Beer and Music: The perfect pairing


By Brian Campbell 

Published in Partnership with Artvoice and the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association

Music is a surreal art form; one that has the ability to conjure memories regardless of time passed. It can elicit emotion in a matter of seconds and transport listeners to a place in time they hold dear. So too can beer, making for perhaps the most powerful sensory pairing imaginable.

Music and beer are my two greatest passions in life. For me, it’s nearly impossible to have one without the other. Some of my best times in my life involve the pairing of the two. I remember drinking Molson XXX at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto while seeing The Cure in 2001 on their Bloodflowers tour. As I’m writing this I can remember how the beer tasted, how the bottles felt in my mind and how drinking it made me feel a deeper connection with some of my favorite Cure songs such as “Prayers For Rain,” “Watching Me Fall” and “A Letter To Elise.”

When I remember certain beer, memories akin to that The Cure concert come flooding back. For instance, if I think about Alexander Keith’s IPA, I recall road tripping to the Phoenix Concert Theater in Toronto to see The Darkness and Foxy Shazam; Labatt Ice brings me back to 2000 and seeing Static X, Taproot, The Deadlights and Slaves On Dope at the old Runways; hanging out with Nashville-by-way-of Buffalo singer/songwriter Chris Nathan over tall boys of PBR and sharing one too many Molson Canadians with late Drowning Pool singer Dave Williams after a show.

Music makes beer taste better, plain and simple. If you don’t believe me about the power of the sheer synchronicity of beer and music, then believe actual science. In the world’s largest ever multi-sensory experiment, by matching the tastings, aromas and flavors to instruments, notes and soundscapes, Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, researched 3000 people’s reactions to taste, sound and light while drinking a selection of beer. The study found that changes in both color and sound can immediately change taste by nearly 10 percent.

For the study, Spence paired American wheat beers Goose Island 312 and Blue Moon with Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” concluding ‘both wheat beers suggested lazy summer evenings, the sun draining slowly over the distant skyline; and Blue Moon edged ahead through its, and the music’s, richly sweet timbre and notes of dreamy melancholia.’ He also paired Belgian blonde Duvel with The Pixies’ “Debaser.” ‘The grunge band’s hyper-ventilating guitar and surrealist lyrics set against Duvel’s frenetic blond bubbles and throat-grabbing, lip-wiring flavors.’

Community Beer Works also explored this topic in Dan Conley’s Music Box blog series by pairing Ithaca’s Box of Hops with a variety of albums. The lengthy experiment paired Double Zilla (Red Double India Pale Ale) with Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air (‘a wonderful, perfect 40 minutes accompanied by a wonderful beer, helped doubtlessly by an 11% beer and memories of an old friend’), Dark Vine (Black IPA) with Turbonegro’s Apocalypse Dudes (‘enjoyable all around, leading me to look forward to the final two beers’), The Creeker (Double IPA) and Amplify Dot’s Spare Parts 2 (‘I dig the beat, the flavors in the IPA are incredibly balanced’), Flower Power (IPA) paired with Dungen’s 4 (‘the beer and album go together well: I find myself jamming to the music while appreciatively taking sips’).

Conley also explored Ithaca’s Box Of Belgians, drinking them alongside albums from Against Me!, Beyonce, Zoe Keating and EMA. Check it more over at

And he isn’t the only one that realizes the power of pairing music and beer. CBW’s head brewer Rudy Watkins recalls a fond memory of pairing beer with music, though, as he admits, the beer doesn’t have to be specific, nor even craft, to be special.

“The only thing I like more than beer is music,” Watkins said. “I don’t think there is a beer that I ‘like to drink with music, but I’ll drink whatever tastes good and is available at the time. It doesn’t have to be fancy either. I recently saw Do Make Say Think’s 20th anniversary show in Toronto at Lee’s Palace and the Molson Stock Ale was superb.”

Your homework now is to put this pairing to the test. We’re lucky to live in a city that offers not only a rich and vibrant music scene but also a booming and bustling beer scene. You can head out and catch live music on a nightly basis. So the next time you attend a concert, grab an ice cold pint and make a memory.

Beer coverage done in partnership with Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association. Visit


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Worth a Trip: Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery

By Willard Brooks

Published in Partnership with The Public and the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association


On a recent late winter Friday, a guest and I found a gap in snow and work that allowed us to head to Toronto for some beery evaluations. When beer is the subject of “research” it’s hard not to smirk—as research is supposed to be austere and beer is fun and exciting, the opposite of work.

Venture capitalists looking for the next big thing look at three key points: (1) team, meaning a company whose founders have special skills; (2) technology, meaning a company that makes something difficult doable; and (3) market, meaning a company that addresses a large market opportunity.

Bellwoods Brewery—which opened in April 2012 in the hip Trinity-Bellwoods neighborhood of Toronto-—is a case in point and worthy of evaluation. We arrived at 10:30am with fresh palates and open minds. These are our findings.

