Stark County brewery, with roots dating back to 1883, is right at the center of the ongoing revitalization of downtown Canton.

Canton Brewing Co.'s success is built on living up to a rich tradition.

But, sitting still is no way to mark your territory in today's competitive craft beer environment.

The brewery's inspiration springs from the original Canton Brewing Co., one of five major breweries that operated in Canton before Prohibition.

Yet, its creativity and innovation equip the brewery to satisfy the changing tastes of today's craft beer lovers.

The original Canton Brewing Co. was founded in 1883 by Otto Giessen, a Bavarian immigrant. There was change and growth, until Prohibition got in the way.

In February 2015, Canton businessman David Beule, opened a new craft brewery at 120 3rd St. NW in Canton. He named it Canton Brewing Co. to keep a legacy alive.

But, Beule, who operates Appalachian Basin CPAs downtown, also had a vision for a vibrant downtown district when Canton Brewing was conceived.

Downtown Canton is undergoing huge change. Centennial Plaza construction kicked off last month, and it's expected to continue through July 2020.

"I saw the brewery as a core piece in the redevelopment of downtown," Beule said. "It's a long-term plan, but it's coming to life."

Part of that long-term plan includes Beule opening a second brewery, Innovation Brewery, in the opposite corner of Centennial Plaza.

There's short-term pain before long-term gain. Snorky's on Third, Canton Brewing's upstairs restaurant, is closed during construction. Patrons must access the brewery through the Speakeasy entrance on Market, where they can still order food with their beer.

"We're going back to our roots," Beule said, referring to the original brewery set up before the restaurant opened.

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Brewmaster Dylan Hamilton joined Canton Brewing Co. last year. He'd been brewmaster at Buckeye Lake Brewery in Buckeye Lake, Ohio.

Hamilton had been home brewing and decided to send his resume to breweries. He got a job at Buckeye Lake as a brewer's assistant, and worked his way up to brewmaster.

Hamilton also studied brewing through the Siebel Institute of Technology, which has educated brewers around the world for more than 140 years.

"I learned a lot about brewing, but also realized I knew a lot," Hamilton said. "I felt like I'd reached my limit at Buckeye Lake. I saw Canton Brewing was looking for a brewmaster, so I applied."

And the rest is history.

Hamilton has been putting his touch on Canton Brewing classics including Carpe Noctem Coffee Porter, Cascade Pale Ale and Tuscora Pilsner.

Cascade was the beer the founders of professional football were drinking when the game was created, and Tuscora also dates back to the original Canton Brewing Co.

Hamilton also has had fun with some newer offerings, including Audi 5000 Mango Milkshake IPA, Déjà vu White Stout and Julie Dry-Hopped Grisette.

As the seasons change, so too do the beers. Hamilton is planning a Pumpkin Ale for the fall and a Christmas Ale, or two.

"We focus on the fundamentals, but we also like to experiment by doing some things that stand out," Hamilton said.

That's a must today.

According to the Brewers Association, there were more than 7,000 breweries in the United States and more than 300 in Ohio at the end of 2018. More have opened this year and are in planning.

"Some people will drink a beer only once," Hamilton said. "They're always looking for something new. You need a mix of staple beers and also something for the enthusiasts."

Today, it's tougher for craft breweries to expand far from their communities, and there's a trend of enhancing the experience inside the brewery.

Most of Canton Brewing's beer is sold at the Speakeasy and Snorky's on Third. But the brewery works with Esber Beverage to distribute its beer to nearly 40 restaurants and bars, primarily in Stark County.

"Our beers have reached Akron, Cleveland and Columbus," Hamilton said.
But the focus remains close to home.

Canton Brewing supports regional beer festivals and often buys beer back to assist the local charities involved. The brewery also sponsors the "Gray for May" event for brain cancer, where a portion of proceeds from its Julie Dry-Hopped Grisette are donated to the American Cancer Society and the Julie Mesaros Educational Endowment Fund.

Craft beer has a bright future in Stark County. And Canton Brewing will continue to borrow from the past as it strives to meet the ever-changing and expanding craft beer landscape here.