Craft-beer movement grows in downtown Dayton

Two new businesses opening in the coming weeks will help thrust downtown Dayton into the forefront of the nation’s exploding craft-beer movement.

The Barrel House, a craft beer and wine bar, will open Jan. 30 at 417 E. Third St. and Dayton Beer Company will open its large-scale production brewery and beer hall in late February at 324 E. Second St.

The twin openings will expand the variety of entertainment options outside the Oregon entertainment district, and they reflect the fast-rising interest in all things craft beer locally and beyond. Ohio now has about 100 breweries, up from 58 in 2012, and nationwide, craft beer sales rose 14.3 percent in dollar sales in 2013 over the previous year.

That enhanced interest has been good news for revitalization efforts in and around downtown Dayton, now home to breweries Toxic Brew Co., Fifth Street Brewpub, Carillon Brewing Co. and Warped Wing Brewing Company, with Dayton Beer Company soon to join their ranks.

“The downtown Dayton area is the epicenter” of the local craft-beer movement, said Sandy Gudorf, executive director of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. And that’s been good news for some hard-to-market commercial properties that had been languishing. “Some of the spaces these brewpubs are filling have been vacant for many years, in some cases a decade or more,” Gudorf said.

The Barrel House, at East Third Street and Wayne Avenue, has undergone two years of renovations. It will combine elements of a craft-beer bar, offering 18 craft draft beers by the glass, howler or growler; and an upscale carryout, with craft beers and wines available by the single can or bottle.

Dayton Beer Company opened its tasting room and micro-brewery in 2012 in a retail center in Kettering, and now is poised to open a larger-scale, 8,000-square-foot production brewery and beer hall at 324 E. Second St., around the corner from the Barrel House. The brewery’s founder, Pete Hilgeman, said this week he is shooting for a mid-to-late February opening.

All of the brewery and beer-bar activity begs the questions: how much is too much? When will supply exceed the demand?

“There’s no indication we are reaching that point,” Gudorf said. “From every indication we get from the breweries, they’re all going strong. Now whether this is a trend, and whether and how long it’s going to last, I can’t answer that.”

Shane Juhl — co-founder of Toxic Brew, the first brewery to open in downtown Dayton in 2013 — said the concentration of brewery and beer activity in and around downtown has not harmed the local brewpubs, but instead has put Dayton on the map for beer enthusiasts.

“We have a critical mass that is now bringing attention to us,” Juhl said. “This will make us more of a destination spot.”

Juhl is backing up his words with action: Toxic Brew recently doubled the number of taps in its tasting room to 20, and will offer as many as 17 of its own beers along with three non-alcoholic sodas.

Warped Wing Brewing Company, at 26 Wyandot St. in downtown Dayton within a stone’s throw from The Barrel House, will celebrate its first anniversary and a year of commercial success with several special keg tappings from noon to midnight this Saturday, Jan. 17.

In November, less than a year after it opened its doors, Warped Wing signed a lease on a second facility to accommodate the stronger-than-projected thirst for its beers. The downtown Dayton brewery has signed a lease on 14,000 square feet of space at 1226 Schaeffer St. near Troy and Leo streets in north Dayton. Warped Wing produces beer in pint cans for retail sale as well as kegs for draft sales at area bars and restaurants, and sells its beers by the glass and by the growler from its tasting room.

Barrel House co-founder Jeff Heater said the surrounding brewery activity, the renovation of the nearby Dayton Metro Library, the rising numbers of people living downtown, and the nearby Water Street project that will include office, residential and retail development, all point to “a lot of good things happening downtown.”

Heater is the cousin of Olive, an Urban Dive restaurant owner Kimberly Collett, who came up with the concept of The Barrel House, in part to serve as a waiting area for Olive, Heater said.

The bar’s interior has the look and feel of a coffee shop, and it will have free wi-fi. A limited food menu will be available, and will include hummus and desserts made at Olive, and pretzels from Smales Pretzel Bakers in Dayton.

The bar’s capacity is 45, and it will open with five employees, Heater said.

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