Team: Bellwoods was co-founded by Mike Clark and Luke Pestl. Luke has a degree in Biochemical Engineering and got a job as brewer at Amsterdam Brewery where he worked for three years. Mike was waiting for a place in med school and also worked at Amsterdam. Both think being a brewer is about as cool as it gets. Their understanding of biochemistry, brewing skill, and passion is an auspicious combination. These guys got both heart and skillz. Check!
Technology: Dan Carey, brewer at New Glarus, often says that making good beer is fast and easy to learn but, making great beer is maddeningly difficult and takes a lifetime. Mike and Luke have crafted a steady offering of top notch brews that are much loved by critics and fans. Mike and Luke are just getting started and brewing in a tight space. Soon they will open a much larger second brewery nearby. Getting still better would seem to be a given—it’s all about the journey. Check!

Market: The constraints of the Canadian beer distribution system are well known. Yet craft beer in Ontario has sky rocketed in popularity. Making beer this good where it’s in such high demand has allowed Bellwoods to expand by many factors in only three years time. There is no end in sight. Check!

It’s All About the Beer. Ultimately, research is an empirical endeavor. And we tried those rigors with samplings of these and other of Bellwoods brews:

  • Stay Classy — 2.8% ABV—golden straw color — very complex flavors and aromas for such a small beer—hopped with Mosaic, Citra, and Galaxy. Has a pleasant lemony tartness. Excellent session beer.
  • Paper Tiger — 5% ABV — Pilsner dry hopped with Sterling and Ella hops varieties. Very light and easy drinking body with a much more citrusy hop aroma and flavor than a traditional pilsner.
  • Donkey Venom—9.5% ABV—chocolate brown in color, with dark fruits and roasted/porter notes and distinctive Belgian style barnyard and tart flavors—exquisite and very unique—high alcohol is well hidden.
  • Gotham8% ABVa black IPA that functions as an IPA yet has dark fruits and chocolate, light charred tobacco and roast flavors balanced with assertive hop and resinous qualities.
  • Bounty Hunter—10.3% ABV—strong porter brewed with coconut and vanilla—has notes of dark chocolate and a sunscreen/pipe-tobacco aspect that many love (though not my favorite combination).

Conclusions: While beer is fun, it is also worthy of serious inquiry. Beer involves quite a lot of know how. It has an air of entrepreneurial geek chic that draws in highly educated creative folks in ways usually reserved for Silicon Valley start-ups and über cool hipster cafes. And it addresses a large market opportunity in a convincing way. Drink up Toronto. And let’s hope—for Buffalo’s sake—that Bellwood’s expansion allows their elixir to flow to this side of the border now and again. In any case, we highly recommend you make the journey so that you can see and taste for yourself as Bellwoods really delivers.

The Public’s weekly beer column is produced in collaboration with the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association.

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Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association and Buffalo Bisons reach agreement on management of annual Craft Beer Events


The Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association (BNBA) and the Buffalo Bisons today announced an agreement where the Bisons’ Pettibones Grille will manage the BNBA’s annual festivals and events for 2015 and 2016.

The new partnership will begin with the 2nd annual Buffalo Brewers Festival at Canalside on Saturday, June 20. In teaming up with the Bisons, the BNBA will benefit from the logistical and event management capabilities of the Buffalo Bisons and their Pettibones Grille staff.

The Bisons have been a leader in the craft beer movement for years, showcased by the popularity of the team’s fridaynightbash!® Happy Hours and their annual Ballpark Brew Bash held at Coca-Cola Field.

“Our partnership with the Bisons and Pettibones Grille will allow us to take our major festivals to the next level in our efforts to create signature craft beer events that bring people from across the region and Southern Ontario and eventually nationally to Western New York,” said Willard Brooks, chairman of the BNBA. “We have a tremendous opportunity to revitalize the history of beer making in the region through the opening of a number of craft breweries over the last couple of years.”

“We look forward to working with the BNBA and especially its brewer members in promoting the great craft beers being made locally through these festivals and events,” said Robert Free, Director of Food Service Operations for the Bisons. “Our goal is to create four annual seasonal events, including the Canalside festival, and make the Buffalo Niagara region a destination among craft beer enthusiasts everywhere.”

The BNBA and Bisons are currently preparing for the second annual Buffalo Brewers Festival at Canalside, a day-long event featuring more than 30 New York State breweries, local food vendors and live entertainment. For more information about the Festival at Canalside, please visit

Among the events being planned for 2016 include a winter festival and the first Annual Canadian International Brewers Festival tentatively planned in Niagara Falls, NY.

The BNBA and Bisons will toast their new partnership with a VIP craft beer tasting event on Saturday, March 28 at Pettibones Grille and Catering Center at Coca-Cola Field. Attendees will receive two tickets to a Bisons game of their choice and two tickets for complimentary beer at the Consumer’s Craft Corner while attending the game. Tickets are $75 with over 25 hard-to-find beers including Canadian Breakfast Stout. Full food stations are included as well.

