With more than 125 different beers to sample, plenty of food and live music, the 2010 Buffalo Brewfest turned out to be a heady romp for the almost 3,500 revelers who packed HSBC Arena Friday.
The seventh annual fundraising event for the Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center consumed two floors of the arena and the courtyard outside, where local cover band Black Widow regaled the mostly young crowd of eager connoisseurs. Among them was West Side resident Kathy Divito.
"Right now, I am sampling the Lake Placid pale ale," Divito said, as she ducked under a tent for shelter against a very light pelting of rain that soon dissipated.
"It's delicious," she added. "Every brew here has a different taste, a different tang to it."
It is the ever-increasing variety of craft brews offered at the Brewfest that has turned out to be a winning recipe for the event, according to Samuel J. Savarino, chief executive officer of Savarino Construction, and Brewfest co-chairman.
"It's a little bit different than other events you see around town. It's not necessarily a beer blast or anything like that. We have nearly 50 brewers from all around the country and probably well over 125 beers over here to taste," Savarino said.
All of the brewers donate their wares, while Delaware North Cos. provide a specialty menu of foods intended to enhance the beer-drinker's palate.
"Most of the dishes have a German twist to them. There are special cheese sauces and some special made pretzels. There are specially made sausages just for this event. There are about four or five different sausages and even a meat pattie made with beer," Savarino said.
"Well, you can't sample too much beer without having a little food," he added.
Tim Herzog, founder of Flying Bison Brewery and also a co-chairman of the event, said that, in addition to the generous amount of food available to guard against drinking on an empty stomach, there were several other safeguards to ensure the event remained safe for its patrons.
As part of the $25 admission price, patrons each received a 3-ounce, souvenir sampling glass in which the beer samples were poured and a maximum of 20 tickets to sample from the available brews at Brewfest.
"Thirdly, many, many of the beers that are here are what we call session beers, lower alcohol content. There are a few strong ones but, for the most part, everything is low alcohol content, drinkable, small samples. There's plenty of food and plenty of supervision from the volunteers, security," Herzog said.
Corey Cobb and Nicolette Bezek, both of North Buffalo, circled the Arena in search of lines that weren't too long and different brews that might suit their tastes. While Bezek has been sampling different microbrews for about three years, Cobb said he is a very recent connoisseur.
"She drinks beer. I didn't like beer, but being with her, I've started to like beer," said Cobb, as he sampled a vanilla stout.
"It's got vanilla, chocolate, all kinds of flavors in it, but not sweet. It's like an essence, but not the sweetness," Cobb said.
Joe Cozzo, chief executive officer of Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, said he is extremely pleased with the evolution of Brewfest, which, until Friday's event, had previously been held on Saturdays. In seeking to grow the event, Cozzo said, the time was changed.
"We have a captive audience downtown at 5 o'clock, so we thought, let's get them to come here and start their happy hour, and I think the proof is in the pudding. We have the most tickets ever that we've sold presale, and we think we'll sell out our 3,500 tickets," Cozzo said.
The Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, headquartered at 50. E. North St., provides services to those who are infants to the elderly.
"We do traditional speech and audiology for infants all the way to the elderly looking for hearing aids or help with speech after a stroke. The largest programs are programs for children," he said.