Fifth Street Brewpub Hires Former Goose Island Brewer
Fifth Street Brewpub in Dayton, Ohio, found their new head brewer in a way perfectly befitting the small, neighborhood establishment’s community focus: through a hometown connection and a pint at the pub.
Jon Naghski, who has been the head brewer at Goose Island Brewing’s Clybourn brewpub in Chicago since 2015, will take over as Fifth Street’s new head brewer in mid-August. He’ll be replacing Darren Link, who has been Fifth Street’s brewer since the brewpub’s founding in 2012. Darren is stepping away to pursue other creative interests.
“Darren was the perfect founding brewer for us,” says Tanya Brock, Fifth Street’s general manager. “His beers formed a beer identity we can build on.”
A serendipitous visit led to Naghski being hired to build on that foundation.
“My wife’s from Dayton, and when Fifth Street Brewpub opened in 2012, there was a lot of community excitement,” explains Naghski, whose warm laugh and ready smile convey his enthusiasm for his new position. He was visiting family in Dayton this spring and having a pint with a friend on Fifth Street’s patio when she pointed out the brewery was looking for a brewer. Jon and his wife were ready to be closer to family, and he reached out for an interview. It quickly became apparent he had the perfect pedigree to guide Fifth Street’s future.
“As a co-op, we have always found purpose in sharing a place where stories are made and shared with our community around beer,” says Brock. Fifth Street Brewpub is one of the nation’s handful of cooperatively-owned breweries, with about 3,500 co-op owners. “As we continue to grow into the next chapter of the Brewpub’s story, I look forward to having Jon Naghski on board.”
Beers to Come
Naghski started at Goose Island Clybourn in 2012 doing the grunt work no one else wanted to do, but quickly developed an acumen for brewing. Goose Island is owned by AB-Inbev, the world’s largest brewing company, and the expectations for quality at the brewpub were high. Naghski is looking forward to applying that to Fifth Street’s smaller system.
“In the early years at Goose, there was a lot of focus on the seasonality of beer. We dig back through the recipe books and make sure there are some deep cuts on our draft list as throwbacks the customers want to see,” he says. “A lot of the feedback I hear from Fifth Street is there’s a thirst for that type of menu development.”
He expects to balance classic styles with new, creative beers, maintaining Fifth Street’s core lineup while developing exciting new options.
“Obviously I’ve brewed a few of the ‘cool kid’ beers, and I’m always fascinated by the trends, but it’s also fun to have a mix of some of the old school, technical styles,” said Naghski.
He’s especially excited to create a crisp, easy-drinking lager under 5% ABV. At Goose Island, Naghski developed Cermak Pils, a Czech-style Pilsner showcasing German Tettnang hops. Jon says he’s interested in retooling the beer at his new brewing home.
“It’s a fun style to tweak and play with, and in recent years, I’ve thought it would be fun to change it up, but it’s hard to do that currently because it’s become a mainstay,” he explains. “I think this will be a fun opportunity to think about what my next sessionable Lager is going to look like.”
A Public Focus
Coming from the brewery known globally for Bourbon County Stout, one of the very first bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stouts ever brewed, Naghski knows the expectation for him to brew wood-aged beers at Fifth Street will be high.
“I love brewing barrel-aged beer. It’s really fun. Of course, it makes me a little nervous, because I’m not sure I want those expectations,” he says with a knowing chuckle. While he wasn’t directly involved with brewing the Bourbon County variants at Goose Island, he was heavily involved in the first public tastings for those beers each year.
“I got to be there when a lot of the public were tasting them for the first time, guiding them through that and explaining the basics of barrel-aging and how you get to those final flavors,” he says. His involvement in beer education and public outreach at Goose Island is something he’s eager to continue at Fifth Street.
“I want people to know the brewer,” he reflects. “I want them to know there’s a time that when they come by, I’m there to chat about what I’m excited about on the menu.”
Part of the Community
That involvement with people is what drives Naghski’s enthusiasm for this new chapter in all aspects of his life.
“I’m excited that my daughter’s going to be close to her grandma. I’m excited to walk to work. I’m excited to feel in community,” he says with a trademark smile that’s always close to the surface. “I’ve built a decent skill set over the last nine years, and it feels really fun to take that to a place that has such localized community support.”
For nearly a decade, Fifth Street Brewpub has built that grassroots community out of their small taproom restaurant. For Jon Naghski, that makes it already feel like home.
“One of the things that was talked about early in the interview process was Fifth Street’s excitement to grow the roots, not the expanse of the branches. I’ve come to the realization that if you build really good bones, a lot of the other things follow more naturally. With the support of 3,500 members, there’s some really good bones there. I’m excited to be a part of that.”
Cover photos by Kelsey McKinney and David Nilsen.