This blazing, humid, and generally oppressive week, Â we’ve attended our first couple of neighborhood organization or block club meetings, partly inÂ pursuitÂ of a variance to use the location in which we’d very much like to establish ourselves. Â I qualify with “partly” only because to be certain, even if we could use this space free-and-clear, we’d still want to get to know our neighbors and seek their blessing if not their, em, permission. Â In any case, both meetings were very interesting and positive affairs.
In some respects it was pretty familiar to me, in that I have been marginally involved in the neighborhood group my family’sÂ own house is in, just as my mom was in that house and organization before me. Â So for that, I was acquainted with the types of people and personalities that tend to get involved in these great Â organizations; the kinds of issues that are typically on the agenda (crime andÂ abandonedÂ houses, anyone?); the presence of a real(!) councilman Â (viz. Mr. David Rivera, with whom we’ve previously met); the meeting location in a local community center and/or church… I was perfectly comfortable in the culture of the proceedings.
And yet, it was a bit odd to be not only not at my own neighborhood group, but also in the position of being an agenda item and wondering how people would take the concept. Â I felt a bit–just a bit, mind you–like Daniel Plainview, talking to the landholders in Little Boston. Â Were we not basically walking in saying: “Hey! We wanna open a small brewery around the corner from you, you know, make some beer and all… oh, and yeah, we’re also going to help make the place a little better, too, so, em… what do you think of that?”
The reply we heard the most? Â “Did you bring samples?”* Â I’d go with ‘that’s not bad’ on that one, right? Â Well, other than having to affirm the negative on it, yeah. Â I think, especially not having gallons of homebrew to (legally: homebrew!!!) share, it was helpful that we were otherwise very prepared. Â We did a lot of preliminary research, devoured other’s blogs and experiences. Â We’ve talked extensively with the city Zoning Board of Appeals, with the councilman’s office, Â with others in City Hall and beyond.
Closer to the ground, we’ve Â made outreach to grassroots organizations in the area with more to come, and we have ‘approaching area businesses‘ next on our to-do list. Â We have a petition that’s been seen to by, you know, one of those fancy lawyer types! We’ve reached out to immediate neighbors already as well, and anticipated stakeholder’s concerns with respect to smell, waste, vermin, traffic, security, and the unsurprising “it’s not a bar, it’s a brewery”Â question, of course, the trickiest one. Â I mean yeah: on-site growler sales, tasting room? Â check… Events? Â um, check… but no: music and drunken revelry at 3:00 am? Â Not at all, ma’am. Â And maybe we can help you next year to get volunteers for your block party… and that vacant lot? Â You mean our future brewer’s garden and gathering space? Â And would you like some spent grain for your garden mulch pile or urban-chicken feed? Â In these and other ways, we will be part of your-our-community. Â I think our sincerity and capability in thisÂ endeavorÂ were well-estimated.
All of this inÂ pursuitÂ of a mission, to open a brewery like Buffalo has not seen since–no: wellÂ before–prohibition, when it comes to volume and to process; Â from the time of the first wave of breweries in the 1860s and 1870’s, at the cusp of massive Â industrialization. Â A brewery that is small, a process that is human-labor intensive and in touch with the myst’ree of brewing. Â But the modern twist is the idea–still somewhat atavistic–of being this hyperlocal business committed to, rooted in, the people it serves. Â A business that is truly a part of the fabric of its community. Â Attending the block club meetings has only been a first step, and it has been inspiring. Â It’s great fun to contemplate all the ways in which we are eager to be a constructive, beer-making force in our city generally and our neighborhood specifically.
And then, perhaps, neighborhoods? Â Could we extend the model to other benighted areas? Â Beer as social activism? Â Perhaps; we’ll see.
* Also: “How many jobs will you be making?” Â Is that not a sign of the times?