24 June 2010

Great Crescent and Aurora: a small town brewery renaissance

Before prohibition and refrigerated rail cars, it was common to find breweries in small towns providing the local townspeople with tasty, fresh beer.

Decades later, the craft beer movement has created opportunities for small towns to enjoy a beer that they can call their own. This is the case for Great Crescent Brewery in Aurora.

Aurora is a little town near Cincinnati. It is located on the Ohio River between two riverboat casinos. It has a beautiful historic downtown that you often find in these old river towns. Great Crescent is a business of love, not just of beer. The brewery is owned by husband and wife Dan and Lani Valas. They had met while working for the same company in San Francisco. When they had their son, they decided to move to the Midwest, which they felt was a better place to raise children.

When Gina and I first visited Great Crescent in May 2009, Dan still worked a full time job during the week and brewed on weekends. The brewery, located in a downtown storefront, was open on Saturdays for sampling and purchasing of carryout growlers and party pigs. Otherwise, their beer was available only in a few local establishments.

A year later, the brewery has moved from a small storefront that they leased to a former distillery warehouse building that they own. Dan is now dedicating all of his work time to just the brewery. The plan: to open a restaurant to go along with their brewery. They hope to be open later this summer.

They have also been receiving a lot of press. In the May 2010 issue of Cincinnati Magazine, their Coconut Porter was featured. The creation of the Coconut Porter was a must have for Lani, a native Hawai'ian.

I've never had Maui Brewing's Coconut Porter. But HBG's Rod and Jess have. And when I brought a growler of Great Crescent's Coconut Porter to a recent event, they said that while it wasn't exactly like Maui's, it was pretty darn close. And they asked for more, please. Certainly a good sign!

Going back to the "small town brewery" point that I brought up... While visiting last year, several locals stopped in for growler refills. I'm going to ask you to visualize what a craft beer fan looks like. Are you thinking of someone wearing a Dale Earnhardt Jr. t-shirt with grease and oil on his hands and under his nails from working all day at the auto repair center? I'm betting not.

But in Aurora, a small town with its own brewery, auto technician/stock car fan is one of the many faces of craft beer consumers. I didn't ask, but I'm sure that part of his love for Great Crescent beer comes from his love of his small town. Local breweries are front and center in craft beer's push to grow its consumer base. And it appears that Great Crescent is succeeding.

You'll be able to try beers from Great Crescent at this year's Indiana Microbrewers Festival.


  1. thanks for the great post - that's a neat story and I wish them much success. It sure makes me want to get on the road... and look forward to the microbrew fest that much more!


  2. I stopped in and met them about 3 pr so months ago and sampled all of their beers. Truly nice people and very approachable. They mentioned that they were buying the old distillery but were still in the little store front. Glad to hear they have moved in. All in all, I enjoyed most of their beers. I can't remember which, either a mild or a cream ale, was truly outstanding. I'll definitely stop by and see them at the festival!