Wright State alumni turn dream into reality with craft brewery

Devil Wind in Xenia a testament to area history, music.

It is named after a fabled Shawnee Indian expression for the gusty nature of the area. Hanging on its walls are photos showing the aftermath of a deadly 1974 tornado that scarred the city.

Devil Wind Brewing is a tribute to the residents of Xenia. And its four owners — all of whom have connections to Wright State University — work to make it a place that feels like a gentle breeze.

The owners of the 3-year-old craft brewery are Wright State alumni David Hatfield, Perry Wyatt and Doug Lane and Wright State computer science major Michael Van Kirk.

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“We’re having a great time,” said Hatfield. “We’re just a bunch of good friends passionate about the same thing.”

The brewery’s taproom is a testament to both history and music. In addition to photos of local history and glass-encased arrowheads on the walls, images of Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix also stare back. A curving granite bar, wooden tables and barstools populate the open-floor area, while BarcaLoungers and fuzzy overstuffed sofas create nooks in the corners.

But there is no mistaking that Devil Wind is a full craft brewery. Empty bags of Briess malt hang from the exposed ceiling, and stainless-steel brewing tanks and fermenters peek out from the rear.

There is also a playful side. A shuffleboard table hugs a wall and there are dart boards, a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game and a space for musical performances.

“There is a little bit of stuff for everybody,” said Hatfield. “We just wanted to create a casual atmosphere. We went to a lot of breweries on our planning nights, and we’d take stuff that we liked from those breweries to here.”

Hatfield grew up in Beavercreek and after graduating from Beavercreek High School attended Wright State while working full time and helping raise his two children. In 1998, he earned his bachelor’s degree in management information systems.

Over the years, he has done IT work for small private companies and worked as a contractor at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and for other government contractors. He is still working an IT job full time.

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Hatfield has used his degree to help his children pay for college and now to help start a brewery.

“I couldn’t have gotten here without Wright State,” he said. “Wright State allowed me to get my IT jobs that I’ve had throughout my career. It got me to this point.”

Hatfield became a fan of craft beer about 20 years ago, stopping at breweries around the country during his travels.

“I just fell in love with the culture,” he said. “You go into a brewery and you find neat people, all passionate about the same thing.”

Wyatt also grew up in Beavercreek and earned his bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Wright State in 1996. He got a marketing job, then became a systems administrator and finally a contractor at Wright-Patterson, where he works as a civilian employee.

Lane grew up in West Carrollton and earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Wright State in 2014. His father worked as a beer distributor in Lexington, Kentucky.

“He would tell me stories about working in the beer business,” said Lane. “It sounded like a lot of fun. And around that same time was when craft beer started picking up a little bit more in Ohio. I just really appreciated the differences in flavors. All beer just wasn’t light American lagers. There was so much more going on in the world of beer.”

After Van Kirk, who is a computer science major at Wright State, got a homebrew kit for his birthday, he and Lane began brewing beer.

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“What was originally a hobby — just something that was fun to do — we got really serious about,” said Lane.

The two also took a trip to Europe, where they fell in love with German lagers and English ales.

The seeds of Devil Wind Brewing were planted when Hatfield and Wyatt socialized at various Dayton breweries and fantasize about starting their own. Then they met Van Kirk and Lane, who was homebrewing some impressive craft beer.

“We all saw the brewery scene happening for Dayton. It was exploding,” said Hatfield. “And we were all big fans of craft beer.”

So the foursome decided to open their own brewery and settled on a building in Xenia, which is next to a bicycle path they would often ride from Dayton to Yellow Springs.

Getting started was a challenge. The owners lost a 50% deposit on brewing equipment when the equipment company went out of business.

“So we frantically searched for brewing equipment and found some out of California that was in stock and was able to purchase it,” said Hatfield. “But it set us back four to five months.”

Devil Wind Brewing opened on March 30, 2018.

“It was unbelievable. We were opening at 4 (p.m.) on a Friday and there were people lined up at about 3:30,” Hatfield recalled. “It was just super exciting.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Devil Wind went to carryout and delivery only until June 2020, when the entire parking lot was converted into an outdoor patio.

“While it was a tough year financially, we did not have to lay off any employees,” said Hatfield.

The owners recently purchased a canning line and hope to soon have cans on the shelves, starting locally and then expanding out. They also hope to either move or expand the taproom into downtown Xenia so the current location can be used for production and packaging.

Devil Wind is a five-barrel brewhouse with 300-gallon tanks. Every beer is a double batch, with 150 gallons brewed at a time.

Lane said the biggest challenge was trying to determine the kind of beer Devil Wind customers wanted and going from making five-gallon to 150-gallon batches while maintaining consistency.

“We kind of had to change up our brewing schedule and our standard recipes,” he said. “But through a lot of research online and talking to other brewers, we were able to scale things up pretty well. We were pretty confident in what we were doing.”

Devil Wind has become well-known for its Helles, a light German lager, and ESB, an English amber ale.

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“It’s not a style that you see a lot, and a lot of the ones we try to do you don’t really see around all that much,” said Lane. “But they’ve been around for hundreds of years.”

Hatfield said the formula for success is making great beer, selling it at a reasonable price and creating customer-attracting events such as live music, trivia contests and shuffleboard tournaments.

Lane, who plays the trumpet, remains passionate about the music part.

“We really want to promote that here in our brewery,” he said. “In a way, I use my music degree to organize these open-mic nights for musicians. And we all go up and play once in awhile.”

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