Pete Hilgeman is the brewer and owner of the Dayton Beer Co., a small production brewery and tasting room that opened in Kettering last month. The Dayton community has been without a craft brewery for years, and Hilgeman has reported overwhelming demand since he opened.
Question: Why did you become a brewer?
Answer: I had always liked the idea of being able to create something that was unique and different that you could completely call your own, and I couldn't think of a better avenue to explore that love for invention than beer. There were and are so many styles and flavors to the world of beer that the possibilities are endless, that aspect really pulled me into brewing and jump started the love affair of creating my own unique brews.
Q: Why do you think Dayton hasn't had a craft brewery in such a long time?
A: We have such a great brewing tradition here in Dayton, and somewhere along the road we lost our way. I think it all started with Prohibition. Like many other parts of the country during that time, it closed down most, if not all, of our breweries for such an extended period that the old brewers had to find other ways to support their families instead of brewing.
And by the time Prohibition had ended, Dayton would never fully recover from that swift knock-out punch. By the time our last true brewery closed in the late '50s early '60s, big breweries like Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Pabst dominated the beer market essentially making Dayton forget its strong roots to local unique brews. But Dayton has finally remembered our love for brewing and over the last decade or so, enjoying great beer has really become a way of life again for a lot of people here.
Q: With so many new breweries opening in Ohio, what the biggest lesson you learned and what advice can you share about opening a brewery?
A: The biggest lesson I have learned is to be patient. It's such a long process, both the art of brewing and the licensing aspect that having patience is very important. The advice I would give anyone wanting to open up a brewery is to remember your brewing roots. Embrace your city/areas brewing history and culture and make the beer that you love to make. Oh and also to be patient!
Q: What is your best-selling beer and why do you think it's so popular?
A: That's a bit of a loaded question. We have had such a great reception to all of our beers that its had to pick our just a few, but some of the most popular styles are our German hefeweizen, American pale ale, and American stout. People have really loved those three styles and we go through those pretty quickly.
Q: Which beer -- any beer in the world -- do you wish you invented/created/brewed and why?
A: Personally I wish I had created Beamish Irish Stout. That beer holds a special place in my heart. I was fortunate enough to live a block away from the Beamish Brewery in Cork, Ireland, for six months, and if I could have created any beer, that would be the one. It's unfortunate that they recently stopped distributing to the states so it looks like I am just going to have to return to Cork to get a pint of my favorite brew.