Pete Hilgeman can trace his love affair with craft beer to a retail job and a trip abroad.
While studying at the University of Cincinnati, he worked at the Party Source, a giant party store with a great beer selection in Kentucky just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Hilgeman was exposed to hundreds of different craft brews every day.
Then, he spent six months studying in Ireland – a time that changed his attitude toward beer even more.
“It really gave me a new appreciation for how people can enjoy beer,” said Hilgeman, 25, who graduated with a degree in marketing and international business. “A lot of times, here and in college, people drink beer to drink it and get crazy wild on it. There, it’s more of an art form and people drink it to enjoy it.”
The retail job, living in Ireland and experience as a homebrewer has lead Hilgeman to launch the Dayton Beer Co., a small production brewery and tasting room in the Dayton suburb of Kettering. He hopes to open in mid-May.
“I started homebrewing and entered some contests and won some awards,” he said. “I thought I made some pretty good beer and thought I’d try to bring it to the masses.”
Dayton Beer, which is starting with a small 1 ½-barrel system, will offer both draft and 12-ounce bottles that will be hand-bottled. Hilgeman plans to offer five beers initially. Their names pay tribute to Dayton history. There’s Broken Trolley Blonde Ale, Patterson Pale Ale, Rising River Porter, Inventors IPA and Hawthorn Hall Hefeweizen.
He described his brewing style as “traditionalist with a flair.” What’s that mean? He pointed to an Irish stout he makes.
“I like to throw in some fresh lemon balm so it’s a lemon-flavored Irish stout,” Hilgeman said. “It’s not like it’s Dogfish Head coming out with crazy beers or anything. But I like to give them a new flavor that people haven’t tried and they’ll love drinking.”
The plan is to focus on the Dayton area.
“Dayton is a great market for craft beer,” Hilgeman said. “There’s a ton of craft beer lovers here. We really want to focus on Dayton and grab that market.”
As the company grows, he would like to expand toward Cincinnati and then Columbus and Cleveland.
Dayton Beer plans to have a big grand opening at the brewery and then launch parties at local restaurants. The specific dates haven’t been set yet.