With more than 50 area craft breweries, taverns and restaurants taking part in Buffalo Beer Week, Sept. 23 to Oct. 2, there's an overwhelming amount of activities, festivities and beer to enjoy.
Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of Beer Week.
Open your mind, and taste buds.
Start with Estrogen Ale, which may just surprise both ladies and gents. This tan-colored stout – brewed by Rusty Nickel full-time brewer Allie Ralbovsky, part-time brewer Janice Keppler, brewery manager Kaitlyn Brown and brewtenders Kaitlin Bager, Katelyn Kucala and Emily Josefiak – is among many of the beers that will throw what you thought you knew about different beer styles on its head.
“Allie [Ralbovsky] and I have such a broad palate,” Brown said. “I couldn’t say there’s a style of beer that I don’t like because there’s so many variations within each style.”
Before you try a beer, ask the barkeeper what flavors you’re likely to experience. Also find out if it pairs well with certain foods, as you might ask of wine.
Visit a regional brewery.
There are 21 in the area, ranging from the tiny – think the new Buffalo Brewing Co. and Gene McCarthy’s/Old First Ward Brewing – to big boys on their blocks like the New York Beer Project in the Town of Lockport and Southern Tier Brewing Co. in Lakewood. Many of these breweries have at least one Beer Week event.
[Related: Scanlon's feature on New York Beer Project]
While you’re at it, try a New York State farm-to-pint beer, like the wet-hopped ale Buffalo Brewing owner John Domres Jr. brewed just for Beer Week using 15 pounds of Cascade hops grown at Owls Borough Farm near Springville.
Take a flight.
Breweries and many beer-tilted taverns offer flights of beers, generally four or five in 6-ounce glasses. Try a variety, from more than one brewery if you can. Most brewery taprooms have guest taps from other breweries in the region – just one of several ways they help support each other.
Try a collaborative beer.
Wise PA is not the only brewery collaboration that will be unveiled during Beer Week. There are several others. Four Mile in Olean will release its first joint beer with Old First Ward Brewery, an 8-percent alcohol called Fourward Double IPA. Both breweries made the same recipe – which includes Bravo, Simcoe and Amarillo hops – on their systems. “People will get to see how the same recipe on two different systems can be different,” said Old First Ward brewer Shawn Kerr.
Community Beer Works will release several collaborative beers, including Wise PA; Make Beer Grape Again, a Concord grape witte beer, with Southern Tier Brewing; Joint Venture, a Dunkel Rogan German-style beer, with Swiftwater Brewing in Rochester; and Across the Border Porter, made with plum wood-smoked malt and maple syrup, with Brimstone Brewing Co. in Ridgeway, Ont.
Joint Venture, a collaborative hoppy sour brewed with Three Heads Brewing of Rochester already is available.
We dialed back on the witte beer spicing” on Make Beer Grape Again, said Ethan Cox, president of Community Beer Works. “We really wanted the grape and the yeast to be the stars of this one.” The beer will be launched at the Ballpark Brew Bash Sept. 24 at Coca-Cola Field.
“Due to the vagaries of trying to get stuff across the border, we came up with an alternative idea” with Brimstone Brewing, Cox said. “We brewed the same recipe at both places.” The smoked malt comes from Ted Hawley at New York Craft Malt and uses Brimstone’s house yeast blend. “I’ve tried a little bit of it from our fermenter and it’s coming along nicely, Cox said earlier this week. “It’s going to be really tasty.”
CBW also figures in to the region’s other all-female brew made especially for Beer Week. Jeannie Alexander, one of its brewers, along with Kim Reynolds, a brewer and Big Ditch Brewing Co., and women from Woodcock Brothers Brewing, Black Squirrel Distillery and the Buffalo Beer Goddesses got together earlier this month to brew a Grodziskie on the Big Ditch 1-barrel (30 gallon) pilot system. The Polish-style smoked wheat beer will be launched at the Beer Goddesses Anniversary Party at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 at Mr. Goodbar, 1110 Elmwood Ave.; the gathering is open to people of both sexes who are 21 and older. Admission costs $10.
Craft beers tend to be higher in alcohol than the national and international brands – in some cases more than twice as high. If you can’t arrange to have a friend serve as a designated driver, talk to the bartender or manager.
“We will contact Designated Drivers of Buffalo for our customers if needed,” said Brown of Rusty Nickel.
Email Scott Scanlon at firstname.lastname@example.org