Carillon Brewing Co. - Dayton, Ohio, USA

I've been to quite a few breweries, but never someplace like this. Carillon Brewing Co. in Dayton, Ohio is a living museum situated in Carillon Historical Park, home of Dayton's history museum. Walking into the brewery, you are transported back nearly 200 years to Dayton in the year 1850. Staff members look the part, wearing period clothing, though they speak in modern English.

Carillon Brewing Co. resides in a newer building with 1850s aesthetics

The living museum is full of character

My friend Shelly joined me at Carillon and, like I prefer to do, we sat at the bar. From that vantage point, we could see everything. The building had two floors, but most of the second floor was open, and the presence of the brewing fireplaces created a warm, welcoming atmosphere on the gray, autumn day. Although the brick building is new construction (Carillon opened in 2014), it was built to appear as a new 1850 building with exposed bricks and unfinished wood throughout. The tables, chairs, bar stools and nearly everything else were handmade. There is a separate special event room that can be rented, and there's a nice patio in the back of the building. Sitting at the bar, we had a perfect view of the brewing set-up.

The special event space

Everything you see adds character to the brewery, but is also fully functioning

A brewer stokes the fire

Our beer server Michael described the historic beer styles on tap and Shelly and I chose a flight of five plus one extra sample. We wanted to get the full historical experience. Immediately, you could tell that these beers were different. They were unfiltered, cloudy and much less carbonated than the typical modern brew. The ales were also highly palatable, and there wasn't a single beer I didn't enjoy. My favorites were the Squash Ale (made with butternut squash) and the Coriander Ale (slightly peppery, from a recipe in a Cincinnati brewer's manual from the 1800s). Shelly was partial to the Ginger Pale Ale.

A server in period attire pours beer

The barrels are a nice touch for the taps

The draft list on our visit; the squash ale wasn't even on the menu yet

Squash Ale, Ginger Pale Ale, Roggenbier (a rye), Coriander Ale,  Black Cherry Porter

Head Brewer Kyle Spears stopped by the bar to tell us a little more about the brewery. The brewing system was designed to be as close as possible to that of a small production brewery at this point in the industrial revolution. It is a gravity-fed system that visitors can watch in action over an eight to twelve hour brewing day. The team of three full-time brewers, along with several part-time staff and volunteers, brews small batches almost daily. The brewing takes place in copper kettles and the mash is heated using wood fires. Carillon Brewing buys grain already malted, but they do everything else in-house, from the milling to the roasting to the mashing and the fermenting, which is done in American white oak barrels. The fires were stoked when Shelly and I arrived because Kyle had planned to brew a batch of the Ginger Pale Ale. Unfortunately, only half of the required ginger was delivered that day, so the brewing had to be canceled.

Even without brewing taking place, we had a great view of the brewers working. One man was baking crackers made from the brewery's spent grain. I liked seeing the spent grain used and not wasted. The crackers would be served by the kitchen, which offers a full menu for lunch and dinner. The recipes hearken back to 1850s German immigrant cuisine, but are updated for the modern palate, and vegetarian options are included. Shelly and I didn't dine at Carillon, but I did see some soft pretzels on the menu that looked pretty good, and lovers of sausages and sauerkraut will be very happy.

The view from our barstools: the man in the photo is making the spent grain crackers; the brewing kettle is on the second level above the fireplace (photo credit: Shelly Schlicher)

Head Brewer Kyle at work

Carillon offers a Brewer for a Day program so that visitors can become part of the living museum. The package is an all-day affair, in which you participate in the entire brewing process, enjoy lunch and a beer tasting, take a tour of the history museum, and later on take home a growler of the beer you brewed. This sounds like so much fun and I may consider a return visit as a brewer for a day.

When the brewery is a museum, you get educational plaques

The Deeds Carillon (1942) just outside the brewery; the dreary day made it even nicer to stay inside and sip beer


Carillon Brewing Co. is open daily for lunch and dinner: Sunday-Thursday 11 AM-9 PM, Friday-Saturday 11 AM-10 PM, They have seven taps of their own and two guest taps. You can take home a growler of your favorite historical ale. They also serve bottles and cans from other breweries, and have a select wine and spirits menu. You may find Carillon brews on some guest taps around Dayton, but your best bet is to go to the brewery. The brewery is kid-friendly and serves house-made sodas. You can learn more at or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.


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