CBW

How Community Beer Works came to be

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The story of Community Beer Works started long ago, well before you or I had first opened our eyes to see the blue sky, or indeed before any person had set foot on the ground on which we now sit.

The story begins back in the time when giants walked the earth, digging rivers and creating mountains when they fell for their final sleep. It was a time utterly unlike our mundane world, where the fantastical and incredible happened as a matter of course.

One such giant was named Frank. He roamed the countryside, searching for a place to call home. Frank was very picky, for he thought that if he was going to spend the rest of his life somewhere he ought to be completely happy. This place had too many mosquitoes; that place had an unpleasant reflection of the sun off the hills as it was thrown into the sky. (Back then, giants used the sun as a ball in a game they called Tyhmos-rwet, but that is a story for another night)

Eventually Frank found himself by a lake. We would call the lake “huge” or “great” but to giants it was merely normal-sized, as everything in those days was bigger than we find it now. He walked around the lake until it turned into a river, and he was enjoying himself so he kept moving. The river fell off a huge cliff, and Frank spent three days jumping from the top into the water below, climbing back up to do it again.

Frank then realized he was very hungry, and seeing only water and trees around him decided to continue down the river. He walked deep into the night before lying down and going to sleep.

When he awoke he found himself in a huge field of barley. He thought this was quite good and ate his fill of a barley soup his grandmother had taught him how to make. He looked around at the plentiful food and fresh water and decided that he had found his home. He gathered rocks from the riverbed and used them to build a house. He wanted it to be the grandest house anyone had ever seen, so he put in two giant-sized doorways, reckoning that he had only seen homes with one door and that two was always better than one. And that is how the building in which we sit came to be.

He lived like this for many months, eating his barley soup and drinking the water, until one day his friend Ninkasi came by. Being hospitable, Frank insisted she stay, and they baked bread and ate soup and drank water until late in the night. After each bowl of soup Frank would get up to wash the dishes, but Ninkasi would shout, “No! Come and sit with me a little longer,” and pour them each another bowl. Frank, not wishing to seem unfriendly, would sit back down and rip a piece of thick bread for each of them, and on the night went until they both fell asleep amidst the pile of dirty dishes.

They had eaten so much and stayed up so late that they slept for en entire week. Frank awoke first, and to his dismay saw twenty-three dirty bowls, each with a bit of barley soup in the bottom. Forlorn, he dumped them each into a clay pot so that he only had to make one trip to the river to dump it out. Ninkasi opened her eyes and declared herself famished, and to Frank’s surprise she took the clay pot and took three huge gulps. “Isn’t that horrible?” he asked, but she said,”No, it’s delicious! Try some!” He took two gulps and was shocked to discover the drink was not sour and foul but sweet and refreshing.

That night the two of them ate more soup and drank more water and slept for another week, and when they awoke the bowls once again contained the liquid, which Ninkasi named beere. She left to tell others about their discovery, while Frank made pots and pots of it, which he traded with his neighbors for other foods. The making and enjoyment of beer soon spread to every corner of the earth.

Frank spent his days making beer and sharing it with his neighbors, until one day he grew restless. He didn’t want to leave his home for good, but he had seen the same sight every morning when he got up for long enough, and giants are fond of novelty. He lashed five pots of beer together and filled a sack with bread and barley and vegetables and coffee (a concoction seven women nearby had discovered, the bitter taste of which he quite enjoyed) and walked east.

He walked until he could walk no more, for he had found an ocean. He thought that it had been a good trip so far and didn’t want it to end, so he made a boat and began sailing. He met others along the way, each of whom has their own story to tell, but this is the story of Frank and his beer so we will leave them be for now.

After many days Frank began worrying, for his food and beer were almost gone. He gazed sadly into the last clay pot, when he noticed it begin to ripple. The waves inside the pot grew larger, and soon the water outside the boat began to be choppy as well. The rumbling from beneath grew into a cacophony, until finally a giant mouth rose out of the sea and swallowed Frank and his boat whole.

Frank was quite worried, but he landed softly on something. It was completely dark, darker even than when Fox had stolen the moon, and Frank called out, “Hello?”

“Hello?” a deep voice answered.

