What to expect when historic brewery opens at Carillon next year

A few months after project announcement, we check in with local leaders to learn more about $3M full-scale historic brewery

When the Carillon Brewing Co. opens in Dec. 2013, Carillon Historical Park will become the only museum in the nation producing and selling beer and wine using historic tools and techniques that date back to 1850, according to museum officials.

Costumed interpreters at the $3 million full-scale brewery will demonstrate the historic processes for visitors, who will be able to sample the results at daily tastings. The new building, which will eventually also house a working mid-century wine and cider press, will become connected to the park’s Kettering Family Education Center.

Three months months after Dayton History announced the new project, along with three other major exhibits, we sat down with park officials to learn more about they will change the arts and cultural landscape in our region. Over the past year, $4 million has been raised to fund the new projects. The brewery venue, which will accommodate 250, will be available for meetings and community gatherings and is expected to attract new audiences to Dayton and to the park.

What visitors will experience

“Carillon’s guests will witness the sights, smells and sounds of the 19th century brewing process,” explained Brady Kress, Dayton History president and CEO. Kress says there were many breweries, wineries and distilleries throughout the Miami Valley in the 19th century and Carillon’s new three-level interpretive center will provide visitors with a real “flavor” of those times.

Visitors, Kress said, will smell fresh cracked barley, boiled hops and wood smoke, hear sounds of crackling wood fires and flowing water turned to wort, then beer — and view it all in a brick, heavy timber and gas-lit environment.

Guests will be encouraged to participate by cranking the grain mill for the beer and lowering the press for wine and cider production.

“They’ll be able to compare and contrast those ales, lagers, wines and ciders with modern commercial beverages,” Kress explained. “This part brings the exhibit full circle and allows costumed interpreters to explain how technology, agriculture, and prohibition played their part in forming today’s palate.”

In addition to enhancing the park by providing a new historic environment for learning, shopping, dining and relaxation, Kress says there is much to be learned.

“Touring this exhibit will illustrate over two dozen Dayton businesses and the entrepreneurs that started them,” he says. ” It will showcase the influence of multiple immigrant groups on a single region of Ohio. It will outline the origins, death and rebirth of an entire industry in America. And the exhibit will summarize historic production methods, the changing role of 19th century technology in a growing Dayton, Ohio and examine the propagation and preparation of the raw materials needed for production.”

Dayton’s rich brewing history

Dayton’s history of breweries, according to author Curt Dalton, is almost as old as the city itself. In his book, “Breweries of Dayton: A Toast to Brewers From the Gem City,” Dalton says Colonel George Newcom, one of Dayton’s original settlers, was said to have opened a brewery next to his tavern around 1810.

In 1852, a package of lager stock yeast was delivered to the Wayne Street Brewery Building at the corner of Wayne and Hickory Streets. On Dec. 13 of that year, the brewery yielded the first lager beer in this part of Ohio.

This rich heritage already has inspired many local events and celebrations.

In June, Calvary Cemetery hosted a Dayton Brewing Heritage Tour that celebrated 16 German brewing families whose businesses were a large part of the Dayton economy from 1840 to 1920. Visitors toured the gravesites, looked at brewery-related antiques and sampled craft beers.

There are more recent connections to beer and wine as well. For decades, Carillon Park has hosted seasonal community events such as German Picnic, Fleur et Vin, Ale Fest and Blues & Brews, among many other festivals by other groups and organizations.

Idea and inspiration for exhibit

The idea for the new exhibit, appropriately enough, was born over cold pints of beer in 2008.

“Brady Kress and I serve on the Dayton/Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Bureau board together,” explains Vail Miller, Jr., CEO of Heidelberg Distributing Company. “It was during our conversation over beers that the topic turned to Dayton’s rich brewing history and the fact that we didn’t have any Dayton local breweries in operation.”

Although that’s no longer the case — The Dayton Beer Co. opened in Kettering in May and The Toxic Brew Company is slated to open in the historic Oregon District in January — the historically-accurate brewery remained an exciting dream.

Miller’s great-grandfather, Albert W. Vontz, was a brewer who sold his Cincinnati brewery – Old Vienna — and became the Dayton distributor for Heidelberg Brewery in Covington, Ky.

“Heidelberg Distributing Company kept the name after the brewery closed because we didn’t have the money for new signs, painting of trucks, stationary,” Miller said.

In 2009 Heidelberg helped Dayton History build a Model T Draft beer truck. He says the proposed brewery seemed an ideal way to celebrate his company’s heritage and upcoming 75th anniversary in 2013.

“Recipes for beer date back 10,000 years,” said Miller, who will support the new project financially, as a consultant, and by selling a variety of beers to the historic brewery. “The Carillon Brewing Co. will continue to educate people about beer, its history, how it is made, why it is enjoyed.”

Brewery staff members, explains Carillon’s director of education Alex Heckman, will wear work clothing typical of the mid-19th Century: loose fitting shirts and front fall trousers for the men, petticoats and long floral dresses for the women.

Heckman and other staffers are already testing the brewing process.

“We have purchased a variety of the vessels like the copper kettles and barrels,” says Heckman, “and have been working with the process on a small scale so we can gain an understanding of the time-table and nuances that go into a mid-19th century craft such as beer-making. It’s good fun!”

Plans call for the Carillon Brewing Co. exhibit building to be open to the public year-round with no admission fee. A light selection of period-inspired foods will be served throughout the day. The facility will include spaces for programs, meetings and community activities. A large beer garden and covered corridor will take guests from the Carillon Green into the large event lawn.

Kress says the project will result in about five to six new positions at the park in both the interpretive and facilities areas. As for a timeline, architectural drawings are being given a final review and construction will begin in November. Some equipment has already been purchased.

“We have a lot of custom copper vessels that will be created for use in this building, and those will need to be ready by February,” says Kress who says the heavy timbers that will frame up the building are also currently being prepared.

Even the grand opening date has been given a great deal of consideration. It’s currently targeted for Dec. 5.

“We chose that date,” Kress said, “because it marks the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.”

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