Tim Herzog is a do-it-yourself kind of guy.
Ten years ago, Herzog came to Buffalo from his native Rochester with an idea that began as a joke. His wife gave him a home beer brewing start-up kit as a gag gift for his birthday, but it was only natural for him to take the idea and run with it.
“I just loved making beer, and one thing led to the other,” he said.
Herzog, who has been brewing since 1981, doesn’t just make the unique taste he loves for himself anymore. Now the beer enthusiast concocts barrels of it everyday for the residents of Buffalo.
As the founder of the Flying Bison Brewery, which sits tucked away behind a warehouse buildings on Ontario Street in Buffalo’s Riverside neighborhood, Herzog and his four employees work around the clock seven days a week, filling shelves at local Wegmans and Consumer grocery stores — in addition to 90 bars and restaurants — with a brand that many loyal Buffalonians have grown to love.
But it wasn’t always easy.
The smell of hops consumed the air of the small brewery on a rainy Thursday afternoon, as the team resumed production of one of their most popular brands, Buffalo Lager, for an event that was recently held at the Buffalo Brew Pub. Herzog is use to the smell as chef of his own kitchen.
“Hops are added during different points (of production), like adding spices to a soup or stew,” Herzog said.
The process of beer-making is more complex than one might think. It’s all a science to the brew master and his team. Batches of beer take weeks to brew. The boiling and cooling of ingredients, as well as the cracking of grains and fermentation by yeast are all included in the process.
55 lb. Malz Barley bags stacked one on top of the other and barrels of beer take up much of the brewery floor. 11 stainless steel tanks that pump and drain all day long take up the rest of the space.
Brewing is a 24-hour industry. Herzog arrives to work early at about 7:30 in the morning and leaves sometimes only when the sun sets, but it’s all in a day’s work for Herzog and his employees.
“It’s a half-day--just twelve hours — a joke in the brewing industry,” he laughed. “The other guys work really hard.”
Herzog and his men have been working even harder these past few months trying to get back into gear. A spike in the costs for beer’s raw ingredients combined with Herzog’s desire not to raise prices for customers brought production to a standstill. The company’s staple brands, Buffalo Lager, Rusty Chain and Aviator Red were unavailable for about five months.
Protracted neogtiations with Flying Bison’s investors had taps running dry until a deal was struck last month to let Utica-based Matt Brewing Co. take over the sales and marketing of the Flying Bison brand. Herzog’s Ontario Street brewery will remain open as part of the deal.
With the brewery’s fate no longer in limbo, Herzog is ready to move forward under new ownership, Matt Brewing said customers can anticipate the return of their favorite flavors to shelves in September.
The Flying Bison is soaring to new heights. Last year, the brewery produced 2,500 barrels. This year, they are on pace for producing about 6,500 barrels, and with an additional three tanks that the brewery will be receiving, Herzog plans to produce beyond 8,000 in the future.
Herzog considers himself fortunate to continue doing what he loves and takes any complement or critique with a grain of barley.
“(Matt Brewing Co.) is tremendously helpful. They’re big on community participation, and that’s one thing that brought us together,” Herzog noted. “Everyone’s sick and tired of hearing how jobs are going away, but four guys get to keep their jobs because they’re helping us.”
The brewer with the memorable moustache and sincere laugh has helped to make the Flying Bison Brewery a strong presence in the Buffalo community. The company has partnered with Green Options Buffalo in making the Rusty Chain brand, a flavor created to help raise funds for bicycle parking throughout the city. Flying Bison is also a strong supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House.
Flying Bison has also left a lasting impression on Herzog’s son, Colin, who started working there as part of a “happy accident,” according to his father.
Colin, who was looking for a summer job, was offered a temporary position at the brewery in 2007 after a former employee left to work at another brewery in Rochester. After learning more about the beer-making industry, Colin stayed on board, turning his summer job into a living and a passion.
“The craft beer community is unlike any other,” Colin said. “It’s one part art, one part sweat and hard work and three parts satisfaction.”
In 1962, there were fewer than 60 small operating breweries in the United States. Now, there are over 1,500 succeeding breweries, and the Flying Bison is one of them. Herzog believes a major reason why the brewery is still thriving is because of the people who support it.
“People here want you to prove to them that you’re in it for the long haul,” Herzog said. “It makes for a tougher start-out, but if you can tough it out, then you have friends for life, and we are very fortunate to have friends for life."
Tim Herzog is a do-it-yourself kind of guy.
More than rides & food
When the Niagara County Fair opens Wednesday, hundreds of people will enter the county fairgrounds in Lockport for the first of five days of exhibits, shows, rides and food.
But what not all of the visitors may realize is that much of this summer tradition is the result of months of hard work by 4-H Club members and their leaders and families, all focused on the words of the 4-H motto: “Learn By Doing.”
COLUMN: Behind the tattoo gun
Tattoos can be a touchy subject. Of course, people have heard they shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; still, people continue to report being denied jobs and being judged harshly for proudly displaying their ink.
CRIB NOTES: No matter what, the kids just want to play the game
At 35 years old, I may be the oldest person ever to record an out in a kids’ T-ball league.
CRITTER COMPANIONS: Visiting the neighbors
This past week, our lovely neighbors went to the beach for their annual weeklong vacation.
Stop and smell the flowers
More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).
For the love of nature
Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.
"I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.
Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.
Getting some fresh air
As an effort to get children out of the big city and give them a chance to spend part of their summer playing outside, the Fresh Air Fund brings New York City kids to stay with host families for a 10-day trip to a place which is vastly different from their usually surroundings.
“They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”
Still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts
I think it’s true of many parents, that amidst the many challenges and hard work of parenting, we anticipate the day our children grow up just enough ... to like the same things we like, whether it’s as an ongoing phenomenon or a fond childhood memory.
Calling all the basic locavores!
Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.
A closer look at NT
When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.
Now the organization is looking to the future and trying out ways to highlight the other unique aspects of the Western New York region. The tours change out each month, but the more popular ones will circulate back in, according to Explore Buffalo Executive Director Brad Hahn. This month it’s test-driving its “North Tonawanda: Lumber City” tour, one of only a few to take place outside the City of Buffalo. (Although a Lockport tour is in the works.)
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