The Aug. 22, 2014 opening of the $3.5 million Ctoarillon Brewery on the grounds of Carillon Park enhances what has become a brewing renaissance in the region.
A dozen craft breweries of varying sizes and concepts have opened their doors in a market where none existed just three years ago. The new breweries are helping to renew downtown Dayton, revitalize hard-to-fill commercial properties and resurrect a beer-making heritage that runs deep in southwest Ohio’s history.
That heritage will be on full display starting Aug. 22 at Carillon Brewing, where Dayton History officials broke ground in March 2013 and will open the doors to their new brewery at 9:30 a.m.
The facility is designed and built to evoke an 1850s-era brewery, and offers free tours and demonstrations. Costumed “interpreters” at Carillon Brewing will detail Dayton’s brewing history, and visitors can see how beer, cider, wine and root beer were made in the middle of the 19th Century, Dayton History officials said. Full food service and the complete range of aged ales and ciders won’t be available to visitors until later this year.
Dayton is not alone in its growing thirst for craft beers, or in its surge of entrepreneurs trying to slake that thirst.
Nationwide, craft brewers sold about 10.6 billion barrels of craft beer during the first half of 2014, an 18 percent increase over the 9 million barrels sold over the same period in 2013, according to the Brewer’s Association. The total number of breweries nationwide have jumped from 1,625 to 3,040 since 2010, the trade association said.
When state legislators a few years ago made it easier to open breweries in Ohio and to serve samples to on-site customers, the Ohio Department of Commerce said the move could open up new retail and agricultural markets throughout the state.
Mary MacDonald, executive director of the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, said state officials have indeed adopted some brewery-friendly regulations that have made it easier to launch a craft brewery in the Buckeye state. “But it’s the strength of the craft beer culture and the craft beer movement that are driving the growth,” MacDonald said. Ohio now has 96 breweries, up from 58 in 2012, with at least 20 more in the works, she said.
Among the most recent developments in Dayton and the surrounding region:
• Warped Wing Brewing Company, which opened in downtown Dayton only seven months ago, is already looking to expand by leasing a second building for storage because of strong customer response to both its tasting room and its canned beers available at local retail outlets. “We’ve outgrown our space,” Warped Wing co-founder Joe Waizmann said. “We anticipated this would happen, but we figured it would probably happen after two years or so rather than just six or seven months.”
• The Lucky Star Brewery opened earlier this month in downtown Miamisburg just a block away from a second craft brewery, Star City, which opened last year. City officials say the two breweries represent a potential brewery district in the making.
• The Dayton Beer Company has signed a lease to open an 8,000-square-foot production brewery and beer hall in the Weiler Welding building near Fifth Third Field in downtown Dayton. Brewery owner Pete Hilgeman said the beer hall will feature 32 taps that will be devoted to other Dayton and southwest Ohio microbrewery’s beers as well as the the brewery’s own brews. The current Dayton Beer Company microbrewery and tasting room in Kettering, which opened in 2012, will remain open, and plans call for expanding its brewing capacity, Hilgeman said.
• Crafted Pints Brewing Co. earlier this month scrapped its plans to open a brewery on the grounds of Hidden Valley Fruit Farm in Warren County because of a zoning issue, and its owners say they they are in negotiations with a property owner to locate in downtown Dayton instead.
• Last month, after a two-year wait while it served other breweries’ craft beers from its taps, the Fifth Street Brewpub east of downtown Dayton starting offering its own brews. The cooperatively owned brewpub plans to have five of its own beers on tap at all times, with seven other taps devoted to other craft beers.
Although the region’s breweries are scattered from Vandalia to Yellow Springs to Kettering to Centerville, much of the most recent brewery activity has focused on Dayton.
“For an industry that is in its infancy, we’ve been fortunate that several breweries have chosen downtown Dayton. But I don’t think that’s by accident,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “We have many locally owned restaurants, pubs and other businesses, and now we have new breweries.”
The surge in downtown brewery activity has produced multiple benefits.
“We can find new uses for underutilized buildings on the fringes of downtown that turn out to be perfect locations to do the brewing itself,” Gudorf said. And several of the breweries that don’t have food-service on-site, such as Warped Wing and Toxic Brew, have formed mutually beneficial partnerships with local restaurants, she said.
The downtown breweries are reporting that business is brisk, Gudorf said. And she has seen examples of collaboration and cross-promotion rather than competition among the band of brewers, which Gudorf said is an encouraging sign.
Warped Wing’s Waizmann said his brewery — the first of the most recently opened breweries to bottle or can its beers and sell at retail outlets — “has met our projections in both the tasting room and in wholesale sales.” It’s primarily the success on the wholesale side that is driving the need to lease a second building for cold storage and other purposes, Waizmann said.
Waizmann was the driving force behind Dayton AleFest — this year’s event is scheduled for this Saturday afternoon, Aug. 23, at Wegerzyn Gardens in Dayton — since that event’s inception, prior to co-founding Warped Wing. He said the region’s brewery owners truly do support collaboration over competition.
“We’re only beginning to explore the depth of the local craft beer market,” Waizmann said of the region’s breweries. “I think there’s tremendous growth potential for everyone.”