For more information about the Association including membership please visit

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Ballyhoo: Fine Beer & Spirits

By Dan Giacomini

Published in Partnership with The Public and the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of checking out Ballyhoo, a craft cocktail pub nestled on the edges of the First Ward and Cobblestone District at Michigan and South Park Avenues—the site once occupied by the Malamute Tavern.

Ballyhoo’s owner, Tim Stevens, is a Buffalo native who rose to craft cocktail fame in San Diego, where he was named one of the city’s top 20 bartenders by San Diego Magazine. But amid that personal success, he also co-founded the San Diego Bartenders Guild, demonstrating a commitment to “the scene” that helps explain his return to Western New York.

“I’m a boomerang, let’s be honest,” Stevens admitted in a recent interview. He took notice of what he calls the “tidal wave of creativity” fueling our region’s resurging bar and restaurant culture—a movement on which he aims to capitalize, and to which he hopes to contribute.

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” he said.

The intersection at Michigan and South Park feels as if it’s on the precipice of transition. At one end is an extreme close-up of the General Mills factory and surrounding industrial megaliths that tower over our waterfront, a constant reminder of the city’s past. At the other end is the new Buffalo Creek Casino just across the street, and Harborcenter just a half-mile in the distance. It’s an interesting harmony of decay and resurgence—the kind for which Buffalo is becoming increasingly famous.

The bar offers its own off-street parking lot, and a strong Sunday-evening scent of Cheerios that accompanied us to the front door. The façade—not much changed from that of Malamute before it—retains the old-school charm of a union hall from Buffalo’s industrial heyday.

Upon entering, the look and feel inside the cozy bar is at once both new and familiar, both modest and sophisticated, both Buffalo and new to Buffalo. With the entire city celebrating St. Patrick’s Day further uptown along the parade route, my companion and I were able to belly up to the center of the bar for front row seats.

While the bar is famous for its cocktails, my companion and I are beer drinkers. BBallyhoo-1allyhoo doesn’t disappoint. The beer offering is relatively small—12 rotating taps, a handful of cans—but there’s something for everyone: Rolling Rock and PBR at one end of the spectrum, Chillwave Double IPA at the other. The current tap rotation is sprinkled with St. Patty’s-themed brews, and I fell in line with an Irish Red Ale by Hamburg Brewing Co.

I’d heard about Ballyhoo’s sausages before I made the trip. Being very much a “meat and potatoes” guy, I was anxious to see what all the fuss was about, but tempered my excitement by wondering how impressive something as elemental as a sausage could actually be.

I never could’ve imagined the sheer bliss that accompanied biting into these mouth-watering reinventions of the classic ballpark staple. My companion and I split a “TJ Dawg” (chorizo pork and bacon sausage topped with pico, crema, and avocado) and a “Steak House” (seasoned beef sausage topped with cream spinach, garlic, and parmesan). Both were absolutely incredible. Each is basically a hearty, gourmet, housemade sausage topped with deliciously fresh, veggie-based toppings and sauces. Perhaps most impressive is the way in which this generous portion—even ripped in half as my companion and I ate them—stayed self-contained and didn’t make a mess.

There are only five sausages to choose from ($8 each), and I imagine all are incredible. Rounding out the food menu are a few different sides (salad, slaw, pasta and soup, each for $4), and a single dessert option: a homemade ice-cream sandwich. We each had one, and we each loved it.

Although we didn’t try them, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ballyhoo’s “Jam Sessions,” cocktails that substitute English jam in place of bottled syrup ($9 each); and “Carbon-a-Teas,” cocktails mixed with tea syrups ($8 each). If cocktails are your thing and you’ve yet to try these, do yourself a favor.

The market for Ballyhoo’s craft cocktails might not be as robust as that of, say, craft beer—and Stevens, recognizing this, has crafted a drink menu that offers something for everyone. That being said, his unique style is not something he hopes to keep on the shelf.

Indeed, Stevens aims to inspire patrons, to be “imparting knowledge instead of spinning a napkin in front of them and saying, ‘What can I get you?’ When you do that, you’ve surrendered. You have to light them up.”


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Get Your Green On: Five Local Craft Beer Destinations for St. Patty’s

IrishBy Dan Giacomini

Published in Partnership with The Public and the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association

Few holidays have the power to unite beer enthusiasts like St. Patrick’s Day. From the hop-crazed hipster to the blue-collared Guinness guzzler, celebrators of St. Patty’s come in all shapes and sizes. And while everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, there’s one more common denominator powerful enough to bring everyone together on this day: beer.

Buffalo does St. Patrick’s Day right. (What other city features two separate St. Patrick’s Day parades?) The richness of Irish culture and tradition throughout the region makes this a no-brainer. Buffalo also boasts a wealth of fine craft beer bars, brewpubs and, of course, breweries. These are all part of a broader craft beer movement that is creating its culture and traditi
on on the fly.

What follows is a list of five great places to enjoy a craft beer this St. Patrick’s Day.

