Carillon Brewing Takes an Age-Old Approach to Brewing

carillon brewing

With preserving history as the backdrop, Dayton’s Carillon Brewing is teaching consumers, and brewers, that enter its doors what beer was all about in the ’50s.

The 1850s, that is.

The country’s first production brewery housed on a museum’s grounds, Carillon brews as accurate to style the way beer was made by settlers in the Miami Valley of Ohio more than 150 years ago.

Using six-row barley and noble hops, the brewery, which is a part of Dayton History — a not-for-profit historical society for the city — makes three house beers and two other seasonals, 55 gallons at a time.

It has become a destination for historical buffs, beer geeks and even professional brewers from all over the country said one of its three brewers, James Hymans.

Even though he and head brewer Tanya Brock along with Kyle Spears had no formal training or ever worked for a brewery before starting Carillon, they are inspiring those that visit.

“There was a conscious decision not to hire people with brewing experience because our methods would drive a lot of brewers crazy,” Hymans said. “The people we bring up, we like to show them and they can’t believe what they are seeing.”

The three-tiered brewing rig is run on wood and charcoal fires, with no gas or electricity with most of the equipment made with copper and wood. “We can run the system with the power off if we needed to,” Hymans said.

carillon brewing

The trio of brewers showcase the work from the 19th century with five brew days a week that are open to the public. All is done in historical outfits and with either gravity-fed or muscle-fed work, starting with filling a 110 gallon hot liquor tank each day at Carillon Historical Park.

An idea sparked in 2008 by Dayton History CEO Brady Kress finally came to life in 2012 with the hiring of Brock, who had a background in food preservation.

“[Kress] thought of how we could tap into the energy of what is going on with craft brewing,” Hymans explained, “and he had the idea of not just demonstrating, but doing it from start to finish.”

Brock researched all the recipes the brewery now uses, including a Coriander Ale with hot pepper that was found in a housewife’s journal from 1831. It also makes an Irish Red Ale and a Porter. Both are served forced carbed or as a room temperature cask ale.

The brewery opened in August of 2014 and it tapped its first barrel for consumers in November of that year.

Business has been up and down, but education has been the key to success said Hymans since the flavor profiles of the barrel-fermented beers are much more tart to the general populace.

“The beer is different enough and sour hasn’t caught on in Dayton yet,” he said. “Some people appreciate it. We feel like people are starting to come around and our staff is doing a better job of communicating what we are trying to do here.

“The more that people understand that, the better it is received.”

The brewing process is similar, but different all the same. It starts at the top and getting a fire going to bring the hot liquor tank up to 170 degrees in the morning.

Mashing in at around 155 degrees from hand-ladled water from up top, hand-milled grain is hauled up to the mash tun and covered under a wooden lid for 60-90 minutes, then sparged and lautered into the kettle on the bottom tier into a 75-gallon copper kettle over another fire.

Very little hops are used, just like it would have been back then and the wort is air cooled for 30-60 minutes and ladled through a flour bag cloth to strain out trub.

“It’s the only filtration we do here,” Hymans said.

The wort is run through 200 feet of copper coil resting in a cold water barrel to drop to 75 degrees for pitching. The yeast is used for five generations before Carillon re-pitches.

Fermenting in the barrel lasts about a week before being racked into conditioning for two more weeks. Cask Ales are poured straight from those barrels or else they are brought into the back for storage and pumped into standard half barrels, chilled for two days and forced carbed.

Because it is a brewpub, many history buffs end up stopping for food and learning of the brewery’s function as a place to grab a beer as well. Carillon not only houses its own ales, but other craft beer as well.

Along with its own beer, Carillon plans to make wine and cider by the end of the year.

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