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At NACC, tapping the beauty of beer

NIAGARA FALLS – The Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, devoted to artistic pursuits, will try to demonstrate Friday that beer can be an art, too.

The 10th annual Art of Beer, a beer-tasting extravaganza that has been a key fundraiser for the not-for-profit facility, is on tap for 6 to 9 p.m. in the center, which is the former Niagara Falls High School at Pine Avenue and Portage Road.

Kelly Lang Buckley, director of development for the NACC, said the ticket price – $30 in advance, $35 at the door – includes not only the beer sampling, but a selection of food at no extra charge.

“Everything here is donated by the businesses, with all the proceeds going to support the arts in Niagara,” Lang Buckley said.

And the not-for-profit NACC always faces the financial challenges of keeping up a 100-year-old, 180,000-square-foot building.

Lang Buckley said the proceeds from Art of Beer may be enough to pay one of the facility’s $30,000-a-month winter heating bills.

Art of Beer always is held at roughly this time of year, but scheduling can be variable. Lang Buckley said the date is chosen based on when the Buffalo Sabres do not have a home game. This week, the Sabres are home Thursday night and Saturday afternoon; thus, the taps are open at the NACC on Friday.

The local breweries taking part are barred by state law from selling their beer at the event, but they hope to cash in later.

“It creates a lot of awareness of our brand,” said Tim Woodcock, co-owner of Woodcock Brothers Brewery in Wilson, which will be taking part in the Art of Beer for the third time.

Other participating brewers include Barker Brewing, Big Ditch, CB Craft Brews, Chateau Buffalo, Community Beer Works, Ellicottville Brewing, Flying Bison, Founding Father’s Pub, Four Mile Brewery, Hamburg Brewing and Hazlitt’s Cider Tree.

Also, McKenzie’s Cider, Mr. Good Bar, Muskoka Brewing, NY Beer Project, Old First Ward, Otter Creek, Pan Am, Pearl Street Brewery, Resurgence Brewery, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Southern Tier and Upstate Brewing Co.

Woodcock Brothers will be rolling out two 15½-gallon half-kegs, one containing their Niagara Lager in the South German “helles,” meaning light, style, and version 5.0 of their XPA Indian pale ale.

“It’s a Niagara County event, and we’re a Niagara County business, so it’s near and dear to us,” Tim Woodcock said.

Among the food offerings will be bratwurst simmered in beer, with the sausage coming from Dispenza’s Meat Market in Ransomville, a newcomer to the event.

They’ll also be serving up burgers and ribs.

Frank and Rachel Dispenza, the husband-and-wife owners of the market, say they produce 17 kinds of sausages on their farm.

“What we specialize in is all-natural local meats, hormone- and antibiotic-free,” said Frank Dispenza, a retired police officer.

Rachel said they’re getting their products ready for their first entry into the big sausage contest at the Broadway Market on Dyngus Day.

Other food vendors will include the 755 Restaurant, offering a Lebanese sampler; Babycakes Cupcake Diner, presenting gourmet cupcakes; Buffalo Wild Wings, with boneless wings and stuffed mushrooms; Hard Rock Cafe, with twisted macaroni and cheese, the NACC’s own Artisan Cafe, serving sausage and kraut, Asian meatballs and pasta marinara; the Niagara Falls Conference Center, offering shepherd’s pie in either lamb or beef varieties; the Red Coach Inn, with pulled pork sliders and fresh coleslaw; and coffee and doughnuts from Tim Hortons.

The Red Coach, located on Buffalo Avenue in the Falls, also is offering an Art of Beer package with tickets to the event, one night’s lodging and a gourmet breakfast. The Giacomo Hotel in the Falls is offering an Art of Beer discount room rate.

Lang Buckley said out-of-town guests have been known to come to Art of Beer, especially Canadians. Last week, she said she personally booked a party of four from Windsor, Ont.

Many of the local brewers who will be taking part got their start with home brewing, and in case any of the customers at Friday’s event are interested in going the same route, Niagara Traditions Home Brewing Supplies of the Town of Tonawanda will have a table at Art of Beer.

“I just know it’s been a booking industry in the last 10 or 12 years,” said Erin Holody, who works at Niagara Traditions.

Besides bringing food, the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls will be helping out the NACC by providing some live music.

Fiona Corrine of Rochester, the winner of the 2015 Hard Rock Rising contest for local musicians, will be among those performing. Other musical artists will include Turning Virtue, Billy Draws Two and Bobby Skrzypek and The Pedestrians.

Claire Seveno, Hard Rock sales and marketing manager, said they also created a special Art of Beer commemorative lapel button, which will be sold for $12, with part of the proceeds going to the NACC.