Note: This list is not intended to be a “Craziest St. Patty’s Day Parties in Buffalo” roundup (a quick Google search should get you what you need). And there are, of course, dozens of other destinations that are deserving of inclusion here. Rather, this list is intended to showcase the breadth of our region’s offering while providing a little something for everybody – or at least every craft beer enthusiast – whether you’re celebrating in the northtowns, southtowns, or downtown.

  1. Gene McCarthy’s, Hamburg Street, South Buffalo – Gene McCarthy’s is a
    sophisticated craft beer haven disguised as an ancient dive bar, creating a unique experience that is unlike any other in the area. A staple of the Old First Ward since the 1960s, Gene McCarthy’s has – like the First Ward itself – evolved over time to attract new generations of patrons while preserving and celebrating its roots as a rustic neighborhood pub serving South Buffalo’s working class. Combine its distinctively Irish ambience with and an impressive craft beer selection featuring the Old First Ward Brewing Company, and you have the perfect destination for enjoying craft beer on St. Patty’s.
  1. P. Fitzgerald’s, Clark Street, Hamburg – Featuring live Irish music throughout St. Patty’s weekend and Tuesday, J.P. Fitzgerald’s will be a Mecca for St. Patty’s celebration. Named after a two-time Marshall of Buffalo’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Fitzgerald is a first-generation American whose parents hailed from Dingle Bay, Ireland. The menu is eclectic but features Old World favorites like shepherd’s pie and corned beef and cabbage. Indeed, this sports bar is Irish through and through – ownership even organizes an annual trip to Ireland! – but don’t be fooled. The bar offers a well-rounded selection of craft beers, several of which are brewed locally (Resurgence, Hamburg, and Southern Tier are currently on tap).
  1. Griffon Pub, Military Road, Niagara Falls – One of the more upscale options on this list, Griffon Pub is a Niagara Falls gastropub featuring an eclectic Americana menu and a beer list that almost boggles the mind. Griffon boasts over 50 beers on tap and dozens more in bottles. Local, domestic, or imported; porters, pale ales, or Belgians – this place has enough beer to satisfy any taste. To celebrate the feast of St. Patrick, ask for a Smithwick’s, a Conway’s Irish by Great Lakes, or a Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale. (Please note: Reservations are recommended.)
  1. Coles, Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo – The Elmwood Avenue staple, having first opened its doors in 1934, is the oldest location to make this list. Because Coles has such a well-established reputation and identity, its status as one of the most impressive craft beer bars in Buffalo is easy to overlook. But the selection is as vibrant and expansive as the noisy-in-a-good-way vibe inside. Located just a few blocks north of the downtown parade’s terminus on Delaware Avenue and North Streets, Coles is a must for those looking to get their green on in and around the Elmwood Village. Famous (or maybe infamous) for its parties, Coles hosts an annual post-St. Patrick’s Day Parade party featuring lamb stew, soda bread, and other Irish favorites.
  1. West Main St., East Aurora – Few stretches of walkable streetscape anywhere in WNY pack so much craft beer awesomeness into such a compact area as does the burgeoning scene on the west end of Main Street in East Aurora. Start at Aurora Brew Works, the beer bar/retail store combo that lets you enjoy a pint while perusing a truly impressive selection of domestic and international craft beers. Mosey next door to 189 Public House, a rustic concert venue and brewpub that rotates a different 189 brew among a nice selection of craft bottles and taps. Top your night off at the iconic Bar-Bill Tavern where, fittingly, the wall behind the bar is adorned with a “XX Days ‘Til St. Patrick’s Day” sign that is updated every day of the year.

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2015: A Year For Beer (Events)

img_0767By Brian Campbell

Published in Partnership with Artvoice and the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association

2015: A Year For Beer (Events)
By: Brian Campbell

It’s no small secret that there’s no better time to be a fan of craft beer than right now, and 2015 is shaping up to be one for the ages for beerophiles thanks to a heaping slate of events in and around our fair city that seek to shine a spotlight on this adult libation we all know and love.

This year will be anchored by a trio of Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association (BNBA) cornerstone events, beginning Sunday, May 17 with the second annual Farm-To-Pint event, a showcase of the craft beer making supply chain in the region. Several local breweries will brew unique beers using New York State grown hops and malts specifically for the event. The brewers, farmers, and maltsters will be present to share in the tasting and provide information about the process of bringing New York State hops and malts from the farm to the pint glass. The event will be held at Hamburg Brewing.

The second annual Buffalo Brewers Festival, which will again be held at Canalside, will take place Saturday, June 20. The festival will convene the area’s top local & state brewers, farmers and food artisans for a day-long festival that will include craft beer tastings and pairings, live music, food trucks, and much more. The Buffalo Brewers Festival will feature craft brewers and brews from more than 30 New York State breweries and a Meet-the-Brewer tent with brewer-led food/beer pairings as well as educational panels and special tastings. More information available soon at

The sixth annual Buffalo Beer Week will take place September 26 – October 5, a 10-day lineup that features dozens of events including everything from beer tastings at local pubs to ticketed special events and nearly everything in between. This will mark the final time that Buffalo Beer Week will be featured during the fall as it moves to the spring beginning in 2016.

