Every week could be considered beer week in Buffalo.
But officially, Buffalo Beer Week begins Friday.
The annual 10-day event, which runs through Oct. 4, is filled with beer tastings, tours and dinners around the Buffalo region to showcase the array of local brews produced from the burgeoning craft beer movement sweeping across the Niagara Frontier.
“There’s tremendous expansion going on in the brewing industry,” said Willard Brooks, president of the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association, sponsor of Buffalo Beer Week. “There’s about 20 breweries now. When this started a few years back, there were two in Buffalo.”
Brooks and other local brewers kicked off the sixth annual Buffalo Beer Week on Tuesday with a keg-tapping ceremony at Big Ditch Brewery on East Huron Street, where they talked about how much the industry has blossomed with consumer demand for a variety of more full-flavored beers.
The list of local breweries now includes Rusty Nickel Brewing Co. in West Seneca and Community Beer Works on Lafayette Avenue. There’s Pan-American Grill & Brewing at Hotel @ the Lafayette and Resurgence Brewing Co. over on Niagara Street. There’s Barker Brewing, Old First Ward Brewing Co. at Gene McCarthy’s on Hamburg Street and Hamburg Brewing Co. in Hamburg. Woodcock Brothers Brewery is in Wilson.
Economic incentives offered by New York State have propelled the craft brewing industry forward, Brooks said, while institutions like Erie Community College are training the workforce by offering a certificate in brewing science. The course already has a waiting list of 86.
Meanwhile, more hops and barley fields are dotting the landscape across Erie and Niagara counties, Brooks said.
“Buffalo now has a malt house – there’s two additional ones in Western New York,” Brooks said. “It’s now possible to make beer that’s 100 percent made in Buffalo – both grown and brewed.”
“That’s part of our history, our heritage – something to be proud of,” Brooks said.
In fact, one of the purposes of Buffalo Beer Week is to celebrate the city’s rich brewing history, which dates back to the early 1800s. By the late 19th century, Buffalo had nearly 40 breweries along with a vast network to support the industry, Brooks said.
“We’re about to experience something similar,” Brooks said. “It seems like history is repeating itself.”
Matt Kahn agreed.
As president of Big Ditch Brewery, Kahn recalled how less than a year ago he was just a hopeful brewer preparing to open his establishment and serve his first beer.
“I remember thinking then, as I do now, that Buffalo Beer Week will always be to us about the potential of Buffalo to be one of the greatest beer cities in the country,” Kahn said. “It wasn’t that long ago, when that would have been unimaginable.”
“Now,” Kahn said, “as we look around at all the breweries that have popped up around the area just over the last few years, you can feel the beer scene growing. The culture is very strong here. It’s very supportive and you can really feel that us being one of the best beer cities in the country is not out of the question.”
Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association received a $40,000 grant from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s craft beverage grant program to market Buffalo Beer Week in the Southern Ontario market. Some of the featured events include:
• Farm-to-Pint Passport Program: Local beers will be promoted at participating bars and breweries throughout the region.
• Brewery Shuffleboard Tournament at Big Ditch. Local breweries will compete in a shuffleboard tournament from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday at Big Ditch, 55 E. Huron St., where beers from a variety of local brewers will be available.
• Ballpark Brew Bash. Sponsored by Consumers Beverages, the event will run from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday at Coca-Cola Field and feature more than 50 breweries from around the world.
• “Vines and Bines” Wine & Beer Dinner Tasting Series. Experts in beer, wine and cuisine partner for this event from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Oshun Oyster Bar, 5 E. Huron St.
• BBQ, Bourbon, Beer & Cigar Dinner. This fundraiser will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle, 612 Fillmore Ave.
• Pub Crawl Saturday. Touring pubs in six neighborhoods – Black Rock, Elmwood, Allentown, Downtown, East Aurora and Williamsville – highlight the activities on Oct.3
For more information about all the events during Buffalo Beer Week check out buffalobeerweek.com