BUFFALO — Five or 10 years ago, there’s no way an event like Buffalo Beer Week could have existed in Western New York, said Flying Bison founder Tim Herzog said.
“Even three years ago the Wegmans and Consumers beer departments were still dominated by cases of Labatts and Coors and now you go in there, and even though those beers still sell more than we do, you’re seeing a much larger presence of craft beers,” he said.
Go to the Village Beer Merchant in Buffalo and you’ll now find a six-pack of Flying Bison beer that was “probably bottled within a week,” he added. “That wasn’t true a few years ago.”
But things are changing, and not just in Buffalo. The craft beer business is booming nationwide — some 409 breweries opened across the country in 2012 alone, according to the Brewers Association.
It’s no wonder, then, that Dan Syracuse and Mike Shatzel, the men behind Pizza Plant, and Blue Monk and Cole’s, respectively, got together with other Western New York beer-lovers four years ago to launch Buffalo Beer Week. This year the week-long festival encompasses the annual Buffalo Brew Bash at Coca-Cola Field for the first time and features dozens of other events, including tastings and even a film screening.
“The simple aim is to increase the visibility of craft beer in Buffalo-Niagara,” said Willard Brooks, this year’s chairman of Buffalo Beer Week. An added bonus, he said, is the “spirit of collaboration between brewers.”
Some area brewers, he said, are working together on collaboration brews, like Flying Bison’s with Community Beer Works. They haven’t yet named the brew, which Herzog described as a Belgian beer with a “fresh hoppy character like a pale ale ... really noticeable hop notes.”
The hops, grown by Niagara Malt in Cambria, are front and center, perhaps, because it’s one of the first times Niagara Malt hops are being used in a commercial brew. There will be a special tasting event of the beer Friday at the Brewed in Buffalo release party at Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle in Buffalo. Community Beer Works will also be making the beer available at a variety of tasting events throughout the week.