It was only a matter of time before Community Beer Works, a l ocal beer institution that was once Buffalo beer’s best kept secret, moved on from their humble and quaint Lafayette Street brewery. After helping to revitalize the Niagara Corridor thanks to the great beer they have been brewing since 2012, CBW has their eyes on helping to rejuvenate another Queen City neighborhood as they ready their massive new headquarters inside a nearly-century old building at 520 Seventh St.
CBW’s President Ethan Cox says that he hopes to open the doors at the new brewery space in mid to late May, optimistically, or early June at the latest. The new space features a long bar set in a spacious 7,000 square foot area where tentative plans call for bartop and communal tables as well as plenty of room for seating. There’s also a clear windowed garage door near the brewery’s front entrance that peers out into the neighborhood, though Cox says they aren’t sure what exactly they will have in the way of a patio out front.
“I don’t really know what we are going to do in terms of a patio out front, but it will probably be pretty minimal,” Cox says. “We might just put some grass out there so it could be a space where you can actually sit in the grass.”
Up a small set of stairs sits another seating area, which leads into a conference room/multi-use lounge area and manager’s office on the other side. There’s also a kitchen that will offer a simple menu full of three or four main items, including burgers. There’s also an order window (similar to Voodoo Brewing’s Erie, PA location).
In addition to plenty of taps offering their own brews, the new bar will also offer a liquor/cocktail list featuring local spirits, as well as red and white wine. Cox says that the brewery will offer beer cocktails as well. “I like a good Manhattan from time to time so if you really want a Manhattan here you don’t have to leave,” he says.
Off the back corner of the main taproom space sits one of the space’s most unique features, an open air patio/courtyard. Cox says a mural will be painted on the outside wall of courtyard, which will feature tables, outdoor seating and a fire pit. “I’m excited about this space too, especially when it’s nice outside and we can just sit out here,” he adds. What’s unique about this area is that it was once enclosed, but the roof was so distressed that it needed to be completely torn off, so Cox said they decided to create an outdoor area in the process.
The bar will feature approximately 20 lines with multiple taps dedicated to CBW’s core brands – Whale, Frank, That IPA and Iroquois – flanking about 10 taps of seasonal and one-off brews. “We should effectively have about 15 beers available at any given time,” he says. There will also be a television on the wall behind the bar for breaking news, sporting events or what have you.
On the brewing side, CBW is upgrading to a three vessel, 20 barrel brewhouse, which was made for CBW by SMT from Virginia. “It’s 100 percent American made, which is something that was very important to us.” The brewhouse also features a 10 barrel wooden foeder, which CBW purchased two years ago at the Craft Brewers conference.
“We will have a mix of 20 and 40 barrel fermenters, enough to give us a capacity of about 5,000 barrels when we open,” Cox says, “which is about what Big Ditch’s capacity was when they opened. I expect that we will grow pretty rapidly from there. We think we have enough space for enough tanks in here to get up to about 20,000 barrels.”
In the brewhouse there is a small mill room, where the CBW brewing team will mill their grain, a sizeable cold room for cold beer storage, a shipping/receiving area with a dock, which Cox was quite excited about, an area for packaging and canning, brewer’s office and dry storage.
Cox explains that the final decision came down to two different locations and they ultimately decided on the 520 Seventh St. location due to its historical significance and the chance for CBW to help revitalize another Buffalo neighborhood.
“In January 2016, we had this building on offer to us and another project over on Florida Street, and I thought both locations were really cool,” Cox says. “I liked this location geographically a little better, and I liked the history of this spot a lot better, because that building [a currently vacant 5-story building next to the brewery] was built originally as a malthouse. I thought that was a good fit. The malting company was called the Schaeffer Brothers and they were not very big. This became a chocolate factory after that.”
“This neighborhood also felt like it was more in need and would be more accepting. It also got us a little closer to downtown, which I also liked. So, in the end we settled on this one of the two and we have never looked back.”
Now for a bit of bad news. Once the 520 Seventh St. facility is open and operational, retails operations at the Lafayette taproom will be closed for a period of time. Cox adds that they will reopen once they feel that they have things under control at the new space, possibly only on Fridays and Saturdays at first with the possibility of adding additional hours as needed.
“We will keep brewing there because, for here, for our other accounts, we’re going to want to continue to have shorter brew lengths available. We’re not going to want 20 barrels of every beer we brew. So we will continue to make use of that facility for smaller batches to feed the taproom here and some other places as well.”
Cox says that he would like to make some improvements to the Lafayette space as well in time, including adding a second bathroom, adding more space and creating a more user friendly environment all around.
The story of Community Beer Works is a true testament to the power of Buffalo beer. What was once one of Buffalo’s smallest breweries is set to become one of its biggest, all thanks to four little ingredients – malt, water, hops and yeast. CBW is proof positive that there is something special brewing in the Queen City.
For more information on Community Beer Works, please visit http://www.communitybeerworks.com.
Brian Campbell is a co-founder/Brand Manager of the BNBA’s enthusiast arm, Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague) and www.buffalobeerleague.com.