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Beer Matters: Winter Hop Fest, Art of Beer

2016 Winter Hop Fest
2 to 5 p.m., Feb. 20
Gene McCarthy’s / Old First Ward Brewing Company
73 Hamburg St. (855-8948)

Gene McCarthy’s, located in the Old First Ward, will host a Winter Hop Fest on Saturday. Several breweries from Western New York will be contributing at least one beer, including Old First Ward Brewing, Community Beer Works, 42 North Brewing, 12 Gates Brewing, Big Ditch Brewing, Resurgence Brewing, Hamburg Brewing, Flying Bison Brewing, Four Mile Brewing and Woodcock Brothers Brewing.

“We should be celebrating the weather, not always hiding from it," said Bill Metzger, owner of Gene McCarthy's. Metzger asserts that the idea of a winter beer festival is common in states such as Michigan, where two-day long events sell out and attendees are not deterred by the weather. He is leading an effort to see that trend here in Western New York.

Metzger intends to forge an alliance between local breweries in order to benefit the Buffalo beer scene in general.

“We wanted to organize an event among the breweries ourselves, because I think that’s what excites people more than anything: local beer and the local beer scene,” said Metzger. “The local breweries are strong enough now that they are known. Each brewery has a solid fan base.”

Metzger is optimistic that other breweries will take notice of his intentions and schedule future events in kind. “The hope is that the breweries will come to this event and see that this is a really beneficial event and start doing seasonal events at their own breweries.”

Tickets for the Winter Hop Fest are limited - only 150 tickets are being sold for the event. The intimacy will promote interaction between the public and the brewers themselves. “You’ll have a lot of the brewers here, as opposed to distributors and promoters dealing with the beers. Brewers will be here talking about their own beer,” said Metzger.

Gene McCarthy's is in the Old First Ward. (Kevin Wise/Special to The News)

Old First Ward Brewing will have a range of hoppy offerings ready for the event. “Streaker 4.0 was just released a couple days ago and will be available. Hopster and Not a Pale Ale will also be on tap and available inside and outside the bar,” said Bryan Kirchmyer, brewer at Gene McCarthy's next-door brewery Old First Ward Brewing.

“The brewers were asked to bring casks to provide people a different beer to drink. Everyone wants to see new flavor IPAs. There will be a lot of opportunity to try new beers,” continued Kirchmyer. “Buffalo is making a lot of great beer people don’t know about. It’s all about the recognition.”

“There’s a lot of work involved for the brewers in towing all these kegs around the state. We want to differentiate beers that are unique from beers that you can obtain at a festival. People are going to get something new. If you’re a beer geek or beer knowledgeable, do you really want to go to a beer festival and drink all the same beers?” said Metzger.

The event will take place outside in the beer garden in front of Old First Ward Brewing Company, but that doesn’t mean patrons need to stand outside the entire time. “Tickets will be good for beers outside, but if people want to come inside the bar and get a little warm, they are welcome to do so,” said Metzger.

“The idea is trying to do smaller, unique festivals that benefit and treat the breweries well and help them to be successful.” Metzger said.

“Doing this every six months or so will allow breweries to push themselves to make a different or juicier IPA,” said Kirchmyer. “People think the Buffalo breweries are competing against each other, but we are all here to help each other.”

Participants will receive a souvenir tasting glass, seven 4-ounce tasting tickets. Additional beer sample tickets will be available for $2. As an added bonus, participants of the Winter Hop Fest will be able to fill growlers for $5. People who are interested can bring their own growler and growlers will be available for purchase at Gene McCarthy’s.

Old First Ward beers (photo Kevin Wise)

A flight of beers at Gene McCarthy's and Old First Ward Brewing. (Kevin Wise/Special to The News)


10th annual Art of Beer
6 to 9 p.m., Mar. 4
Niagara Arts & Cultural Center
1201 Pine Avenue, Niagara Falls (282-7530)

Tickets are now on sale for the 10th annual Art of Beer Festival in Niagara Falls. Over 20 local restaurants and breweries will be participating in the largest annual fundraiser for the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.

Some of the local breweries that will be in attendance include Big Ditch Brewing, Community Beer Works, Hamburg Brewing, Old First Ward Brewing, Pearl Street Grill & Brewery and Resurgence Brewing, and also Niagara County-based breweries such as Barker Brewing, New York Beer Project and Woodcock Brothers Brewing.

Music will be performed by Billy Draws Two, Bobby Skrzypek and the Pedestrians and 2015 Hard Rock Rising winner Fonia Corrine.

Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 day of the event and include all food and beer tastings. Tickets can be purchased through the following PayPal link.


12 Gates Brewing Tap Takeover
5 p.m., Feb. 19
Allen Burger Venture
175 Allen St. (786-0386)

12 Gates Brewing Company will be traveling to Allen Burger Venture (ABV) on Feb. 19 for a tap takeover. Beers that will be featured at the tap takeover include West Coast IPA, Coffee Porter, 12 Gates White, Under the Southern Cross IPA, Session IPA and a recently-released beer called Bleeding Heart Red Rye. More information about these beers can be found by clicking here.

A flight of beer from 12 Gates includes a strong selection of IPAs. (Kevin Wise/Special to The News)

A flight of beer from 12 Gates includes a strong selection of IPAs. (Kevin Wise/Special to The News)


Galaxy Red 2016 Launch
3 p.m., Feb. 25
Big Ditch Brewing Company
55 E. Huron St. (854-5050)

“We are constantly being asked, ‘Are you going to make Galaxy again? When will Galaxy be back on tap?’” said Matt Kahn, president of Big Ditch Brewing Company.

“Based on its popularity, we knew we had to get more Galaxy hops this year, which we were successful at," Kahn added. We are therefore planning on making this beer our spring seasonal. The beer should be available at least until May, if not longer."

Galaxy Red is a 7.0-percent alcohol by volume juicy-flavored India Red Ale loaded with late kettle hop additions of tropical Galaxy hops from Australia. The result is a malty-sweet beer with pineapple, mango and papaya flavors.

Galaxy Red 03Jul2015 (photo Big Ditch)

Galaxy Red will return to Big Ditch taps for the spring. (via Big Ditch Brewing Company)


Brews News

Woodcock Brothers Brewing Company will be releasing its Dry Irish Stout at noon Feb. 20. This classic style stout is served on nitro and possesses a clean, roasted creamy mouthfeel and flavor.

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:; Twitter: @BuffaloBeerBio; Untappd: @BuffaloBeerBiochemist

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