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The Rebirth of Beer

There is something bewildering about the modern world of impersonal digital connections wherein whole industries are vaporized overnight and digitally pumped back the next day across oceans as impersonal digital services. Once seemingly certain realms of work are creatively destroyed in a gale of incessant innovation which makes yesterday’s rage antiquated rubbish by week’s end—indeed “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life.” Local production and face-to-face relations between maker and consumer seem as out of date as clay tablets. Yet, in this city, which once made many things that are now made elsewhere, it might seem utterly anachronistic that almost out of the blue an industry such as beer brewing could suddenly re-emerge as brand new. Yet that is in fact the story with the re-emergence of craft beer as a newly ascendant local industry.

Regional Breweries and Beer Shops


BELLWOODS BREWERY

Toronto, bellwoodsbrewery.com


BIG DITCH BREWING

Buffalo, bigditchbrewing.com


COMMUNITY BEER WORKS

Buffalo, communitybeerworks.com


ELLICOTTVILLE BREWING

Ellicottville, ellicottvillebrewing.com


FLYING BISON BREWING

Buffalo, flyingbisonbrewing.com


GENE MCCARTHY’S BREWING & KITCHEN

Buffalo, genemccarthys.com


GORDON BIERSCH

Buffalo, gordonbiersch.com/locations/buffalo


HAMBURG BREWING

Hamburg, hamburgbrewing.com


MERCHANT ALE HOUSE

St. Catharine’s, merchantalehouse.ca


OAST HOUSE BREWERS

Niagara-on-the-Lake, oasthousebrewers.ca


PEARL STREET GRILL & BREWERY

Buffalo, pearlstreetgrill.com


RESURGENCE BREWING

Buffalo, resurgencebrewing.com


SILVERSMITH BREWING

Niagara-on-the-Lake, silversmithbrewing.com


SOUTHERN TIER BREWING

Lakewood, stbcbeer.com


WOODCOCK BROTHERS BREWING

Wilson, woodcockbrothersbrewery.com

There was a time that Buffalo had such a substantial trade in beer that it could be said that our city was a brewing center of excellence—a place where thousands of workers made barrels, sold ice, made vast amounts of malt, brewed prodigious amounts of beer, and maintained a rich culture of public drinking in the form of beer gardens and pubs that graced practically every corner. Buffalo’s beer culture was a rich and important cultural asset that added character, created lots of jobs, and brought face-to-face culture across production lines and biergarten trays to anyone who wanted to partake of this culture back in the halcyon days of Buffalo beer before Prohibition.

The few breweries that re-opened after Prohibition succumbed to the forces of outside competition, and all Buffalo’s breweries were shuttered by the mid-1970s. It was not until the mid-1990s when Flying Bison opened that Buffalo had its own brewery again. By that time “craft beer” had been born at breweries such as Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada. Craft brewers discovered that macro-brewed beer using cheap adjunct ingredients led to a brew with little character. Flavorful craft beer has since prospered and the US now has more than 2,500 breweries again! This growth in the number of breweries as well as in their quality and range is often referred to as the “craft beer revolution.”

And now this trend is beginning to take hold here in Buffalo. In the last few years, breweries such as Community Beer Works, Gordon Biersch, the Pan American, Hamburg Brewing Company, and Gene McCarthy’s have opened, and several more—such as Big Ditch, Resurgence, and Rusty Nickel—are slated to open, many with their very own biergartens. In addition, craft beer bars such as Sterling Place, GoodBar, Pizza Plant, Cole’s, Blue Monk, and many others have become very popular. Retailers such as Premier Gourmet, Village Beer Merchant, and Aurora Beer Works have busy growler-filling stations, impressive arrays of premium product, and knowledgeable staff willing and able to help you decide which beer to pair with your dinner tonight. With Great Lakes Brewing News, we even have our very own craft beer newspaper. Clearly the craft beer revolution is alive and well in Buffalo!

Yet the year is not 1900—we now live in a region called Buffalo Niagara that spans the whole of Western New York and parts of Ontario. Our beer region, aside from those mentioned above, also contains Southern Tier Brewing Company—one of the best craft breweries in the whole nation with newly expanded brewing capacity of 180,000 barrels. Ellicottville Brewing Company and Woodcock Brothers have also recently built impressive new brewhouses. A whole book could be written about Ontario’s rapidly expanding craft brewing scene, which includes Oast House & Silversmith in Niagara on the Lake and Merchant Ale House in St. Catharines. Skipping up to Toronto, though far afield, a world of beer and beer lovers is to be found—Bellwoods is a highly inventive and delicious brewpub; Bar Volo and Beer Bistro are world-class beer bars.

Beyond Buffalo Niagara, New York State as a whole is in the midst of a rich a craft beer expansion, including well known breweries such as Brooklyn Brewery, Ithaca Beer, Peekskill Brewery, Empire, FX Matt, Ommegang, and Captain Lawrence. The New York State Brewers Association has worked tirelessly to get government support for our industry. Governor Andrew Cuomo has recognized this potential and gotten behind the industry with a beer summit last year and the establishment of a new farm brewery license aimed at supporting the once industry-leading New York State malt and hops cultures. (Gene McCarthy’s and Hamburg Brewing are both farm breweries.) Here in Buffalo, the recently launched Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association will promote regional craft beer growth by putting on several craft beer festivals, Buffalo Beer Week, educational programs, and an annual professional conference.

Overall, Buffalo Niagara is beering up to be a major destination for craft beer. Please tune in to this monthly column over the next year to read about the many beer wonders being made in Buffalo Niagara tasted along side of their stylistic counterparts from around the state and around the country.

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