“Where am I?” Frank asked.

“In my stomach, I expect,” said the voice.

“Oh. Well, if I’m to be riding in your stomach I suppose we should become acquainted. My name’s Frank.”

“I’m Whale,” the voice replied.

“Nice to meet you, Whale,” Frank said. “Say, I don’t want to inconvenience you, but do you think you could let me out?”

Whale didn’t mind, but when Frank said he was nearly out of food Whale offered to swim him back to the shore first. Riding inside of a whale is a completely unique mode of transportation, one which neither you nor I will ever fully be able to understand, whales today being less accommodating than they were back then.

When Whale reached the shore he told Frank to hold on, and he soon found himself on dry land, though stickier than he had been when he had last walked on it. He thanked Whale, who swam back off into the ocean. Frank realized how thirsty he was and reached for his last pot of beer.

When he looked inside he saw that some of the things Whale had eaten had mixed with the beer, turning it a dark brown color. He wept, for after such a long trip he had been looking forward to the last of his beer. Remembering Ninkasi’s willingness to try things, he took a sip. He began smiling, for it was perhaps even more delicious than what he had made originally! He rushed back home and used the rest of Whale’s Beer, as he called it, to flavor future batches.

And that, dear friends, is how Community Beer Works came to be. There are many more stories to tell, but for now I need to rest, and to drink a beer.

Manifest Destiny

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Longtime readers of the CBW blog will know that I tend to go through trends in posting topics. For instance, there was a solid two months in the spring where I didn’t talk about anything but building a walk in cooler. Lately it’s been “We’ll have an expanded capacity soon, I swear, more beer is coming.”

Well, we looked around this week and realized that more beer is here. As in, we have quite a lot of it, and to all those places that we’ve told “Sorry, no beer yet,” to everyone who has said they would like to get our stuff a little farther away from Elmwood, we can now say: it’s time!

Taken earlier this week, VBM: The Next Generation

Here’s the list of everywhere that currently has our beer. This does not mean we’re currently on tap there: we don’t control that, and all we can say is that it’s been delivered. If you’re particularly interested in seeing us at a location, make sure you’re following them on your social media platform of choice (and, if they’re not on the list, tell them to get in touch with us!). Also, this doesn’t mean we’ll alwaysbe on tap here, ala the original trio. Without further ado, and in alphabetical order:

  • Aurora Brew Works
  • Blue Monk (on tap)
  • Cole’s (on tap)
  • Elm Street Bakery (East Aurora)
  • Gene McCarthy’s (on tap)
  • Mister Goodbar (on tap)
  • Mohawk Place (on tap)
  • Pizza Plant (Transit)
  • Pizza Plant (Walker Plaza)
  • Shango
  • Village Beer Merchant (Elmwood) (on tap)
  • Village Beer Merchant (Hertel) (you do know this opens today, right?)

Additionally, there’s an event coming up that we should be brewing a special beer for. We can’t announce it yet, as it’s not finalized, but I’ll tease it by saying Rudy is going to try to avoid the obvious choice of a black IPA.

Rudy setting up our booth

An added bonus of having all this beer:  after months of being asked if we fill kegs and responding, “Well, no, but eventually,” we can now confidently say “Probably!” Send us an email or call us beforehand, because we’ll need to be sure we have it on hand, but if you have your own keg of any size and want some CBW beer, chances are we can now fill it for you.

One of the places we had to field keg-related questions was at last Saturday’s Ballpark Brew Bash. What a great time! It was obviously our first time there as CBW — this time last year we were unlicensed and in the middle of construction — but also the first time I personally had been to the event. I agree with Julia Burke: it was a great event with lots of space, short lines and good beer, so I look forward to next year. (And no, I’m not just agreeing with her because she said our barrel aged Whale was “one of the best beers [she's] had all year”)

Finally, if preservation is your thing you probably already know about the Preservation Plus conference that’s running September 24-28. But were you aware that our own Greg Patterson-Tanski is doing a talk on not one but two nights of the conference, and that he’ll be speaking at the brewery? “Raw Material To Finished Product: Community Beer Works Brewery” will be both Tuesday 9/25 and Wednesday 9/26, 6-7:30 both days.