Following a pair of successful member events, including a member’s appreciation happy hour at Resurgence Brewing in January and BrewBus, a brewery crawl, earlier this month, the Buffalo Beer League (the name of BNBA’s enthusiast club) will be holding two more marquee member-only events, a Summer Pub Crawl and a Fall Pub Crawl, later this year. Tickets are available to BBL members only – memberships can be purchased for $40 at Their first ever BrewBus sold out in a matter of days so don’t miss out – buy a membership !

The Artvoice and the BNBA will also be teaming up to co-present four enthusiast events this year, all of which will showcase the BNBA’s Buffalo Beer League enthusiast club along with the best bands and beer that Buffalo has to offer. Unofficially titled ‘Beers, Bands & BBL,’ these one-of-a-kind events will take place April 2 at Resurgence Brewery, on May 14 at the Waiting Room, on June 2 at Mr. Goodbar and September 10 at Big Ditch Brewing.

The Brewers Association will also work to present a number of craft beer dinners throughout the year, which will take place in late April, early July, October and December. More information to come – details will be posted on the BNBA website.

In addition to all the events the BNBA will help to present in 2015, there are also a number of other wonderful events going on in and around our fair city, including Ballpark at the Brewbash VIP Spring Tasting at Pettibone’s ($75, tickets at Consumer’s Beverages) featuring a selection of rare and exclusive beers including cask, bottles and draft and complimentary food, Beerology on April 18 (, a craft beer tasting at Coca Cola Field during a Buffalo Bisons game on May 16th and Brewfest at the Ballpark on September 26 (

If you’re in the market for a good old fashioned craft beer road trip, or brewcation, gas up the car and head off to the Rochester Real Beer Expo on June 13 (, TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Fest, April 25-26 (, Belgium Comes To Cooperstown at Ommegang, August 7-9 (!cooperstown), Real Canadian Craft Beer Fest in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario on November 7 (, Ellicottville Fall Festival on October 10 ( and the Beertavia Craft Beer Festival, Batavia’s first ever craft beer fest, on May 16 (

If you’re willing to venture a bit further, you might not want to miss the Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin on August 8 (, Vermont Brewers Festival in Burlington, Vermont , July 17-18 (, Cask Days in Toronto in October ( and The Festival 2015 in St. Petersburg, Florida, October 16-17 (

Looking forward to 2016, the BNBA has planned a Winter Buffalo Brewers Festival (Ski Country), a Spring Brewers Festival during Beer Week, the third annual Buffalo Brewers Festival in June and a Fall Brewers Fest at Niagara Falls in November.

Stay tuned for further details on these events as well as to get all of the latest information on the Buffalo craft beer scene.

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Move Over Wine – Cheese & Beer

By Willard Brooks.

Published in Partnership with Artvoice and the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association

Recall that hilarious Monty Python sketch where John Cleese walks into a cheese shop and orders a long list of cheeses only to discover that the shop actually has no cheese? Among the English cheeses he requests are: Red Leicester, Cheshire, Dorset Blue Vinney, Wensleydale, Ilchester, Cheddar, and many more. A dizzying array of cheeses, no? Perhaps not when considering that the British Cheese Board lists over 700 cheeses. Cheese is such a big part of British food culture that a British cheese shop with no cheese would indeed be a joke!

The love the Brits have for cheese seems bested only by beer where they list a jaw dropping 2,000 different brands and many regional styles. Yet, the combination of cheese and beer may appear strange, as that combo seems reserved in the minds of many for wine and cheese. Perhaps, but, on closer examination, the beer and cheese combination makes perfect sense. Farmers grow grasses and grains—cows eat grasses to produce milk that farmers use to make cheese; the same farmer takes the grain from the grasses and makes malt for beer and flour for bread. Given this, doesn’t it seem natural that a farmhouse would make breads, brews, and cheeses? Perhaps wine and cheese is the odd man out!

Now that you are sold on beer and cheese, the next question is how to decide which cheeses pair best with which beers. A few key points are in order. One point is to put delicate with delicate and strong with strong (e.g. put a strong blue cheese with a bold flavored barley wine). Another approach is to work either with complimentary flavors (e.g. a creamy St. Andre with a Belgian Blonde ale) or with contrasting flavors (a simple-tangy California Teleme with a complex-sweet Chimay Blue). The characteristics of cheeses are firmness, complexity from age, and intensity. The features of beers are hop bitterness, carbonation, fruit, spices, malt sweetness, yeast characteristics and, sometimes funk and tartness. Experimentation is encouraged, surprises are welcomed. Try these:

Sierra Nevada Ovila Dubbel & von Trapp Camembert. The camembert goes very well with the yeast notes in the dubbel. Similar flavors.

Freigeist Pimock Hefeweizen & Holland Beemster. The Pimock worked very well with the Beemster.

Hamburg White Corner Wheat & Maplebrook Burrata. The carbonation of the White Corner magnifies the cheese flavor of the burrata very nicely.

