Residents of the City of Buffalo may have noticed a strange phenomenon last week: all beer-loving residents suddenly became completely unavailable at work, at home and in their social lives. Every craft beer enthusiast in town went off the societal radar for seven days of the beer extravaganza known as Buffalo Beer Week.
When I described Buffalo Beer Week to a friend he replied, “Wow, so this is kind of like your Hanukkah?”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Beer Week is a series of bar events, tap specials, beer releases, pairing dinners, and other fun stuff guaranteed to showcase Buffalo’s rich beer community. While I wasn’t able to attend all the Beer Week activities, I did make a point of checking out some of the featured New York beers and events.
Tuesday night — my birthday, conveniently enough — was a great beer night with Rauchapalooza at Fat Bob’s Smokehouse downtown. Fat Bob’s put together a delicious barbecue buffet to be paired with two smoked beers: the classic German Schlenkerla Urbock, and our very own Custom Brewcrafters maple-smoked lager. The latter was my table’s favorite for its drinkability (as good as smoked beer is, not everyone wants to drink bacon). It shows a nice tobacco/ash smokiness with sweet, full malt flavors, a nice touch of maple that’s not over-the-top, and a crisp, even finish. It was smoky enough for an excellent barbecue pairing but with a smooth malt profile that made it extremely drinkable. Brewer Bruce Lish was in attendance, as were Ethan Cox and Rudy Watkins of Community Beer Works and Randy Ford of ROCbeer.
Hopheads know Ithaca Beer Company is hard to beat when it comes to the IPA, and the hype for the brewery’s Phish tribute beer, Hop Stash IPA, was well deserved. I picked up a growler and was rewarded with a citrusy, musky, drool-inducing hop profile with a long, slow simmer of prickly bitterness on the finish. Flower Power lovers: get some.
Pizza Plant, always a haven of hoppy stuff, was in full force during Beer Week with a tap list almost exclusively made up of double IPAs. Of these my favorite was Captain Lawrence Double IPA: gorgeous, fruity, balanced, and the most subtle and well-crafted in a group of dank and boozy hop bombs (and I mean that in the most loving way possible). It’s a rare treat to see Captain Lawrence in this neck of the woods and I was once again impressed by the brewery’s excellence with this style.
On Saturday, Beer Week ended with a bang: an amazing tour put on by Buffalo Brewery Tours showcasing our city’s brewing history, current beer sites, and the future of the industry.
We got to step inside the old William Simon brewery, once the city's second-largest and still fully intact, with a talk by William Simon IV himself - -and take home some vintage Simon Pure shwag as souvenirs.
A real highlight of the day was a sample from Community Beer Works of a prototype American pale ale made with Citra hops, which will be their flagship.
Though Buffalo’s brewing culture has historically been German-influenced in style and technique, the CBW crew will bring more hops, sours, and other more funky elements to the Buffalo brewing scene. The entire tour was a great celebration of pride in our city’s rich beer tradition.
Beer Week will be in even greater force next year, and the goal will be greater promotion so that more people who are new to craft beer will get a chance to experience some of the events. If you missed it, don’t worry — many of the unique beers featured are still on tap!