Squibs 7

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Welcome to Squibs 7: your periodic (read: rather intermittent) Morning Grumpy-styled window into the omnivorous mind of CBW President Ethan Cox. Has it really been 6,739,200 seconds already?

1. Growlers: We pour ‘em, we love ‘em. Sure, they have their shortcomings, mainly when it comes to the closure. They certainly have their critics, and I understand some of the criticisms, but clearly not so much as to avoid them. At CBW we recommend drinking them within about 10 days generally, though I cartainly have had people report to me that theirs lasted longer. If properly filled and cared for, I can believe that. The key points are as simple as pouring to have little headspace, avoiding light and keeping it cold, really.

“The Mona Lisa”

Do you suppose the same nonbinding guidelines that restrict us from selling branded onesies will allow us to advertise “family sizes?”

But paracticalities aside (as in:, we actually have no other way of selling our beer directly right now), I have something of a romantic and historical reason for my admiration of this re-popularized packaging solution, and beer blogger Jess Kidden has done a great job of recounting and documenting some of that history in this trio of blog posts. In the time when a growler was most often “rushed” by kids to thirsty workers and consisted of a galvanized, open pail, the vessel was disparaged and bacame an arrow in the prohibitionist’s quiver:

The “Bucket Trade” was frequently attacked during the decades leading up to Prohibition in 1920 by the same anti-alcohol “Temperance” forces that would result in the 18th Amendment.  Laws were passed in many communities to outlaw the growler entirely (sometimes with the support of saloon owners and brewers).   Washington DC, in particular, was one such community, but similar laws were passed in many other urban areas.

Great and super well-illustrated stuff. I was especially amused to learn that the first generation of closed, glass growlers were, in Baltimore especially, refered to as “ducks,” a term we should really bring back.  As well, 1-gallon “family sized” growlers?  I think CBW’s going to be looking into that at the same time we explore 32-oz “purrowlers,” perhaps.

2. Welcome to Founders! One of America’s best craft breweries, out of Michigan, has finally hit the bars and shelves of Buffalo, and the geekery are all a-twitter about it. You should be too- in general, Michigan’s craft brewing scene has been much lauded but hard to come by in these parts, so if Founders does well, we could see more from there. Closer to your palate, Founders does outstanding things with hops- their Centennial IPA is, I happen to know, among CBW Head Brewer Rudy’s favorite beers. I am partial to their Red’s Rye PA, which has a beautiful rye accent and a caramel backbone in harmony with the massive hopping. Nick, Chris and myself will be covering these two beers and one more–you have to listen to find out!–on the next episode of Craft Beer Talk, due out later this week.

"The Mona Lisa"

We Know Of An Ancient Radiation

3. Rohall’s Corner has been open for a while now, but I never managed to drop in before the other night, a muggy Saturday that found the joint roomy with friendly patrons all up to the bar.  If you check out their website, I highly suggest the 360 Panorma image in the virtual tour link, especially the view looking up from the foor; I was wishing I could export that image somehow. Website aside, the bar has a great, old-school vibe with a much different beer (and liquor) selection than you’d expect from it’s brethern establishments. As much as I value the slowly dying beer- and civil-cultural institutions that corner bars constitute, there’s no doubt that their usual selection of draughts typically disappoints the craft beer enthusiast. So it is refreshing to find Rohall’s eight lines sporting such handles as Flying Bison, Ommegang, Pilsner Urquell and, ok: some retro-cool Utica Club and the de rigueur Molson Canadian. What was unusual, though, was the selection of mainly eastern european bottles avaialable. I enjoyed Austrian Stiegel and Bakalar dark lager, a Czech beer; I shall return to try Obolon, from Ukraine.  (I recommend the fine advertising from them below.) While it is true that the likes of such beers can certainly be found at Adam Mickiewicz and Dnipro (the Ukranian club on Broadway; did you know they have a credit union?), Rohall’s classic vibe and location in Black Rock conspire to make it a great alternative to those venerable community assets.


