A new book explores the rich history and colorful characters of the Dayton area’s brewing history, and its author says he encountered a few surprises along the way.
Dayton Beer: A History of Brewing in the Miami Valley (The History Press, $21.99) reveals how commercial brewing was actually among the first industries in the Dayton area’s early settlements, dating back to the beginning of the 19th century.
The book is written by Dayton native and former Dayton Daily News reporter Timothy R. Gaffney, a Miamisburg resident who also served as director of communications for the National Aviation Heritage Area after taking early retirement from the newspaper in 2006. Gaffney’s book is scheduled for release July 22, although it is available for pre-order now through Amazon.com.
Gaffney pored over thousands of records in local libraries, historical societies, county offices and ancestry databases across five counties from Dayton to Minster to research the region’s brewing history. There were a few surprises along the way.
Xenia had a brewery in 1805, for example, only two years after Ohio achieved statehood, Gaffney said.
And Ohio was an unfortunate trailblazer of sorts in the movement that devastated many local breweries in the early 20th Century: its Prohibition statutes became law in 1919, months before the 18th Amendment took effect nationwide.
But Gaffney said his biggest surprise was learning how many women — at least seven — owned family breweries or were presidents of incorporated brewing companies as early as the 1860s.
“They never received the recognition that men did,” Gaffney said. “If nothing else, Dayton Beer brings these women some long overdue credit.”
The Dayton area’s most recent craft-brewing renaissance started early in this decade, and at least 15 craft breweries have opened or are in the works across the Miami Valley. None has shut its doors.
Gaffney said he was intrigued that the wave of new breweries was repurposing old urban buildings that had been vacant for years and drawing heavily on local history to brand their companies and products. That curiosity evolved into a 190-page book, with photos.
“I’m already amazed at how much the craft beer industry has grown and continues to grow,” Gaffney said. “My sense is that what we have today in many ways resembles the industry Dayton had in the 19th century: robust, growing and independently owned, but prospering as much from a spirit of collaboration as competition.”
Gaffney will launch a rather non-traditional book tour on Aug. 7 at Warped Wing Brewing Co. in downtown Dayton. Dubbed “History and a Pint,” the tour will include author talks and book signings at brewpubs and tap houses across the region.
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