Gordon Biersch Märzen & Jasper Hill Clothbound Cheddar. You will find this to be a solid pairing where the floral notes in the cheese contrasts the malts in the beer.

Community Beer Works—That IPA with Maplebrook Smoked Mozzarella. The smoked mozzarella is a perfect choreography of hops and smoke!

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Brimstone Brewing Company Visit

By Willard Brooks
Published in Partnership with Artvoice and the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association

On a briskly cold sunny Presidents Day myself and Clint Perez, marketing director of the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association accepted the invitation to visit Rod Daigle, owner and chief priest of suds at Brimstone Brewing Company in Ridgeway, Ontario. As you drive up to Brimstone, located just minutes from downtown Buffalo, the beery new purpose of this former Methodist church is made plain by the presence of brewing equipment sitting in the back of the building. This arrangement makes it immediately evident that a great deal of thought has gone into the conversion experience which this former place of worship has undergone.

The building was purchased a few years ago by architect Jason Pizzicarola. Rod Daigle—a former Canadian customs officer of 23 years—was looking to get into the brewing business. After meeting at a city planning session where Rod presented a brewing concept for the town, they decided to team up and develop the old church into a multi-use facility with Brimstone Brewery, Crave Local restaurant, and Sanctuary Centre for the Arts.

The Brewery

It came to fruition about two years ago when Brimstone opened as a nanobrewery in the basement of the old church.

The size and scale of a nanobrewing operation is not all that much larger than what homebrewers would make on their kitchen stoves. No dark art, brewing. With this system Rod got a chance to hone his recipes and make the transition from hobby to profession. He attended the Siebel Institute to learn more about professional brewing. The beer was good and this success built the foundation for the recent expansion up to a 15 hectoliter system.

The Beer

“Right now, we have three main beers available” Rod explained, “We have our blond pale ale called Enlightenment, which is our easy drinking flagship, we have our cranberry wheat called Cleric Winter Cranberry, and we have our Sinister Minister IPA.”

Clint and I were lavished with samples of these brews, and this is what we thought.

• Enlightenment Pale Ale 5.5%—pours a golden straw color with a prodigious white head which leaves a pleasing lacing behind in the glass. The mild fruity aroma from a British yeast strain is followed by fruity notes on the palate and an interesting element of more modern hop character. A solid drinking beer which would pair with all manner of dishes and most of life’s occasions.

• Cleric Winter Cranberry 5.2% (seasonal)—nice and spritzy with a medium mouth feel. This beer is an ale blended with cranberry and brewed with barley and wheat malts. It has a very distinct up-front tartness and an aroma that presents at first taste as almost a Belgian-style wild beer. After this, the sip evolves into a medley for fruit from the berries, malt complexity, and a touch of lingering hop bitterness at the finish. A very nice winter warmer type beer that would pair very well with white cheddar cheese and walnuts with crackers.

• Sinister Minister IPA 7.5%—a solid west coast style IPA with an excellent carbonation, solid malt backbone, and very enjoyable hop character from generous amounts of Ahtanum and Mosaic hops additions. This beer is in regular rotation at the brewery—though it sells out frequently due to its popularity. A solid resinous IPA with very pleasing citrus notes and a finish strongly reminiscent of grapefruit rind. Would be an excellent accompaniment to some spicy foods such as a grilled chicken burrito with red mole and black beans or a green Thai curry.

The Sanctuary Centre for the Arts & Crave

Local Fresh Restaurant

Chef Matt MacGregor and his wife Laurie own and operate the farm-to-table catering firm “Crave-Local-Fresh” out of the kitchen area adjacent to the Brimstone tap room. Chef Matt works on a weekly basis to ensure that the food menu and the beer line up well each week. Crave-Local-Fresh uses locally-sourced fresh produce when possible (including the incorporation of house brewed beer and spent grain into recipes).

The Sanctuary Centre for the Arts is many things. It is the company that owns the building and gives a home to the catering company and the brewery. It is also a community arts center which has multiple uses as a center for gallery space, weddings, plays, yoga classes, meetings, beer festivals, craft shows, fundraisers, church gatherings, and concerts. Concerts are a specialty as they are well supported by the intimate space (and the bar with Brimstone on tap).

All in all these three inter-related businesses have created an architecturally well executed integration of the arts center and venue upstairs with the brewery, tap room, patio, and restaurant downstairs.

Getting There

Making the very brief trip from Buffalo to Fort Erie is well worth the effort to be repaid in excellent beer, food, and music. More info and opening hours are below.

• Restaurant Hours: Thu & Fri 5pm-10pm; Sat 12-10 pm; Sun 12-6 pm

• Taproom Hours: Thu & Fri 5pm-10pm; Sat 12-10 pm; Sun 12-6 pm

• Taproom Stage: the brewhouse actually gets converted to a small stage for weekend music.

