Carillon Brewing Co. boasts the nation’s only fully operational brewery in a museum
By Leo DeLuca
Copper gas lamps light the walkway outside Carillon Brewing Co. Beyond the towering white oak doors—sash-sawn in 19th century fashion—the smell of charcoal, wood fire and timber fills the air. Wearing a billowing bishop-sleeved shirt on a 14-foot brick furnace above a bustling crowd, head brewer Kyle Spears draws water from a handmade copper kettle.
“We are about to begin the processes of mashing and lautering,” says Spears. “We use replica equipment, 19th century techniques and traditional recipes, many pulled from archival Dayton material.”
Nearby, malt is milled by hand; a man mends his trousers with thread and needle; and costumed servers present braunschwiger, Wiener schnitzel and more. The historical German, Irish and English offerings are in homage to Dayton’s early settlers.
This is Carillon Brewing Co.—an 1850s-style brewery, restaurant, and museum that opened at Carillon Historical Park nearly five years ago. “Carillon Brewing Co. is the nation’s only fully operational brewery in a museum,” says Spears. “It is truly one of a kind.”
American oak barrels line the brewery floor, each capped by an artful panel detailing the history and science of brewing. In sourcing city directories, canal records, farmers’ reports and the like, Carillon Historical Park carefully analyzed the influences of breweries on the city’s evolution during the latter half of the 1800s.
“Time, thought and care was put into every last detail,” says Dayton History President and CEO Brady Kress. “Colonial Williamsburg’s cooperage made our mash tun and oak buckets. The door hinges and handles were hand-forged by a Pennsylvania blacksmith. We tried to be as authentic as possible—right down to the cut nails in the sash-sawn timbers.”
Carillon Brewing Co. re-creates 1850s Dayton life via brewing production, exhibits and a full-service restaurant. Theirs is a story of a developing Midwestern city in a growing nation. It’s a tale that spans agriculture, industry, science, immigration, civilization, progress, culture and more. And all of it is told through food and drink. Plans for the brewing complex began in 2007 and Carillon Brewing Co. marked its grand opening in August 2014.
“We wanted to be the first museum in the country to actually have a full-scale production brewery where everybody’s in costume,” says Kress. “It’s an educational experience. You see it from grinding the grain to filling your glass—a production brewery. People can taste it, people can buy it, people can take it home.”
With every grain of hand-milled malt, with every batch of ale, not only is history replicated, but Carillon Brewing Co. tells Dayton’s story in a new, fun and fascinating way—a tale that its creators hope to expound upon in the future.
“We have begun corking two varieties of wine, Carillon Concord and Carillon Catawba,” says Kress. “We are close to having the infrastructure to make distilled spirits as well, so that would bring us full circle. When we have a facility that is able to teach these historic processes of distilling, brewing and winemaking, the project will be complete.”