Dayton’s storied beer history

Third Street Lager Beer Brewery at 1513 E. 3rd St. in Dayton, circa 1880. Photo: Lutzenberger Picture Collection

By Jim Witmer

For many years Dayton laid quiet in the brewing scene as other cities in Ohio forged ahead with successful start-up microbreweries. Then, suddenly, a renaissance began that reflects the rich tradition of brewing that Dayton once nurtured at the turn of the 20th Century.

In fact, it has been said that the number of breweries in Dayton once outnumbered those in the metropolis of Cincinnati with as many as twenty-two thriving in various parts of town in the mid 1800s.

Although it was common for beer to be brewed by women as a source of nutrition and cholera-free hydration, it was Colonel Newcom who started the first documented brewery and tavern in 1810 in the area that is now Main and Monument. More small breweries bubbled up with limited success. At that time, the styles were limited to brewers of English and Irish descent such as Mild, Bitter, and Stout and served from a cask. Warm temperatures were required for these ales, so production was done within weeks, but the stability of the beer was a major concern, making distribution beyond the city a risky endeavor.

Turning point

In 1852 the first lager brewery brought a new product into the brewing landscape when brothers John and Michael Schiml were brought the prized German cold fermenting yeast strain from a cousin in the brewing business in Boston.  They opened their brewery at Wayne and Hickory Streets and produced 1,200 barrels in their first year. Soon after, other Northern European immigrants brought industrial lager brewing to the Miami Valley, and the popularity of beer began to further ignite.

More breweries opened and expanded and became a vital part of the economy.

After 1890, beer surpassed distilled spirits in volume of consumption in beverage alcohol in America.

History records show local brewery names by 1900 like Lager Beer Brewery, Ohio Brewery, Kossuth Brewery, Main Street Brewery, Wenz Brewery, Bergmann Brewery, Canal Brewery, and Oakwood Brewery.  Some changed ownership frequently, such as the Third St. Lager Beer Brewery to Third Street Brewery to Third Street Ale Brewery, to Altherr Ale Brewery (all at 1513 E. 3rd St.). Hydraulic Brewery changed to Braun Brewery, to N. Thomas Brewery at the SW corner of 1st and Beckel. Dayton View Brewery became C. Schwind Brewing Company at 212 River. Wayne St. Brewery to

Pioneer Brewing Company at 114-128 River St. Gem City Brewery at 807 S Perry, and Sachs-Prudents’ Ale Company to Sachs-Prudent Brewing Company to The Dayton Brewing Company at 79 Wyandot St. The Dayton Ale Brewery, later changed its name to Hollencamp Ale Brewing Company, was located at 816 South Brown Street.

Brown ales slowly faded from popularity replaced by the golden, clean, effervescent and easily drinkable lagers. Add the invention of refrigeration coupled with railroad transportation distribution, and industrial lager spread far and wide. Perhaps this sudden popularity was one of the nails in the coffin that was to eventually put brewers out of business. The prohibition movement grew out of the concern that the drinking behavior of Americans was out of control, and the culture of alcohol over-consumption was continuing to spread especially among the vast immigration numbers coming out of European countries.

This was a concern to local Dayton brewery owners as well. The saloon was often a place of violence, gambling, and prostitution and the Temperance Movement sought to shut them down along with the breweries that supplied them. Forward thinking Dayton brewery owners took this problem head-on and developed a plan to refuse distribution to problem saloons, effectively shutting them down. They named themselves the Dayton Breweries Company and formed their offices in the Arcade.

If the rest of the country noticed their plan, it may have been a better solution to Prohibition.

The Dayton Breweries Company consisted of the Adam Schantz Brewery, Schwind Brewery, The Schantz & Schwind Brewery (Gem City Brewery), Wehner Brewery, Concord and Scoville St, Dayton Brewery, 70 Wyandotte, Stickle Brewery (City Brewery), and N. Thomas Brewery.

At the same time, the Temperance Society was holding regular meetings in Dayton using the messages of morality to persuade citizens to stop drinking, often holding candlelight meetings at Court House Square with guest speakers, like Carrie Nation, songs, and emotional rhetoric. Eventually, the political momentum swung like a wrecking ball and the 18th Amendment passed in 1919, and the nine surviving Dayton Breweries ceased brewing operations like all the others in the U.S.

Some breweries survived Prohibition by making sodas, or other products such as malt beverages, ice cream, and spring water. The loss of jobs made a significant impact on the local economy as well as the agricultural and industrial suppliers who supported the business of brewing.

Even though a few breweries, like Olt Brothers Brewing Co., Maimi Valley Brewing Company, and Ol’ Fashun Brewing Company, re-opened after 1933 when the 21st Amendment was ratified, the storied history of Brewing in Dayton ended in 1962.

The Renaissance

In the 90s, there were a few unsuccessful craft brewing operations that made a brief impact on the Dayton market such as Miami Trail in Xenia, Thirsty Dog in Centerville, and the former chain Hops in Beavercreek. Yet, it took a few more years until the Dayton Beer Company opened a small venture in 2011 on Dorothy Lane in Kettering. The city of Dayton’s Toxic Brewing Company owns the distinction of opening its doors first in the Dayton City limits in 2012, followed by Warped Wing, and then Fifth Street.

Other Dayton area communities saw brewpubs open one by one; from Miamisburg (two) to Centerville to Vandalia to Yellow Springs.

Now locals often muse over a pint about just how many more breweries will be opening (or closing) in Dayton and the region. Optimistically speaking, the pint glass is half full.

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Jim Witmer
Reach DCP beer writer Jim Witmer at JimWitmer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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