By Julia Burke, Beer Editor
Gene McCarthy’s, located in Buffalo’s historic Old First Ward, has long been a cozy setting with a surprisingly sophisticated tap list thanks to the influence of its neighbor, the world headquarters of the Brewing News publications. Now, Brewing News founder and owner Bill Metzger is teaming up with passionate locavore and brewer Willard Brooks; general manager David Bittner, an avid gardener and brewer; and Matt Conron, former head of Buffalo’s Breckenridge Brewery, to turn the old-world pub into a craft beer haven with an emphasis on New York beer and locally sourced food. The owners plan to bring the region’s farm bounty to cozy Irish pub fare, beginning with classic rustic dishes and eventually adding more bistro-type dishes.
“We want to have the food mindset of a wine bar, but with beer,” explains Brooks, whose background in the San Francisco Bay Area informs his love of locally minded bistros and bars with small plates and fun pairings. He hopes to incorporate Niagara wine into the bar’s list and eventually host the occasional wine event as well.
Beer will be front and center, however; Gene McCarthy’s already hosts a once-monthly Better Beverage Society brewery tasting, and those events will not only continue but expand to lesser-known breweries and more rare beers.
Most exciting, the owners will also incorporate a small brewery––a venture guaranteed to make a splash in a town with precious little locally-made beer for all its enthusiastic drinkers. The brewers hope to have their own beer flowing this fall; they plan to feature an aggressively hopped IPA––no surprise given the owners’ hophead reputations. Brooks adds, “We will also delve into pale ales and riff on different hops as our take on exploring the terroir of hops.” Brooks has connected with Rich and Bree Woodbridge of McCollum Orchards, Niagara’s newest hop farm, to begin plans for a fresh-hop beer featuring their hops. Dave, Matt, and Willard will brew the beer together.