Dayton, Ohio: An Underrated Beer Vacation Destination

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Dayton, Ohio is more than just a post-industrial rustbelt city—it’s also at the heart of the Midwest’s craft beer revolution. Dayton, you ask? Please, don’t act so surprised. After all, Dayton brought you Guided By Voices, The Breeders, The Ohio Players and, perhaps most importantly to beer drinkers, the pull-top can. Why wouldn’t they also make kick ass beer?

Admittedly, Dayton came a little late to the craft beer game—the first craft breweries popped up in 2012—but the city came out swinging. Now, the Miami Valley rivals most metro areas in per capita breweries, with 12 craft breweries (and one gypsy brewer) and at least one more coming this winter. What’s more, with its close proximity to Cincinnati and Columbus, there are more than 50 craft breweries within 90 minutes of downtown Dayton, making Dayton a great stop in and of itself or part of a larger Midwest beer tour.

If you want the most bang for your tour buck, start in Downtown Dayton, where four breweries cluster within walking distance. Fifth Street Brewpub is a crowd-sourcing success story, as one of the country’s only cooperatively-owned brewpubs. Start with a plate and a pint on their patio. Then, head down Fifth Street into the heart of the Oregon District, Dayton’s eclectic arts neighborhood. Toxic Brew Company represents the ethos of the district well, mixing historic architecture with street art murals and boundary-pushing beers. Ask about the backstory behind Porn or Pawn Pepper Ale, or go big with Safety Third, their massive DIPA. Next, head toward the river to Warped Wing Brewing Company. The largest of Dayton’s breweries, Warped Wing’s massive tanks fill out the old foundry that houses them, a reminder of the Gem City’s manufacturing past. You can find Warped’s flagship beers all over town (look for Ermal’s, a nod to the aforementioned pull-tab can), so go for limited releases at the brewery. Need to refuel? Fill your belly at the Spent Grain Grill, the brewery’s fall 2015 addition. Finish this part of your trek at The Dayton Beer Company, the largest of the brewery’s two locations. The DBC’s taproom features a dozen or so of their own beers and about as many taps from other Ohio breweries. This makes the DBC taproom a reliable source to try beers from Nowhere In Particular, the state’s gypsy brewer.

Breweries also dot Dayton’s northern suburbs. If you are flying into town, start at The Hairless Hare Brewery. Situated literally across the street from the Dayton International Airport, Hairless Hare is a perfect introduction to the area’s brewing scene (try their wings and their Rye Pale Ale). A drive east to Yellow Springs Brewery is requisite for anyone visiting the area. The town of Yellow Springs is a hippy enclave, complete with head shops, funky stores, and independent restaurants. Wander through town, then head up the bike path for a Captain Stardust, the brewery’s flagship saison, or a Smokin’ Handsome, which took silver at GABF two years ago. Seeking a brewery less family friendly? Pinups and Pints made national news as the country’s first brewpub strip club (including a Paste write-up). Try a Thigh High IPA, brewed onsite, or choose a cocktail from the full liquor bar.

If you are heading south of town, make your first stop Carillon Brewing Company, the country’s only fully functioning production brewery museum. From the charcoal-powered brew system to the hand-hewn woodwork to the from-scratch breads, Carillon offers sensory experiences not found at any other brewery. And if watching Carillon’s brewster inspires you to make your own beer, head to Eudora Brewing Company, one of the only brew-on-premise shops in the state. Brew your own while quaffing a Bangarang! IPA (and know that a portion of the proceeds go to provide clean drinking water in developing countries). Hit up a food truck outside of Eudora or head to Lock 27 Brewing, Dayton’s gastropub, where the owner incorporates exotic flavors from around the world into his dishes and his revolving tap list.

Still want more? Miamisburg is a tiny hamlet just south of Dayton with two breweries literally next door to one another. Star City Brewing Company revamped the Peerless Mill, a sawmill that dates back to the early 1800s. Bring the kids—Star City has a huge closet of board games and makes their own non-alcoholic butter beer. Lucky Star Brewery’s unassuming exterior hides a full-on Mexican cantina, complete with Mexican lagers and a from-scratch south-of-the-border food menu. Or head just a tad further south to Springboro to check out Crooked Handle Brewing Company, slated to open this winter.