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Brewski in East Aurora vows: Have no worries about warm beer

Have your doubts that fitness and beer can’t mix? John Cimperman respectfully disagrees. The managing partner of 42 North Brewing Co. in East Aurora, his four partners and their staff have found several ways to combine two things that a fair number of healthy people feel passionate about.

The East Aurora Running Club steps off on its weekly Thursday evening 3-plus-mile runs – 12 months a year – and circles back for a beer afterward. The brewery sponsors mountain bike races, and hosts Slow Rolls and other bike excursions. And 42 North will launch its first cross-country skiing event Feb. 18.

The first annual Brewski at the Knox will take place from noon to 3 p.m. at Knox Farm State Park. Sign up at Cost is $20 in advance and $25 the day of the event for those 21 and over.

Proceeds will benefit the East Aurora Ice Association. Cimperman – who worked as marketing officer for the Buffalo Sabres nearly two decades ago and runs a marketing company in Buffalo – is vice president of the board for the nonprofit association, which operates the Healthy Zone Ice Rink, also in the village.

[RELATED STORY: In moderation, beer can be healthy]

From left, 42 North founder John Cimperman, Ambassador of Good Karma Marshall Kaltenbach, and Chief Brewing Officer Clay Keel are among those who helped hatch the idea for Brewski at the Knox.

Q. What will the ski route be like?

It’s a 2-mile oval course, fairly flat. The course begins at the stables. It goes through the woods and comes out right in front of the Knox Mansion and goes back to the stables. The state park is going to open up the stables for this event and many people have never been inside of them. There will be local artisans at the stables, local food vendors, who will turn this into a winter festival. ... Adults will be able to bring their kids to ski free and we’ve designated this as a pet-friendly event. As long as the dogs are leashed, bring them.

Q. Will you be able to skate at the Healthy Zone Rink on Brewski day as well?

Yes. Public skates are 1 to 3 and 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

Q. What if it doesn’t snow?

I’m confident Mother Nature will cooperate but the course will be open – and most importantly, the four beer stations along the route will be manned. We’re planning to build the course for those who want to snowshoe or hike. It’s also a pretty popular trek for those with fat bikes. I suspect we’ll have a few of those out there, as well. Everyone who participates will also receive a token for a complimentary beer at the brewery post-event. That will include an outdoor barbecue in the beer garden, which is dog-friendly, as well. We’ve partnered with a small batch maple farm down the street to launch Five Cow Farm Maple Porter.

[Below: This beer will be introduced during Brewski at the Knox]

Q. Can you describe the brewery?

We have a 20-barrel brewing system. This past year, we brewed over 2,000 barrels. Two weeks ago, we ordered some additional fermenters which will allow us to increase our capacity by 60 percent this year. Slow, steady, organic growth is our order of the business plan. We don’t want to get too far over our skis.

We’ve assembled a phenomenal team. Our chief brewing officer is Clay Keel, joined us from Tampa, where he was a head brewer. When I brought him up here on the recruiting trip, he fell in love with the community, the four seasons of Western New York. He’s a big, big part of our success. He’s assisted by a great brewing team who create some phenomenal recipes and they’re getting some national recognition with our beer. My job is to stay out of the way – to set the vision, hire great people and let them do their jobs.

Q. I notice on the menu you have some healthy items and you use a lot of locally sourced food – and beer.

The 42 North Brewing Co. taproom in East Aurora, and its outdoor beer garden, will be open Feb. 18 for the Brewski at the Knox after-party. (Photo by Joe Casio)

We use as much local ingredients in the beer that we can, from the barleys to the hops. Our kitchen – Roots Kitchen – is run by a local couple – Nate and Chelsea Root – who are passionate about locally sourced food. The menu changes each month based upon what’s in season. It’s super creative and, based upon what I said about collaboration, we’re working with local farms and local food artisans from East Aurora as well as downtown Buffalo that really help provide a creative and diverse menu. It’s so complementary to the beer.

Q. You say your brand is tied to outdoor recreation?

42 North craft beers are available at other taverns; its Borderland IPA also is available at retail locations in cans. (Photo by Joe Casio)

Our brand – maybe it’s because we’re in East Aurora and maybe it’s because we’re near all the outdoor activities, whether it’s Hunter’s Creek or Sprague Brook or Kissing Bridge or Knox Farm State Park – is really associated with outdoor recreation. We sponsor all the mountain bike races here in Western New York. We’re hosting Slow Rolls here. Every Thursday, the East Aurora Runners Club – sun, wind, rain or snow – brings over 30 runners here at 6 o’clock. So for us, the Brewski is just an extension we have for this association, and this passion for being outdoors.

Ambassador of Good Karma Marshall Kaltenbach, a sales rep, likes to say the Brewski is “an opportunity for us to combine two of our passions: beer and the great outdoors.”

Q. Who came up with Brewski and why did you decide to do it?

New York State will open the Knox Farm State Park stables as part of Brewski at the Knox. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News file photo)

Our group was brainstorming ideas about something different we could do and someone brought up cross-country skiing at Knox Park and a light bulb went off. The word “Brewski” was pretty easy to come up with as a group. It’s easy to put together a beer festival over the summer. Everybody wants to get out. But we need to be more creative in the winter months. We reached out to the state and asked if they’d be open to the concept and they were. It’s such a great resource. I’m hoping the majority of our participants come in from downtown and beyond because most of us in East Aurora understand the asset that we have...

All the participants are invited to the brewery afterward for a post-party that will include an outdoor barbecue in the beer garden. We’ve also partnered with a small batch maple farm down to street to launch Five Cow Farm Maple Porter. ... Alex Sowyrda is our head of recipe development. We’ve got a small pilot system in the brewery. We’re always experimenting with new recipes, and that’s Alex’s job. He’s an award-winning home brewer and an East Aurora kid, as well. Alex and I are from the same mountain biking circles. ... He’d always bring his home brew with him. He has been making this beer for about a decade. We’ve made a short documentary about the making of the beer and interviewed all the guys who’ve been drinking and helping helping Alex make the beer for the last 10 years.

Q. Back to the skiing event later this month. Can you do the course twice?

Absolutely, but you’re only going to get four beer tickets.

Scott Scanlon is the WNY Refresh editor for The Buffalo News. The print section runs Saturdays; find related stories


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon


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