4. Via Beerpulse.org; Beer v. Church tweets. I find this amusing, not deep. Floatingsheep.org (you may recall them from such hits as “The Price Of Weed” and “The Great American Pizza Map”) employed their DOLLY program to search 10 million geo-coded tweets sent  between June 22nd and June 29th, 2012 and produced the data visualized thusly:

 

Not what you’d think, but what you might expect?

If you want to unleash your inner geek, read the section on their use of statistics to determine, for each country, which had not just more church or beer tweets, but significantly more (p < .05). Awesome.

5. Local Beer Isn’t Bad. Local stuff isn’t bad.  It might come as a surprise–or not, depending on your level of cynicism–that the backlash to the locavore movement has it’s leaders and wordsmiths, and the latest broadside is a book entitled The Locavore’s Delimma by Pierre Desroches and Hiroku Shimizu. Some significant criticisms are elucidated in this article at Salon.com, and I admit to not having read the source material on this one. It seems, however, that the authors are two economists who argue from some commonly known faulty premises, for example as detailed here:

Standardization of Food: Much of economic theory rests on the assumption that the goods in question are commodities. Our food is standardized so that it can be treated as a commodity. One Granny Smith apple is the same as any other Granny Smith apple, no matter where it’s from or how it was produced. But many foods are not so interchangeable, and indeed, when they are standardized, they often become standardly bad.

Freshness is a huge part of this, too: oftimes, the homogenization and processing of our foods—and beers—is in the name of preserving the “product,” in order to reduce loss and so increase profitability. But I’m not interested in food that never goes bad; that’s not food. Many of these industrialized processes simply rob nature.

6. Obligatory random Youtube/Beer post: European video for making beer jelly. Or maybe it’s really beer jell-o. I’m sure I don’t want it either way, Dawg.

 

730 days of Community Beer Works

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Er, 731 days. Thanks, leap year.

Exactly two years ago, I went to my friend Ethan’s house. My homebrewing and beer blogging compatriot had an idea that I desperately wanted in on: he wanted to start a brewery. Six of us sat in his basement (with Matt there in spirit) as we discussed the 10 gallon batch brewery co-op that we were going to create.

Obviously a few things changed: thankfully we realized that 10 gallon batches was Mel-Gibson-voicemail level insane at a commercial level (hell, 1.5 barrels isn’t much better!). As for being a co-op, NYS shot that one down pretty quickly, saying co-ops were for farms. It may have been a non-starter for other reasons too, so it’s good that we got past the idea at the start.

The rest remained. Community Beer Works. The dedication to the community. The people I am now proud to call my friends.

One of our first meetings

And now, two years later, we have beer! The journey we started on 5/24/10 ended in a sense on 4/20/12: we are no longer starting a brewery, we are operating it. Now, of course, there is an entirely different set of challenges to deal with, but with more immediate benefits. We’re brewing Frank on Saturday, but instead of responding to “when can we drink your beer?” with “I don’t know, soon I hope!” like you got through the entirety of 2011 I can say “The batch we are brewing in two days should be on tap two weeks from today.”

We’re refining our process, learning, adapting. And upgrading: yes, already! A nanobrewery’s small batches are wonderful for customization and nimble movements (like, say, “Hey let’s brew an IPA for the hell of it!”) but there is a rather large drawback in that when people really seem to like it, as you do, it tends to get consumed about as fast as we can make it.

To that end: two 3 bbl brite tanks are on order, which will increase our capacity by 2/3: we brew two 1.5 bbl batches of The Whale, let the yeast have at them in two 1.5 bbl fermenters and then combine them in one 3 bbl brite tank, leaving the fermenters free and ready to house more unfermented beer.

The Whale's new taphandle

We’ll need this capacity if we want to fill growlers at our brewery and the Bidwell farmer’s market. We have no announcements on dates for either of those, but I want to explain what’s going on with Bidwell a bit as I mentioned it a few times at Beerology and people got really excited. I mean, it’s a cool idea, right? Get some cucumbers, a bit of goat cheese, maybe a loaf of raisin bread and pick up a growler fill while you’re there. That requires a separate license, of course, and we have it. We’re ready to go! Except we also need liability insurance to protect us against anybody doing something stupid with half a gallon of our beer and a motor vehicle.

