At long last, after months of worry and deliberation without a pint of local beer to diffuse the tension, a beloved brewery was returned to its fans this week when Buffalo’s Flying Bison Brewing Company reopened its doors.
Only six months ago, the home of numerous local staples, including Rusty Chain, Aviator Red, and Buffalo Lager was on the brink of closing its doors for good -- but after lengthy debate with investors, Flying Bison owner and brewmaster Tim Herzog (pictured right) accepted a buyout offer from Utica producer Matt Brewing Company to save the brewery.
Though the idea of Flying Bison ownership leaving Buffalo was a tough pill for some fans to swallow, the images on the brewery’s Facebook page of new shipments of malt, hops and other supplies arriving at the door, allowing the employees to finally begin brewing after months of anxious waiting, were undeniably uplifting. Having spent ten years building a reputation on turning out exceptionally sessionable, refreshing beers brewed in the German style while cultivating a strong community presence through charity events and environmental efforts, Flying Bison’s absence left an unmistakable void in the region.
A crowd of 300 turned up at the tiny brewery last Saturday for The Brewery Strikes Back, a grand reopening party featuring food, three local bands, and a Star Wars costume theme. The beer line wrapped around one side of the parking lot was a testament to the enthusiasm of the thirsty attendees for the beer that had been missing from bars, shops, and the brewery itself for months.
On Thursday the brewery’s retail store opened to a steady stream of shoppers wanting kegs, growlers, or a glass of beer while hanging out in the newly operational production facility.
“It’s great to be back in business -- great to be employed!” says brewing technician Paul Koehler.
the months of limbo the Flying Bison staff filled the large amounts of time on
their hands creatively. Koehler says, “I learned a lot about feeding myself --
it’s amazing what you can do with a can of beans!” Parrish Gibbons, retail
associate, chuckles as she tells me how her boyfriend, brewer Colin Herzog,
spent his days: “Colin played more guitar than I’ve think he’s ever played in
his life! I’d come home and say, ‘are you still doing that?’”
Tim, however, was camped out at the brewery “freezing my butt off doing paperwork” -- but the efforts have paid off now that production is humming, beer is set to ship out from distributor Try-It on July 6, and the community is thrilled and relieved.
“We’ll be making the same beer, the same way, just a whole lot more of it!” says Koehler. Now at a production level of 120 barrels per week, Flying Bison will be able to produce with a consistency that hasn’t been possible in the past, with a wider distribution in western New York and flagship brew Buffalo Lager going into wide release. The brewery will continue its popular Saturday events, which have included music, food and festivities and drawn large crowds in the past, and will re-debut into society at the Buffalo Brewfest on August 6.
Over the past ten years Flying Bison has built an incredibly loyal following in Buffalo and a supportive community that is thrilled to see it back on its feet. Though ultimate ownership has changed, the production will remain based in Buffalo and brewmaster Tim Herzog will continue to be the face of Flying Bison, now more than ever since he’ll be able to travel and promote the brewery outside the city.
Once in danger of joining the list of failed small businesses in this big-hearted rust belt town, an outstanding New York craft brewery has been saved.