• The Sanctuary Centre: There are frequent concerts, especially on Fridays and

• Address: 209 Ridge Road N Ridgeway, ON L0S 1N0

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History Repeats Itself — Malt Industry Returns to WNY

By Brian Campbell

Published in Partnership with Artvoice and the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association

Not only has the current Buffalo craft beer boom led to the creation of a wide variety of great local beer, it has also led to a resurgence in local malt production, an industry that was once a staple of our city.

Among those leading the local malting renaissance is Queen City Malting, located inside the Barrel Factory in the Old First Ward; Niagara Malt, located at Cambria Vines N’ Bines in Cambria; and New York Craft Malt out of Batavia, run by maltster Ted Hawley, who says he got into malting because he saw a need for locally produced malts and grains.

“I went to a lecture coordinated by Glenda Neff with NOFA-NY (Northeast Organic Farming Association),” Hawley says. “While there, Glenda mentioned there was a need for malting grains for the craft brewing industry. So I switched gears, researched malt and malting and spent a few weeks at the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre in Winnipeg learning everything I could about the art of making malt. I’ve traveled to China, UK, Canada, and all over the United States researching this idea.”

“So far we’ve been selling our malt to brewers and breweries all over the state. We’ve branched out from our base NY Pale Ale malt to include Light Munich, Medium Munich, and Special Roasted malt. There has been a lot of interest in our product and we’re certain that sales will increase as more brewers become aware of what we have to offer.”

With more and more breweries opening on a seemingly daily basis, the need for local malt is more prevalent than ever, a cause Senator Charles Schumer champions as well. He is urging the United States Department of Agriculture to add New York to the list of states where malt barley farmers are covered by federal crop insurance, which he believes will be done by year’s end.

“I think it’s a huge positive step,” Hawley adds. “The odds are stacked against any grains growing in our region due to our climate to begin with and malting barley requires a higher degree of attention anyway. If we truly take malting barley seriously then we need to offer farmers the same governmental insurance that’s offered on the other grains they grow. However, I think the insurance needs to go beyond that to include the very real scenario of a bumper crop of barley that may be pre-germinated on the stalk, or has a high vomatoxin level and is otherwise not suitable for malting. In other words, the farmer needs some insurance against the fact that his barley may be turned away at the malthouse door even though it looks and feels and smells like a viable crop.”

The Farm Brewing Law, put in to effect in 2013, states that, in order to receive a Farm Brewery license in New York State, beer must be made from a percentage of locally grown farm products. Until the end of 2018, at least 20 percent of the hops and 20 percent of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in NYS, a number which rises to 60 percent from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2023 and 90 percent after January 1, 2024.

“When brewers use local malt they’re saying they believe in their hometown, that they have a vested interest in the success of everyone involved in this industry, from the farmer to the maltster to the brewer, to the brewery owner to the beer drinker,” Hawley continues. “That’s the most important part—when a brewer uses local malt what he’s really saying is that he believes in the customer. There’s been a lot of talk about the fact that 20 percent local ingredients is too much for brewers to source. I’d respectfully disagree.”

John Russo, president of Hamburg Brewing Company, a licensed farm brewery, says NYS could be headed for a change in the law in the future.

“Right now it is hard to say if it is too much or too little,” he says. “There are two things happening concurrently. One of them is promoting the growth of the New York state beverage industry and the second is trying to grow the farming industry. I personally believe the numbers set in place by our legislators were good to start as it will take a considerable amount of time to build the associated farm industry to the point where competitive pricing and quality ingredients meet the expectations of the brewers and distillers. Thus, I believe there might be a change in the laws in the future to accommodate the direction our industry is headed in. It is important to use locally sourced ingredients to grow business in our region.”

Dave Collins, brewmaster at Resurgence Brewing, says that they are making a concerted effort to incorporate more locally grown malts and barley into their beer.

“We’re slowly mixing New York grown barley into all of our recipes, and we just released a beer that was made with only NY malt [NY Craft Malt] and NY Nugget hops [High Bines Hopyard] called the NY Nugget Smash [“single malt, single hop],” Collins says. “I think the new laws around Farm Brewery licensing are maybe too aggressive, but if we can get to a place where we can rely more heavily on our own NY grain and don’t need to worry about all the other concerns as much it would be a really great thing.”

Staying local is important to also fledgling upstart Big Ditch Brewing Company, according to President Matt Kahn, who says localized ingredients will play a major role in future test batches.

“I’d much rather use locally malted barley than others all things being equal; besides supporting other local businesses, it’s environmentally friendlier due to reduced transportation costs,” he says. “We feel strongly connected to Buffalo. It’s all part of making Western New York a great beer destination. We plan to conduct further test batches using local ingredients and hope to use as much as we can as we grow.”

Local malts and hops will be on display later this year at Farm-To-Pint, a one-of-a-kind beer tasting event created by the Supply Chain Committee of the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association to help raise awareness all across the supply chain for the importance of local in out beer. Last year our two farm breweries, Hamburg Brewing and Old First Ward Brewing, along with Flying Bison Brewing Company, Gordon Biersch, Resurgence, and Community Beer Works. This year’s event is expected to include several more breweries and become much more of a regional event aimed at raising awareness for local beer by also encouraging local bars to put these beers on tap during farm to pint week. Stay tuned to for more information (likely will take place in late May).

