Warped Wing nears a decade: ‘It’s cool to be from Dayton and we should be proud’

Brewery founders Bowman and Haggerty have grown business to four locations, tried 1,000 beer varieties

Business partners Nick Bowman and John Haggerty may seem an unlikely pair on paper. While a decade apart in age and with differing professional expertise, the Warped Wing Brewing Company duo have used each other’s unique brand of skills to build a company that is thriving nearly 10 years later.

When Haggerty, who is originally from the Indianapolis suburb of Zionsville, ended up in Dayton, he already had his fair share of experience in the beer-making business. He most notably served for a decade as head brewer of New Holland brewery in Holland, Michigan.

Bowman, a Centerville native, had experience of his own in the field, though on the opposite end of the business, serving in various sales and marketing roles for Anheuser-Busch over a 10-year period.

When the two joined together in a business venture to open a Dayton-based craft brewery, their individual experiences lent a solid foundation to a brand that’s become synonymous with the city.

“Nick runs more of the outward-facing stuff, like the sales and marketing side of the business, and my role is more inward as head brewmaster,” Haggerty said of the partnership.

Warped Wing’s original downtown Dayton location thrives at the 26 Wyandot St. site where it launched in January 2014. Though the business has since expanded, this spot continues to serve as the company’s home base.

Being in the heart of Dayton makes sense for a business whose name and logo pay homage to the Wright Brothers’ “wing warping” system that helped control their early airplanes.

Situated on a small brick road between East Third and Fourth streets, the brewery and taproom took over a former industrial building that, back in the 1930s, housed Buckeye Brass & Iron Foundry.

Inside, the tall warehouse ceilings and open floor plan — there is no hard boundary separating the brewery from the taproom — make for a distinctive look. The space embraces the industrial vibe, with a garage door that can be opened on warmer days and an original outer facade consisting primarily of small, square, glass-block windows that lend a vintage feel.

“Our model from the start was to be a full-scale production brewery,” said Bowman, co-owner and marketing manager for Warped Wing. “That’s why we chose the building; it had the height and area for a tap room to do the marketing and sampling, and the experience.”

Bowman and Haggerty were heavily focused on entering the beer market, with plans to sell to restaurants and bars. This began with on-tap sales, with canning production beginning in the summer of 2014.

Warped Wing products are now available in stores and restaurants across central and southwestern Ohio.

The downtown location serves as the main hub for Warped Wing production. To the back of the building, past the taproom bar and seating area, are rows of brewing tanks, each of which holds 60 to 120 barrels of beer.

Nearby sits equipment used to prepare the brewed product for distribution, whether it be in kegs, cans, or bottles. Throughout the near-decade in business, Warped Wing has created hundreds of types of beers.

“That’s an impossible question to answer,” Bowman said. “In 10 years, I think we’ve definitely hit the 1,000 mark.”

The question of the company’s most popular beer is much easier to answer.

“Our Gamma Bomb is now and has been our number one beer for several years, followed by Trotwood Lager,” Bowman said.

Haggerty said he and Bowman had always hoped to continue to grow the business, though they initially thought that would mean expanding further into the wholesale market.

“But, you know, there are 10,000 craft breweries out there competing in that market at this point, so it’s a tough arena to compete in,” Haggerty said. “We can still sell in that market, but the path of less resistance from the market was to do it ourselves and own our own taproom.”

Warped Wing Barrel Room & Smokery, the second of the four total Warped Wing locations, opened in 2020 in Springboro’s Wright Station redevelopment.

“The downtown location is more of a ‘classic taproom,’ with no-frills service — it’s beer, and we’ve got some food but it’s pretty basic,” Haggerty said. “The other three are more brew pub or restaurant-focused, with larger kitchens and smaller breweries.”

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

According to Bowman, the plan for Springboro initially was to open a venue similar to the downtown location. That is, before a global pandemic hit.

“We planned to carry the model from downtown, but COVID didn’t allow for that, and it created such an issue for us and our customers that we sat back and evaluated a new way to go about it,” Bowman said. “It’s worked out great for us and I’m proud of the business and how diverse it’s become.”

The quick success of the Springboro location allowed the business to stay afloat in a time that critically hindered many businesses.

“It ended up being something that helped save us through COVID, but it also gave us a new path of growth and expansion and brand experience,” Bowman said.

The company continued on this path of growth over the next three years.

“We weren’t necessarily looking to open another one after Springboro, but an opportunity arose in Mason and it was too good to pass up,” Haggerty said. “Then, another opportunity arose in Huber Heights, so it’s just one of those things, and I think other people in the industry would say the same, where success begets success.”

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

So, what’s next for Warped Wing Brewing Company?

“Right now, it’s giving our team a chance to breathe and giving ourselves the opportunity to improve upon what we’re doing,” Bowman said.

But as has been the case in the past, he and Haggerty aren’t ruling anything out.

“We’re trying to create the world’s largest neighborhood,” Bowman said, adding that the company’s success thus far has been largely driven by the support of the Dayton community.

“The community as a whole has supported us through our evolution and been champions for us, and that’s what keeps us going,” Bowman said. “I like to think that we stand for something through what we do, the brands we’ve created, and the stories we tell, in showing that it’s cool to be from Dayton and we should be proud of that.”

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