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Buffalo Beer Week: Four Queen City Breweries On the Rise

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 by Caleb Houseknecht

The Buffalo Beer Scene

Buffalo Beer Week started this past Friday and runs through Sunday, November 4. That’s 10 full days to revel in the bubbling Buffalo beer scene – 10 full days that we’re looking very forward to!

As the BBW website states, "Buffalo Beer Week is a bit like a swan…it seems to be sitting there gracefully on the water. But look below the surface and it’s peddling madly! Buffalo is an awesome beer town and is in the process of becoming a bigger and better one."

I believe this to be true as well, and I hope you will too after reading about the four breweries showcased in this article.

Community Beer Works

Community Beer Works

Community Beer Works is Buffalo’s first nanobrewery, and they’ve been providing quality beer to select Buffalo bars since April of this year. Within their ranks there’s a total of 42 years of homebrewing experience. You gotta trust that number!

Their mission, motto, and battlecry is simple: "Embeer Buffalo" to better the beer culture of of the city. "Buffalonians love Buffalo things," says Ethan Cox, President and Main Instigator at CBW (that’s actually his title).

Although he is often discouraged by negative perceptions about Buffalo, Cox says that they’re all in for Buffalo. It’s more than making beer for them. "We make our beer to serve as a vehicle for building communities and relationships within and between them."

Ethan says they’re not too concerned with differentiating their brewery, aside from being from and of Buffalo. "No gimmicky beers, processes, ingredients, or themes really. We don’t aspire to be rockstars. We aspire simply to make solid beer."

They are near completion on their glycol installation, and Cox says this means "more beer, more styles, more accounts, and more more!"

Big Ditch Brewing Company

Big Ditch started with a vision shared by Matt Kahn and Corey Catalano (pictured below). I can’t say enough good things about these dudes. They’re awesome. They both work in scientific fields, still in full-time capacities, though you’d never know it. The level of excitement, dedication, and professionalism radiating from this startup looks nothing like a part-time effort.

Big Ditch Brewing Co

They’re actually self taught brewers; "The internet is a wonderful thing," says Kahn. "However, we’ve also spent the last 10+ years working as chemists, biologists, engineers, and manufacturing technicians. We love beer, but we also love the science and process of brewing beer. We’d almost rather make beer than drink beer. Almost."

With each passing day they’re getting closer to their funding goal. While they’ve reached their minimum mark, they’re trying to go a little higher, in order to purchase a bigger and better system. The bigger the system, the higher the production rate, meaning more beer for us!

Big Ditch Brewing is distinguishing their beer with style(s). "We are not necessarily interested in making the best possible example of an existing style that someone else has already thought of – instead, we’re trying to mash styles, to use ingredients in ways that haven’t been tried before. Innovation is essential to craft brewing, and we think this makes our beer exceptional."

New Buffalo Brewing

New Buffalo Brewery

New Buffalo Brewery pumps out about as much pride as they do beer – pride for their city, their country, and their product. William Campbell, New Buffalo’s owner, started out as a garbage man at a factory in Western New York. He says his family has always believed that manufacturing a quality product is part of what makes America truly great.

He says working at the factory taught him a lot of different things; like what it means to make an honest wage and provide for your family, and about the reward for these workers at the end of the day – a cold beer. Campbell later joined the Air Force, and while stationed in Texas, he met a number of enthusiastic homebrewers. This sparked his own homebrewing trials, and what started as a hobby, turned quickly into a profession.

While New Buffalo is still building and experimenting, they have a serious mission that they’re intent on seeing realized. It’s not just about brewing quality beer, although that definitely comes with it. For Campbell, it’s about bringing quality jobs back to Buffalo, and on a larger scale, back to the US. This attitude is reflected in their slogan, "Toast to Progress."

"I see New Buffalo as part of a larger movement to bring jobs and quality back to the US. The huge shift during the 90s, moving manufacturing overseas and the rise of Wal-Mart to this cheap imported economy, is starting to reverse itself. What people are drinking is a reflection of that," he says.

Campbell believes one of the many benefits about being from and brewing in Buffalo, is the fact that people know us in a strange sort of way. "Sure, it often starts with losing the Super Bowl four times back-to-back, or the Blizzard of ’77, but the fact remains, everyone knows Buffalo and is for whatever reason sort of intrigued by it."

While not totally off the ground, New Buffalo is making huge strides, and it’s only a matter of time before they burst onto the scene. We actually have their dry stout on tap in the break room right now. They’re sending test beers over to us on a regular basis, and I can tell you myself, they’re onto something special!

Gene McCarthy’s Pub (Old First Ward Brewing Co.)

Gene McCarthy’s Pub has been up and running in a historic section of Buffalo since 1963. They’ve been serving quality craft beer and equally delicious food for the last half-century, and in the spring of 2013, they’ll be installing their own brewing system. For the first time ever, they’ll offer their own house-made brews, including an IPA, a pale ale, a porter, and a number of seasonals, under the handle "Old First Ward Brewing Co."

When I spoke with Bill Metzger, the new owner of the establishment, it was clear that his focus is centered upon quality craft beer, made on premise.

In regards to the scene as a whole in the city, he says "Buffalo is behind much of the country in its brewing scene, yet not behind in its citizens’ appreciation of good beer. That is the opportunity we seek to fulfill."

His approach is simple: "It’s not rocket science to make great beer," Metzger states matter-of-factly. "It’s good science and some creativity. We aim to excite locals with our product, and serve it fresh from the delivery room."

***

All of these breweries embody who we are as a city. Things aren’t easy in Buffalo, especially today, but we love our city, and we love the people in it. These four breweries are the reflection of a beautiful Buffalo. We’re the city of good neighbors, and our beer culture exhibits that.

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