Deep in the heart of Black Rock, Tim Herzog makes a living making beer. The former art teacher launched Flying Bison Brewing Co. in 1995, and he spends much of each day nurturing the business. At age 51, Herzog would like Buffalo to return to its halcyon days, when this proud city boasted 35 breweries. Herzog's a church guy, who describes himself as a situational drinker, marking 28 years of marriage.
>PeopleTalk: Church guy?
Tim Herzog: Yeah, I like it. I like going to Mass. I was an altar boy. There was Latin Mass. Now I'm an usher, and there's this guy that I usher with on Sundays. He's 82 years old. I went to his wedding four years ago. He's robbing the cradle. The woman he married is 73.
>PT: You should be in the choir, your voice is so powerful.
TH: I went to an old-time Catholic school in downtown Rochester, and every day we had to stand up and read out loud. The rest is my dad. He has a legitimate singing voice. He sang in the choir at our church. He has a deep voice, even at 80.
>PT: What quality must a brewer have?
TH: You have to pay attention to color and smell and taste. I like paying attention. My college degree is in art education and graphic design. I look at a painting and really see it. People who make really good beer usually are people who have a refined palate. The guy we have at Flying Bison is a classically trained French chef.
>PT: Tell me your philosophy on beer.
TH: I approach it from the artistic side. What should it smell like? What should it taste like? Then I back into the start of the recipe from there.
>PT: Was the brewery a midlife crisis?
TH: No. I don't think I'm at midlife yet. I have a friend who bought a yellow sports car. Another guy I know bought a Harley. They admit these are toys, maybe a midlife crisis thing. I don't have to buy anything or do whatever this midlife crisis things is about.
>PT: What is the last thing you bought for yourself?
TH: A rugby jersey when I was in Scotland. I started playing rugby when I was in college. I still have really good friends I met through rugby. Once the kids came along, that was it for rugby, but I've always enjoyed the idea of it. It's not played for money anywhere in the world. It's played for beer and pride. Rugby is a lot about paying attention.
>PT: Do you work out?
TH: I used to run a lot, and I took ballet when I was in [Buffalo State] college. The way I pick up kegs has to do with what I learned in ballet class. I don't have a lot of unstructured time. My job chews up a lot. The brewery will be 10 years old in spring.
>PT: Would you ever return to teaching?
TH: Sometimes I kid my wife about that, but when I couldn't get a job as an art teacher, I didn't want to go back to school to broaden the degree. If I had stuck with the teaching thing, I could retire next year. Do I miss it? I don't think so. If the brewing industry suddenly dried up and went away, I guess I'd have to.
>PT: Where has beer taken you?
TH: Literally everywhere. Once a year I lead a beer tour. My wife comes, too. Last year we went to Germany, and I visited some obscure cities known for beer. I got to see where my relatives used to live. Somewhere way back in time, my relatives were the royal family of Bavaria. This year we went to Scotland. I got to have a beer in a pub that's been a pub since 1400-something, and it's been serving beer continuously.
>PT: What's better than a tall cold one?
TH: A tall cold one with some friends. It's not just about the glass of beer in front of you, but it's about all that history and tradition and art and culture that made it. The older I get, the more I enjoy people around me, whether it's my parents or my kids. Now that my kids are old enough to drink legally, it's fun.
>PT: You must know a lot of people.
TH: That's one of the great things about being in the beer industry. I've met the mayor. I've met Brian Higgins. Our garbage man buys our beer. He gets a growler filled every once in a while on Saturday.
>PT: What's its shelf life?
TH: Sixty days cold.
>PT: How are you like beer?
TH: Always developing. Beer always changes. There are beers that are meant to be aged, and beers that are meant to be served fresh. As it ages, there are some things about the beer that get worse, some things get better. My knees get worse. My appreciation gets better.