated to open north of I-70, they are hoping to slake the thirsts of patrons from northern suburbs, as well as from Dayton and points south. The crew has been working nonstop to get the brewery running and expects to have it open before the end of the year. They’ll start with five taps and will eventually scale up to eight beers in their on-site taproom, including some rarities. They will also feature a light menu of hot dogs and chips, with homemade pepper relishes for the dogs and homemade salsa for the chips.
Star City Brewing Company
319 S. Second Street in Miamisburg
South of town, three young men are working to help revitalize Miamisburg by converting the old Peerless Mill into the Star City Brewery. Brian and Justin Kohnen, along with business partner Brian Yavorsky, have been working since April to restore the historic mill, which has been shuttered since 2008. Their renovations are nearly complete and their brew system is all but finished. When they open in early October, they’ll be working hard to educate the community on craft beer. Star City will pair with Miamisburg’s Parks and Recreation department to offer brewing classes, and will allow patrons to buy memberships to help brew. Yavorsky and his partners started as homebrewers and are now happy to be part of the downtown Miamisburg revitalization project that is helping to turn the town into a tourist destination: “It all started with having a really fun hobby and wanting to do something with that hobby that could yield a lot of results for us and the community.” When they open, check out the historic building that they have worked tirelessly to restore and sample their four beers on tap: an oatmeal stout, a Michigan-style IPA, a Blonde Ale and a Bavarian Hefeweissen.
Lucky Star Brewery
219 S. Second Street in Miamisburg
Miamisburg may be growing its own brewery district. Lucky Star brewery will be opening late this year or early next with a focus on big beers. Owner Glen Perrine cites imperial IPA’s, big stouts and huge wheat beers as his favorite styles and seeks to have hefty, extreme beers on tap. Perrine is also making a point to reduce and reuse as much as possible. His training with Colorado Boy, a Colorado brewpub, taught him how to repurpose non-traditional equipment into brewing material. He is currently retrofitting old dairy containers for his 10-barrel brew system, a system that he hopes to use to eventually produce 1,000 barrels a year. Why Miamisburg? Perrine explained: “Miamisburg is very fortunate to have great city leaders. They have a vision and a plan for the city and they know how to implement it. It has really been great working with Chris Fine and Jo Scott. I would not want to put Lucky Star anywhere but in Miamisburg.”
Vitruvian Brew Company
305 N. Walnut Street in Yellow Springs
This Yellow Springs nanobrewery has been in the works for some time. Owners Jacqui and Shane Creepingbear have made a commitment to sustainable brewing with a goal of achieving a highly efficient operation. One of Vitruvian’s core values is a commitment to serving the community. The couple started as beer enthusiasts, critiquing mixed six-packs that they had never tried to learn more about the styles. They began homebrewing and decided to develop the idea into a business. They plan to start very small, brewing only 10 barrels or so, but eventually ramping up to 80-100 barrels over a five-year span. They expect to brew beers with a decidedly American bent.
Carillon Brewing Company
1000 Carillon Blvd.
The most unique brewery opening in the Dayton area is, technically, the least innovative, since it will be recreating brewing techniques from the 19th century. The brewery at Carillon Historical Park will feature educational tours and exhibits to help guests understand what life in the 1850s would have been like. Amanda Pond, director of marketing for Dayton History, explained the impetus for the brewery: “Dayton History is focused on sharing and connecting people to the history of Dayton. Since Dayton has a rich brewing history, it seemed like a worthwhile story to tell. In particular, it is a story that physically fits in at Carillon Historical Park. The addition of an [architecturally-inspired] 1850s brewery to our landscape allows us to link the daily Daytonian life of the past to the larger stories of industry and transportation found in our other buildings.” The site will also make wine and cider. The beers themselves may not closely resemble modern styles, as the Dayton History team researches historical styles. When the site opens next spring, find a spot in the beer garden and grab a bite to eat – there will be a full restaurant with items that celebrate the region’s German heritage.
Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com.