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Beer Matters: Flying Bison, Resurgence, Buffalo Brewers Festival

Sixteen-Year Anniversary Party
Noon to 4 p.m. April 23
Flying Bison Brewing Company
840 Seneca St. (873-1557)

Buffalo is well known for its winter storms. But stalwart brewery Flying Bison has persevered through a different kind of storm. Founded in 2000, Flying Bison survived through a time when craft beer was not popular in Buffalo and forged a path for what is now a city brimming with breweries.

As Flying Bison prepares to celebrate its 16th year with an anniversary party, president Tim Herzog recalls the obstacles the brewery overcame from just opening ("No one knew what to do with a brewery") to getting people to drink locally made beer.

“We started with the idea that Buffalo should have a brewery, and began pounding away," Herzog said, adding he was told by officials that it would be less paperwork, zoning and inspection if "we opened a gun factory." The paperwork process required to open a brewery is much easier now.

 

Tim Herzog, president of Flying Bison Brewery, displays the Aviator Red, a sweet caramel malt blended with a hint of spice. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Tim Herzog, president of Flying Bison Brewery, displays the Aviator Red, a sweet caramel malt blended with a hint of spice. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo)

Another difficulty that Flying Bison faced was convincing bar owners and patrons to drink locally made beer. Prohibition had devastated the once-thriving Buffalo brewing industry and people had not been exposed to locally crafted beer in some time.

“We were a ‘draft only’ brewery which would not have worked in most cities. But Buffalo is a draft beer town, so I thought we had a shot.  Accounts were won individually through a long, slow, painful and expensive process. Each keg was hand-delivered by Flying Bison personnel,” Herzog said.

In 2006, Flying Bison made the risky decision to partner with Try-It Distributing, who at the time was accustomed to national accounts such as Budweiser and not local breweries. The gamble paid off and Flying Bison has grown for 10 straight years.

“Tri-It ushered us into bottling and have helped us reach a milestone of being the second or third largest craft brand in sales in Erie and Niagara County,” said Herzog.

Flight of beer from Flying Bison. (Kevin Wise/Special to The News)

In 2010, Flying Bison partnered with F.X. Matt Brewing Company in Utica (Saranac) to help relieve financial stress due to the rising cost of ingredients. The partnership, Herzog said, "allowed us to continue to grow and hire more brewing staff. They have been great and supportive partners to work with. They are in it for the right reason - great beer.”

Two years ago, Flying Bison relocated from Ontario Street home to its current Seneca Street locale just off Larkin Square. Also in 2014, Governor Cuomo signed the Craft New York Act, a law designed to cut burdensome requirements for producers and provide funding for marketing New York craft beverages.

As numerous other breweries open in the area, Flying Bison continues to grow and even thrive. “There are now people standing up and saying ‘Hey, real beer with real flavor!’ The mass of breweries brings positive attention to all of us,” Herzog said.

Aviator Red from Flying Bison Brewing Co. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo)

Aviator Red from Flying Bison Brewing Co. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo)

Herzog attributes the continued success of Flying Bison to the loyalty of its staff and accounts.

“Sometimes the last 16 years seem like a heartbeat. My staff have ridden the rollercoaster with me every day and been just great the whole time,” said Herzog. “The seven accounts we had on opening day are all still accounts of ours. We really appreciate that kind of loyalty, support and belief in Flying Bison.”

The anniversary celebration event is free to enter, but $20 will get you music, food and two drink tickets. Live music will be performed by the Auslanders. Food will be provided by Spar’s European Sausage Shop and will include bockwurst and Buffalo Lager Bratwurst, hot German potato salad, red cabbage and Mazurek’s rye bread. Warm Aviator Red soft pretzels from Mazurek’s Bakery will be served with mustard or cheese and will cost $3 each or two for $5.

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Kegs and Eggs
1 p.m. April 24
Resurgence Brewing Company
1250 Niagara St. (381-9868)

Resurgence will host another iteration of its popular Kegs and Eggs event. In addition to the full slate of beers normally found on tap, additional experimental beers will be available for sampling.

Scheduled to be on tap will be a blackberry white IPA, a red IPA, a mango-flavored gose and a peach champagne beer. More details on the beers and food will be provided on Resurgence’s website.

Resurgence Brewing Co. at 1250 Niagara St. is part of the brewery boom in Buffalo. It offers the best outdoor seating area of any brewery here, to boot. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Resurgence Brewing Co. at 1250 Niagara St. is part of the brewery boom in Buffalo. It offers the best outdoor seating area of any brewery here, to boot. (Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News file photo)

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Buffalo Brewers Festival
3 to 7 p.m. June 18
Wilkeson Pointe, 225 Fuhrmann Blvd.

Tickets for the third annual Buffalo Brewers Festival are now on sale. This event is sponsored by the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association. Extensive coverage of festival events can be viewed at buffalobrewersfestival.com.

The festival will feature more than 40 breweries including all 20 local breweries. In addition to the perennial “Meet the Brewer Tent” there will be a New York State Cider tent, a Farm to Pint tent and an Ontario Beer tent.

[See smile photos from the 2015 Buffalo Brewers Festival]

Willard Brooks, president of the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association indicated that the Buffalo Brewers Festival is the only festival that is both by and for local breweries.

“The food and beer is local - the brewers and chefs are here and this is a focused example of awesome events that can be done on the Buffalo waterfront. The festival highlights the dynamic and scenic aspect of a re-energized Buffalo beer culture,” said Brooks.

Patrons hang out at the 2015 Buffalo Brewers Festival. (Matt Weinberg/Special to The News)

Patrons hang out at the 2015 Buffalo Brewers Festival. (Matt Weinberg/Special to The News)

An addition to the festival this year will be an interactive experience featuring beer from five local breweries paired with cheeses from Vermont Farmstead. Local cheese purveyor Michelle Stevens of Buffalo Cheese Traders will help pair cheeses with local beers.

"Farm to pint" beers are crafted using all local ingredients, including hops and malt. The live demonstration will feature farmers, cheesemakers, malt and hop growers as they discuss the beer and cheese pairings.

Tickets cost $40 ($49.45 with fees) for general admission (4 to 7 p.m.) and $49 ($58.45 with fees) for early-bird admission (3 to 7 p.m.) and can be purchased here. Designated driver tickets are available at the gate for $15.

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Kevin Wise, Ph.D. is a professor of Biology at Trocaire College who maintains a blog on beer science and beer reviews and can be reached at: www.buffalobeerbiochemist.com; Twitter: @BuffaloBeerBio; Instagram: @buffalobeerbiochemist; Untappd: @BuffaloBeerBiochemist

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