Every bar and growler-filling brewery needs insurance, so this is nothing outrageous, but as the market is considered a special event we need to have insurance for every week we’re there. Our initial estimates for it were prohibitively expensive: you’d have needed to be a thirsty, thirsty lot to make it worthwhile for us. We’re confident that we’ll be able to find a solution that works for us, which is great because filling growlers at Bidwell has been something we’ve planned on for, well, about two years. Hopefully we’ll have news for you soon.

One final note: I’ve been refraining from talking about it on the blog because I know most of you really don’t care (and this is coming from the guy who posted two months of “still building that cooler!” updates), but: we’re nearly done with Kickstarter! There are only a handful of people whose rewards aren’t in their hands or the mail as you read this, and all of them besides Betsy Hipp, Eugene Cunningham and Jonathan Hart have set up when and where to get them. If you’re one of those three people, please get in touch with me: your email addresses are no good, people!

I’ve promised a long Kickstarter post with detailed data about demographics and so on, and that’s coming. I started work on it this week and, well, it’s going to be long. There will probably be two: The Data: An Unexpected Journey and Things To Know If You Do This Yourself: There And Back Again. Look for those in June, most likely, and in the meantime if you have a question you’d like us to answer about our Kickstarter experience, let me know!

Here is the date you will be able to drink our beer

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Friday, April 20.

Cole’s and Mister Goodbar.

Community Beer Works is launching.

Everything seems up to snuff. Get it? No, you're not laughing, I don't think you get it. See, snuff, like sniff. Snuff! Never mind.

Is this exciting enough for you? No? Well, how about we talk about the first two beers we’ll be releasing? Only the first will be available next week. The second will follow soon enough, don’t fret.

Ladies and gentlemen, we would like to introduce you to our pale ale. Meet Frank. Frank is honest. He’s just zis guy, you know? He goes well with pretty much any food. Frank is our flagship beer and we’re proud as hell to be showcasing him next week. He’s under a bit of pressure right now (that is a carbonation joke) but, fear not, will be completely ready in time.

I love pale ales. They might not be exciting or extreme, but they’re tasty. They’re the meat-and-potatoes of the craft beer world. There is literally no time that I would reach for a beer and say “No thanks, I don’t feel like a pale ale now.” A pale ale is unassuming, doesn’t put on airs and is the perfect flagship beer.

Our second beer might catch you from surprise, rumbling from beneath. We’ve talked about a saison since the beginning, and the saison is coming, but instead may we present The Whale, our brown ale.

Having a whale of a time

I think brown ales just might be my favorite style of beer. A hint of sweetness, but not a sweet beer. Some dark malt characteristics but not so much as to be out of place on a hot summer day. While a pale ale is what I drink with dinner, a brown is what I drink afterward while playing a game of Carcassonne.

More information on both these beers, including pictures and maybe even a video or two of us drinking them (just to rub it in) will be coming soon.

I’d like to close with a story from last Saturday. The five of us were there, as we always are, and busily working on tasks. Instead of all putting up insulation or waterproofing or cleaning, we each had our own separate activity. Rudy and Ethan were brewing: brewing, you understand, actually doing it nearly two years after we first gathered in Ethan’s basement to discuss this idea of Community Beer Works. Greg and his cousin-in-law, in for the holiday, were cleaning kegs. Dave was putting together shelves and then filling them with hops or growlers. I was filling boxes with Kickstarter rewards, wrapping glasses with such an obscene amount of bubble wrap that they could, if desired, be used in a pinch as footballs.

All hail his noodly appendage!

My overwrapping was paused, from time to time, as Kickstarter backers walked in for their tours and high fives. (If you’re a Kickstarter backer and haven’t received any mail from us, please let me know and we’ll set up a time for you to come in or will get your stuff to you post haste. Those we haven’t heard from will be receiving packages soon.)

So the day went, us each working on something separate yet related, with pauses to meet people as excited about our idea as we were. I got to show off our brewery, my brewery, fully functional with kettles boiling and fermentation vessels conditioning and kegs prepped for filling. “This conical here,” I said in the afternoon, “was empty this morning. Now it has a barrel and a half of brown ale in it.”

It was an exceptionally satisfying day. I simply cannot wait to share its results with you.