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Beer tasting in Hamburg showcases the best of local breweries

Greg and Alyssa Williams raised a pint to the “farm to pint” craft beer movement – and the Hamburg Brewing Company for hosting a festive beer tasting Sunday that a dozen local brewers participated in.

“We always prefer local beers over national beers. If it’s made here in Buffalo, it’s just usually better – especially when you’re at the place where they’re brewing it,” Greg Williams said.

“You can’t get any fresher than that,” added Alyssa Williams.

The newly married couple, along with another couple, drank from plastic cups on a large wooden deck overlooking a man-made pond with a fountain that gushed water into the air. A small grove of trees, including white-barked birch, maple, poplar and different kinds of pine, along with decorated landscaping, added to the pastoral setting.

The outdoors had a hold on the hundreds of people who poured onto the property during the course of the day, filling the large parking lot outside the brewery at 6553 Boston State Road. But so did the spacious and air-conditioned brewery building, which previously garaged antique cars along with a model train layout that’s still there.

While the Hamburg Brewing Company’s smoked maple ale was a big hit, so, too were offerings produced for the occasion by other brewers, including Big Ditch, Community Beer Works, Resurgence, Rusty Nickel and Ellicottville Brewing. The Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association sponsored the event to show off the fast-growing craft brewery scene that uses New York State-grown malts and hops.

John Russo, who operates the Hamburg brewery that opened in October 2013, said the reason why people are gravitating to craft beers, locally and across the country, is simple. “We’re seeing a change in taste by the consumer. They’re realizing they can drink everything, so why not drink something that tastes better?” Russo said.

“Craft is growing by leaps and bounds. Premium lager sales are actually declining.”

Russo, whose company is preparing to expand in a matter of weeks to small packaged bottling, touted the industry’s independence and small size.

Company spokeswoman Emily Sarmak spoke of how local brewers are more collaborators than competitors.

“It’s not unusual to see brewers work together. That’s what’s so exciting about this industry,” Sarmak said.

A number of attendees volunteered the same assessment. “I like how the breweries do things with other breweries in the area. It’s as if the whole beer community supports one another,” said Kyle Stillwell, who was with fellow beer enthusiast Michelle Woogen.

“It’s nice to see people working together,” offered Keith Januszak, who was with a couple of friends. “No one’s backstabbing anyone.”

Tim Frost of Orchard Park appreciated Hamburg Brewing Company’s location in the Southtowns, one of only a few breweries located there.

“You hear about them in the city, but to have a place like this here is great,” Frost said.

Xan Kramer of Hamburg called the Hamburg spot “tranquil.” It was different, she said, than the city breweries she enjoys.

“We’ve been to all of them, but this is so beautiful.”

Michael Kramer, her husband, nodded in agreement. “We have a short summer, and this is a perfect way to take advantage of it.”

email: msommer@buffnews.com