Dayton, Ohio: the next Beer Mecca?

When most people think of Dayton, OH, the first thing that comes to mind is the Wright Brothers and aviation. While we are known as the birthplace of aviation where the aeronautical industry and manufacturing reigns supreme, people don’t associate Dayton with beer. Fun fact: Dayton ranks #1 in Ohio for breweries per capita, per a finding done by the Dayton Business Journal. So, is Dayton becoming a beer destination?

Carillon Brewing Company. Photo by Robin Feld

Five years ago, you couldn’t find a brewery in the Dayton region. Today though, we have 15 with more slated for opening in the near future. None of the breweries have closed, and almost all of them have expanded in one way, shape, or form. While 15 may not seem like much to some of you, within these 15 are a couple of the “nation’s first”. Carillon Brewing Company: Housed inside Carillon Historical Park just south of downtown, this brewery is the first licensed production brewery in a museum. They use original recipes and techniques from the 1850’s to create ales that are different than your standard microbrewery, all while complete in costumes replicating that particular era. Pinups and Pints: This is exactly what it sounds like! The nation’s first and only brewery/gentleman’s club. While the main stars of the evenings are the dancers, the specially crafted beers are a close second. Having names such as Thigh highPA, your beers will be aptly named to coincide with your enjoyable night. Also included in the mix is Fifth Street Brewpub. Fifth Street was Ohio’s first, and the nation’s second, brewpub co-op when it opened. For a one-time fee, you get perks such as discounted beer and food, special member-only events and a beer for a penny on your birthday, just to name a few. With 3,000 members included in the ownership, Fifth Street Brewpub has been an overwhelming success. These are just three examples of some of Dayton’s unique spots on the brewing trail. Dayton has plenty more award winning breweries for you to visit while in town such as the city’s largest Warped Wing, the first brewery to brew in Dayton in over 50 years at Toxic Brew Company and the areas recently best voted brewery in Crooked Handle Brewing Company. Whether your style is funky, eclectic or calm and quiet, there is a brewery with an empty chair waiting for you.

18th Anniversary AleFest. Photo by DaytonTapd.

Dayton is also home to Ohio’s longest running craft beer festival. Having celebrated their 18th anniversary on August 27th, AleFest is one of the must go-to festivals in Ohio every year. In attendance this year were 75+ breweries from all over the country such as Dogfish Head, AleSmith Brewing, Stone and Abita. Included in your ticket price were 20 samples, which you had to choose from over 430+ beers, also the largest selection of beers from any craft beer festival in Ohio. If wine is more your speed, this year they introduced a wine garden for those not specifically into the beer scene. AleFest took it a step further this year and became the only craft beer festival in Ohio to use a mobile app. Within the app you could makes notes, select favorite beers/wines as the complete list was available to you, or use the festival map for guidance. The app was really useful and a great addition by the AleFest team. With that many breweries and beers, the food trucks, the bands, the weather and a budding craft scene, you can tell why AleFest is such a success year after year.

In 2015, Ohio ranked 4th in the nation for the number of barrels produced by our breweries coming in at just under 1.4 million. Dayton was a major contributor, but obviously not as large as our counterparts in Columbus, Cincinnati or Cleveland. But it is safe to say that if Dayton continues down the correct path, we will become more of a beer destination city year after year. Without people, there would be no beer; without beer, there would be no people. Craft beer is, and should be, a community of no animosity, but rather peace. Cheers to great beer and great people from the Gem City, Dayton, Ohio.

Eric Downey runs DaytonTapd and is Booze League's Midwest beer guru. Never a writer, but always opinionated. Drinker, but never a drunk. Husband, adventurer, self-made beer snob. Dayton, OH but California dreaming’. Email Eric at and follow @daytontapd on Instagram and on Facebook.