Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, OH, is set to become the first museum in the United States that produces and sells its own beer using equipment and techniques from the mid-19th century. Costumed actors will demonstrate the historic process, producing wine, cider and cheese along with ample amounts of beer for patrons to enjoy.
The $3 million brewery will be in a new building in the museum’s Kettering Family Education Center. Carillon Brewing Co. is set to open at the end of 2013 on the 65-acre campus, joining 30 exhibit buildings and structures.
The idea was proposed at a meeting in 2006 with Brady Kress, president and CEO of Dayton History, which runs the park. “[We] laid out about 200 new initiatives that we were going to start and map out,” he recalls. “One of those was a re-creation of a 19th century brewery.”
In its heyday, Dayton and surrounding Montgomery County boasted close to two dozen breweries, wineries and distilleries. “All of them had their own stories and personalities with the individuals who started them,” Kress says. “And we wanted to create something where we could not just reproduce some product, but most importantly demonstrate the processes using period tools and techniques to teach all of our 160,000 annual visitors those 19th century stories.”
Emphasizing that brewing will be the facility’s main purpose, Kress adds, “The building that we’re constructing and designing [will be] copying architectural details from other mid-century commercial buildings built here in Dayton.”
Within the walls of the brewery, Carillon will brew a variety of styles. “Since we’re focused on the middle of the 19th century, it provides a unique opportunity for us to do both ales and lagers and talk about that transition and what that meant from a cooling standpoint, and be able to talk to all of our guests about top- and bottom-fermenting yeasts.”
Vail Miller Jr. of Heidelberg Distribution Co. provided the lead gift to get the Carillon project off the ground. “My great grandfather, Albert W. Vontz, was a brewer,” Miller explains. “When he sold his Cincinnati brewery, Old Vienna, he became the Dayton distributor for Heidelberg Brewery in Covington, Kentucky.”
Miller and Kress first discussed the idea over a few cold pints. “It was during our conversation over beers when the conversation turned to Dayton’s rich brewing history and the current reality—we don’t have any Dayton local breweries in operation,” Miller says. (That changed in 2012 with the opening of the Dayton Beer Co.) Miller decided that supporting the brewery would be a perfect way to celebrate civilization’s 10,000-plus-year infatuation with beer, not to mention Heidelberg’s 75th anniversary.
“Remaining dollars were private donations from our members and donors here at the park,” Kress says. Funds will be used to pay for everything from construction of the facility to costuming for the interpreters.
Operation of the facility will require a brewer. “We’re discussing whether it would be advantageous for us to find a current brewer or if it makes more sense to find a historic trades interpreter that can learn those processes, instead of trying to reverse engineer it,” Kress says. He and his staff are open to either option, so long as nothing is lost in the interpretation and teaching of the techniques and challenges brewers of that time faced, before the advances modern brewers enjoy today. But beyond learning the techniques, Kress wants a brewer who will help design the brewery.
“We want them to be part of the team that puts the finishing touches on the facility,” Kress says. “We’re going through the below-ground, mechanical pieces and putting the blueprints together for the structure, and we want to have somebody here for a year prior to opening, so they help lead that process in creating our 19th century brewery.”