For more information about your local maltsters, visit, and Also check out local hops farms such as Niagara Malt, McCollum Orchards, East Prairie Hops, High Bines Hopyard. And Wrobel Farms.

Last but not least, get into your local pubs and brewery tap rooms to taste new brews made from local ingredients. Currently or coming soon these local breweries will offer brews from local ingredients:

• Community Beer Works: Saison #2

• Flying Bison Brewing Co: Barnstormer Pale Ale

• Hamburg Brewing Co: House Dressing

• Old First Ward Brewing Co: Therapy Session Pale Ale (coming soon)

• Resurgence Brewing Co: NY Nugget Smash

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Brewers & Bruisers at Buffalo River Works

By Erik Wollschlager

Published in Partnership with Artvoice and the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association

It is no secret that the city of Buffalo’s recent expansion is tied to its growing craft brew industry. This growth requires two things—people to brew it and people to drink it. Thankfully for all of us, there are plenty of both. These two ingredients come together in an amazing location for a wonderful Bermuda Triangle of awesomeness at the rapidly developing Buffalo RiverWorks. On Friday, February 6th, the Queen City Rollergirls (QCRG) opened their 2015 season with an exhibition match at Buffalo RiverWorks—a one of a kind facility that will cater to brewers, bruisers, and drinkers alike.

“These girls love their beer,” says Mama Chops, spritely events coordinator for QCRG and RollerMom extraordinaire. In between hugs and high-fives from everyone passing by, Mama explained just how deep their love really is. “A lot of these girls even brew their own beer—each team brewed a batch for our Beer & Beards hombebrew competition.” She laughed at the suggestion that someone might brew a ‘Bruiser Belgian,’ replying “Chicks dig IPAs.” Willard Brooks, President of the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association puts it this way: “The roller girls stand out as a group of strong women whose absolute verve and elbow grease goes to great lengths to promote local craft beer. And they have done a great deal with us. Back in 2013 we worked together on the Buffalo Beer Geek Festival at Artisan Baths and Kitchen. In 2014 we worked together at the Buffalo Brewers Festival at Canalside as well as on their awesome 1st Annual Black Rock Pub Crawl during Buffalo Beer Week. There are lots of ideas are flying around about what we might work on next—more details are sure to evolve—stay tuned.”

According to Mama, “Last year, the beer week Black Rock Pub Crawl for Beer Week went awesome and we are looking forward to hosting again.” As she surveyed the barebones structure where the bout was set to take place, she breathed in the floating dust and smiled. “This is going to be awesome.”

The bout was indeed awesome. It was a high-scoring affair, and aside from a few injuries, the violently graceful match passed without a hitch. When the dust settled, reigning champs the Nickel City Knockouts came out on top of the contending Suicidal Saucies. Following the final whistle, the girls and the crowd headed over to Pearl Street Grill & Brewery for the afterparty. “Buffalo is just a big backyard,” says Chris Herr, head brewer at Pearl Street, the Pan-Am, and the soon-to-be facility at RiverWorks. Chris has family ties with the organizers of QCRG and seems to be excited to be working hand-in-hand with the organization. While the brewery at Riverworks may still be as much as a year off, the planning stages have begun. Chris also chuckled at the suggestion of a “Bruiser Belgian,” and said “You know, I haven’t given it that much thought. We’re going to brew the Lake Effect Stout and the Trainwreck (Pearl Street & Pan-Am’s signature pale ale), but the rest of the beers we’ll be brewing will be unique to the facility.”

In the brief time that Chris has been brewing at Pearl Street, his mark has been made on all of the beers available. “We’ve upgraded our malt, moving to the next level available. It costs a bit more, but it makes a better beer, and that’s really what’s most important.” Chris said he’s tweaked some of the standard recipes, “I’m hoping that next time someone comes in, they take a sip and think ‘This is a bit different.’” Pearl Street will be debuting a new beer in the coming weeks—an ale brewed with an experimental hop variety. “The nose is heavy with peach,” Chris said, with a faraway look in his eyes that betrayed his excitement, “it’s definitely a unique flavor profile.” Pearl Street will announce the debut through their social media and e-mail newsletter, so be sure you’re in the know when this and other exciting beer pours.

The Devil Dollies will face off against the Alley Kats for the second half of the two-part Icebreaker exhibition bouts on Friday, February 13th. The first official QCRG bout is scheduled at RiverWorks for Friday, February 27th, when the Knockouts will face the Alley Kats. Season tickets for QCRG will be available soon—these events at the city’s incredible new entertainment complex are not to be missed, and will quickly sell out. Grab a beer, choose a side, and let the ladies know what you think of their jam. After the bout, join the afterparty, because the only thing better than watching these girls knocking each other down is joining them to knock a few back.

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