Daytonian of the Week: Joseph Head

Source: Jim Witmer
Source: Jim Witmer

If there is one person in Dayton who knows his bourbon, it's this guy. Do we even need to say his name?

Joseph Head is co-owner of Century Bar and an aficionado of all things dark liquor-related in the Dayton area. It's hard to think of the city's thriving bar scene without at least mentioning his name.

When you ask yourself what makes people fall in love with the Dayton food and drink scene, bourbon and The Century come to mind. Joseph Head should, too.

Head recently spilled the beans about the newest compliment to Century Bar -- a cocktail-focused speakeasy called Kette's Kandies, which is scheduled to open in April 2016. This information was divulged at The Century's shindig to commemorate the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition.

>> PHOTOS: Toasting the end of Prohibition at Century

With that, we thought it only fitting to recognize the bar owner from West Carrollton as this week’s Daytonian of the Week.

Can you remember your first encounter with bourbon? What sets it apart to you from other whiskeys or liquors?
First encounter with bourbon...I grew up a Hank Williams Jr. fan. He sang about Jim Beam a lot on his early albums, so when I got to the curious age, all I wanted was Jim Beam. I fell in love instantly.

What sets bourbon apart from other spirits (is that) bourbon is a perfect synergy of all the elements coming together. Gin and vodka can be made quickly. Bourbon takes its sweet time aging. Bourbon is America: we brought a process from somewhere else, regulated and taxed the hell out of it, and made it bigger, bolder and better.

Tell us about the inception of Century Bar. How did your team work to create a world-class bourbon bar in Dayton?
In 2011, we were in a rut as a business. I approached my then-employer, now business partner Diane Spitzig about going one-spirit specific. I felt it was time to change our direction. She agreed. So we stripped it down and built the kind of bar we would go to.

We have 352 different whiskeys opened behind the bar, so that takes a very dedicated staff (that's) thirsty for knowledge. I simply can't say enough about our staff. I, as the face of the bar, get all the public credit -- however, if it wasn't for Tim Fry, Jerrod Claytor, Nick Moerman and Ryan Lewis, I wouldn't be able to see my dream come true. These men have worked very hard to become one of the most knowledgeable staffs in the country.

Can you talk a bit about the speakeasy you're building? What stage are you in construction, and what features do you plan to have in that room?
Head:  Ahh, our new venture. We are bringing a speakeasy to downtown, Kette's Kandies. This will be a cocktail bar. We want to bring that 1920s-style bar back to downtown. While the Century is all about whiskey, Kette's Kandies will be all about the cocktails. The options are endless -- we will be doing things like Havana nights, where we will feature rum cocktails. We will only feature one beer made for us by our friends at Warped Wing. We hope to be open in April (2016).

The Century is well known for classic, impeccably made cocktails. What are one or two of your personal favorites, either classic or of your own creation?
Head:  The Century Shandy is my favorite cocktail. It really started out as a bit of a joke, something I thought would only be on our summer cocktail list. Turns out I was wrong. Century Shandy: Old Forester Bourbon, house ginger syrup, Crabbie's Lemonade, Angostua bitters.

What do you look for in a bourbon bar when you're traveling outside of Dayton?
Head:  (In) other bourbon bars, I look for a friendly, knowledge bartender with a solid selection of bourbons. (It) doesn't matter how many bourbons are there -- if the bartender isn't good, the whole experience is ruined.

What has your experience been as a downtown Dayton business owner?
Head: My experience as a downtown business owner has all been very positive. Everyone has been so supportive of what we are doing, from the Downtown Dayton Partnership to the Mayor, but the support of Dayton as a whole has been overwhelming.

What do you love about Dayton? Where can people typically find you if not at Century?
Head:  What I love about Dayton is that it's real, and if you give, it gives back. Where can you find me? Sadly, after bartending for 20 years I've become quite the homebody, most nights you can find me in the bar I built in my house. The bourbon selection is quite impressive.

If there were one thing you could change or improve about Dayton, what would it be?
Head:  The one thing I would change about Dayton is the outsider's perception of Dayton. This is a wonderful place to live with so many amazing and inspiring people doing amazing and inspiring things.

What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
Head:  The future of Dayton in the next 10 years is bright. I see a resurgence of people living back downtown. We are just excited to be a part of the rebirth of downtown.

About the Author