Traveling Tuesday: Carillon Brewing, Dayton, OH

When I was an undergraduate I went to a college in East Texas. We used to joke that it was three hours from Houston, three hours from Dallas, and fifty years from anywhere. Going to Carillon Brewing Company in Dayton is a little like that. It’s only an hour or so from Cincinnati, but the whole idea of the place is to take you back to the middle of the 19th-century so you can have a beer.

Carillon exterior
It rained the day we were there. This photo courtesy of Carillon Brewing Co.

Carillon Brewing  is a fully-licensed brewery and restarurant located on the grounds of the Carillon Historical Park. The park itself is an open-air living museum with 30 or so buildings. The idea is to give people a real sense of what it was like to live in Dayton in the 1850s rather than sticking artifacts behind glass in display cases. There’s a modest admission fee to the historical park area, but it’s free to visit the brewery and restarurant.

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The brewing area. Everything is gravity-fed and heated by wood fires. Racking between brewing vessels is via open half-pipes.

The building looks old, but it was actually completed in 2014. Construction techniques from the 1850s were used everywhere modern building codes allowed.

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It’s clear a lot of care was taken to blend education into the experience of being at the brewery. This is one of a series of diagrams on barrel heads that explains what you’re looking at as well as the brewing process itself.

One of the implications of both the building’s construction and open wooden brewing vessels is that wild yeasts and other bacteria have taken hold in the brewery. Think sour beers are a modern thing?  Think again. The day we were there we had a sour Porter that was really quite good — as long as you like sours. Not every beer there is a sour, but there are flavors you’re going to encounter that are quite different from today. There’s a Coriander ale with peppers, a beer containing beets and another containing squash.

Barrels
Barrels are constructed in an on-site cooperage.

If you’ve had enough historical exploration for one day, the brewery also serves beers from other local breweries. The food features locally grown and processed ingredients. When we were leaving from our visit we saw a young lady churning butter on the back porch. You don’t see that at Applebee’s. Spent-grain bread is baked in the ovens and is delicious. The non-alcoholic root beer is really, really good.

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All-in-all you owe it to yourself to make the trip to Dayton and spend a little time at Carillon. You’ll learn something and you’ll have a good beer. Pretty hard to go wrong with that.

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The employees are all in period dress, but there are modern conveniences. You don’t need to bring chickens to barter. They take credit cards.