West Coast Hops Meet East Coast Splendor: A Look Back at Pressure Drop Brewing’s First Year

Pressure Drop Brewing, one of Western New York’s newest breweries that can be found nestled inside Lakeward Spirits inside Old First Ward’s historic Barrel Factory, will mark their first anniversary on Thanksgiving Eve, November 21. Helmed by Head Brewer Karl Kolbe, a Buffalo native (Tonawanda to be exact) who cut his teeth as a member of the brew team at California’s vaunted Knee Deep Brewing, along with cousin and COO Lexi Craine, have spent the last year mostly bucking beer trends with hoppy and filtered West Coast-style brews.

Looking back, Kolbe says that his first year with Pressure Drop has been somewhat of a whirlwind. “It’s all kind of a blur; lots of ups, lots of downs, lots of lefts and lots of rights,” he says. “We were shown tons of love, which makes it all worthwhile. But we’re still developing ourselves as a brand. There are still a lot of people in Western New York that don’t even know we exist. We’re still building a following. Barrel Factory has been a great home for us, especially now with Bar Cultivar set to open soon. I’m looking forward to having them in the building.”

“I think that we came out of the gates strong, stronger than I expected to at least. Partnering with Try-It Distributing was huge for us. Getting to know the Buffalo beer scene better was huge too, because coming from the West Coast, it’s a totally different market. We wondered, how would these hoppy, clear, West Coast IPA’s do around here? The answer is, they’re doing pretty well. People are into them. I have beers that I started brewing years ago that I am still in love with. And if people are appreciating them too, that makes me so happy.”

Mark Jowett and Karl Kolbe

He adds that most of his favorite memories from this past year stem from collaborations he has brewed with fellow WNY breweries. “One thing I’m really proud of is being embraced by the local community in our first year. We banged out collabs with Thin Man Brewery, Community Beer Works, Big Ditch Brewing, West Shore Brewing, Old First Ward Brewing and have another one coming with Resurgence. I’m looking forward to that collab, it’s gonna be a lot of fun. It’s gonna be Amarillo, Citra, Nelson Sauvin, English Ale yeast, flaked malt, malted oats. It should be chewy as hell.”

Over their first 365 days, you could say that Kolbe has been busy in the brewhouse. They held a number of can releases, including most of their flagships – Sticky Trees IPA, Strummer Belgian Blonde Ale, Citra Screamer Cream Ale and Buckstar Coffee Cream Porter, as well as a number of collaborations – Aqua Buddha Double IPA (Big Ditch), Knives Out Session IPA (CBW), Dog Birthday Party Graham Cracker Stout (Thin Man) and Dank Sinatra New England IPA (Knee Deep Brewing). They’ve also collaborated with West Shore (Sketchy IPA, Hella Sketchy DIPA), Old First Ward (Knee Socks Double IPA) and Thin Man again (Night Terrors NEIPA, Panic Attacks IPA).

Sticky Trees IPA

“That’s one of my favorite things from our first year. I kind of knew Jeff [Ware, Resurgence], but now I really know Jeff. I knew Rudy [Watkins, Thin Man], but now we’re homies. Bryan [Kirchmyer, OFW] is like my little brother. I love him to death. I barely knew [Scott] Shuler [12 Gates Brewing], but I know him pretty well now. He’s a good egg. Chris Herr [Pearl Street family of breweries] is such a gangster. I can’t say enough about everybody I have dealt with and how rad they have been. I got a letter, which was actually typed on a typewriter, from Ethan [Cox] at CBW, thanking me for my work on Knives Out. Do you know how good that makes you feel? I love the positivity here. To see this city a year ago as opposed to what it was 13 years ago when I was first here is mind-blowing to me. And to see the city now, with all of the new stuff – Buffalo Cider Hall, Thin Man’s Chandler expansion, Barrel + Brine, Misuta Chows – is every more mind-blowing to me. To see all of the other creative energies in this city going on, and all of the positivity is mind-blowing.”

When it comes to his favorite Pressure Drop beers over their first year, his answer was quick and simply put – Sticky Trees IPA – among a few others of course. Because, like Lay’s potato chips, you can’t have just one favorite.

“Sticky Trees for sure,” he says. “I can still go up to the bar any day and say, ‘fuck yeah, give me a Sticky Trees. I’ve always loved Buckstar. It’s always been one of my favorites. I’ve been brewing that beer for years. But I do love the stuff that is really out there, weird and different – I’m still a sucker for Blackalicious [Belgian Imperial Stout].  It’s about to click a year old and that beer is getting better and better and better. Dank Sinatra – I love that beer because it inspires a conversation. But, I can go back to Sticky Trees every single day and I’m never disappointed in it.”

As is customary in Buffalo, or anywhere for that matter, Pressure Drop is celebrating their first year on Nov. 21 (6-9pm) by opening up their brewhouse for a party. Your ticket gets you a limited edition printed glass, two drinks (cash bar afterwards), food from Buffalo’s Best Cucina and an all-access pass to the brewery. In honor of the event, Pressure Drop are tapping a special anniversary beer, a hazy double IPA version of Sticky Trees brewed with London Ale III yeast, as well as Counterclockwise, an English-style pale ale (“notes of citrus and pine,” according to Kolbe). Tickets ($28) can be purchased at Eventbrite.

“It’s gonna have a ton of body,” Kolbe says of the anniversary beer. “It’s all-Mosaic hopped and will be a lot of fun. We’re only going to have five gallons of this beer. It’s something that I have never tried before. It’s a totally different grain bill than I have ever used before and I’ve only used London III maybe 10 times ever, so hopefully it will taste really good.”

Citra Screamer Cream Ale

Of Counterclockwise Kolbe adds, “it’s all Cascade and some Centennial, and the Cascade that we used in this beer has a really nice spice note to it. It’s a very winter pale ale, but it finishes real crisp and real light.”

Looking forward, Kolbe says that he and Pressure Drop are going to just keep doing what they have been doing – which is decidedly their own thing. One thing is for sure though Kolbe says, there is a hell of a lot more beer coming. And fun beer at that.

“My goal is to push the envelope and make things fucking rad. There’s a lot more fun beer in the pipeline. I’m looking forward to more people just getting to know who we are. More people experiencing who we are and what we do. We’re just trying to have fun – bring something different and put our own little spin on things. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. In this business, if you’re not having fun at the end of the day, you’re doing something seriously wrong.”

For more information, please visit https://www.pressuredropbrewers.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 buffalobeerleague@aol.com, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague) and www.buffalobeerleague.com.

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