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Session 97: See Buffalo First

The first Friday of each month brings together beer bloggers around a common topic under the banner of The Session. This month Our Tasty Travels hosts, giving us the topic “Up and coming beer locations”:

session

For this month’s session, I’m asking you all to share which locations you see as the beer destinations that everyone will be talking about in the next few years. Where are the beer scenes just emerging, or coming into their own? Some may be brand new locations. While others may be old-world destinations seeing a renaissance into the world of new craft beer styles. Some may even be locations where familiar names from around the world are planning on setting up shop to bring new styles to old palates.

Once again I find myself in a pickle

I mean, I have to say “Buffalo”, right? I’m blogging as a Buffalo brewery. After fretting if we had finally found a topic I “couldn’t” write about I decided to approach it slightly differently, which might disqualify me. I’m prepared to accept that fate and await my ruling from the Fathers. Instead of telling you about a beer scene, broadly, let’s look at a micro-scene within Buffalo.

Today, let’s look at the up-and-coming area around Larkinville and the Old First Ward.

Can I come up with a cool name for the area?

Listen: much of this comes down to semantics and genre debates. Everything is meaningless, we are all just reflections of ourselves and do as thou wilt is the whole of the law. You might disagree with my delineations and what should or should not “count” but we’re looking at something like a five mile radius. We all have bigger fish to fry.

I couldn’t have written this without the help of Alex Placito, assistant brewer at Old First Ward, halfling rogue and all around nifty guy. So if you disagree with something maybe yell at him?1

Fresh beer abounds

The idea of what “good beer bar” means has become increasingly blurred as restaurants have woken up to the fact that people want to drink more than Blue and Blue Light (for our non-residents, here in Buffalo we drink so much Labatt’s that InBev had to sell them before merging with Anheuser-Busch because otherwise they would have created a monopoly). Your Goodbars, your Pizza Plants (Pizzas Plant?), those obviously focus on beer, but you’d be hard pressed to go into a decent restaurant these days without being able to order something worthwhile.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that three breweries exist within a mile and a half of each other, none much more than a year old (sort of).

The shiny tanks at Hydraulic Heath

The shiny tanks at Hydraulic Heath

First we have Hydraulic Hearth, and I say “first” because I need to take a minute here to address that I am so bad at business I’m essentially writing an advertisement for my competitors here so let me put the only one that benefits me financially first, okay? Hydraulic Hearth. The newest of the three, they — we — have only been brewing there this year. The CBW beer you order there has been brewed on site, served directly from tanks hidden cleverly in the back2.

Before them came Flying Bison, reborn in Larkinville with a fancy tasting room to boot. If Hydraulic Hearth is CBW South then Flying Bison is Herzog Prime. Don’t think about that too hard, because it makes no sense, but once the name “Herzog Prime” comes into one’s head one has an obligation to share it. Imagine a spaceship with Tim’s mustache.

Finally, OFW Brewing Company, the brewery side of Gene McCarthy’s, itself risen from the ashes a few years ago. I’ve been meaning to get down there with my family for dinner for, well, forever, but as those of you with families can attest, these things have a way of never happening.

So: I would be in the general area already, before donating platelets at Roswell Park, and so it’s time for another aside where I remind everyone that many people need whole blood and platelets, which have a very short shelf life, and it costs you nothing but time to help save a life. I’ve donated at both Red Cross and UNYTS, and sometimes even when Lloyd wouldn’t give me a free taco for it, and wish I could do it more.

Mr Conley Goes to OFW

Never going to get over being self conscious about taking pictures of my food/drinks

Never going to get over being self conscious about taking pictures of my food/drinks

I wanted to try as much as I could, so I opted for a flight:

  • Geney’s Lager
  • This Is Not A Pale Ale (which does seem to be a pale ale, the liars)
  • Streaker (pale ale)
  • Country Liaison (farmhouse saison)
  • HO Oats (oatmeal stout)

I made sure to order the saison, because Alex came up with the recipe. He had suggested Not as well, and I can see why: damn did I like it. Hops for miles, but not in a one dimensional way.

Streaker reminded me very much of an Arrogant Bastard, rich and sweet but with more than enough hop flavor and bitterness to cover and balance it. I looked up the ABV and found it clocked in at a surprisingly low 6.2.

The lager I ordered because haters gonna hate, as they say. It gave me exactly what I wanted out of a lager: some corn, a bit of sulphur, but mostly clean, easy drinking.

The saison tasted creamy and citrusy at the same time, defying all rules that say that shouldn’t work, because unlike orange juice and milk3 The cream might better be described as smoothness. I do so love saisons.

As someone who has been 15 years old in Buffalo I had to order the HO Oats, because c’mon: HO Oats. As I drank it I realized I haven’t had an oatmeal stout in quite some time. I should have tried to pick out the oatmeal, but between the beer and food and comics4 it slipped my mind.

I admit that I hadn’t had any OFW beer until now, and I am kicking myself. I dig it. I dig it hard.

I came for lunch as well, somehow resisting the siren call of the reuben and going with the beef on weck5. It now holds the distinction of being the first kimelweck roll I haven’t had to give up on and scrape some of the salt off of, a testament to its more finely grained salt and not an increase in my sodium tolerance6.

I finished my flight, sadly having to decline a full pint because of the whole rushing-off-to-donate thing, and munched on the fries, staring morosely at the Barley Brown’s sticker on the cooler and remembering our loss to them in NIPAC 2013. Damn you, Pallet Jack. Damn you.

Finally

I tried to keep my focus somewhat narrow here, but expanding the radius even a little bit yields Big Ditch and then Pan American/Pearl St, which is to say nothing of the many excellent bars and restaurants in the area. Hell, widen the net even more and soon you’ll have Rusty Nickel as well.

If you’re from Buffalo you can care about these specifics. See Asheville if you will, but see Buffalo First. Not from Buffalo? Come on down. We’ll treat you right.


  1. Don’t do that. Why would you do that? 

  2. Okay, I don’t know how clever it is. I mean, they just put a wall up. Like they did with the kitchen too. 

  3. My brother in law swears by it. 

  4. Because being an adult means I can read Avengers Assemble at a bar and you can’t do anything about it. 

  5. For the non-locals: “beef on weck” is roast beef on a kimelweck bun and it tastes delicious. 

  6. Seriously, I used to eat salt bagels with butter. I am not sure how I didn’t have a heart attack by 13. 

One comment on “Session 97: See Buffalo First

  1. Brett Domue on

    Thanks for your contribution to The Session #97! No red cards forthcoming on this one. Larkinville sounds like a cool neighborhood to visit and do some tasting in. Still never been in Buffalo, despite only having lived a few hours away…

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