John Domres Jr. fell in love with beer before he could legally drink.
The courtship started with a family trip to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. – and its Anheuser-Busch brewery – when he was 11, followed by a similar trek to Philadelphia at 19 that included a tour of Yuengling Brewery. Then came homebrewing at age 21, before he finished his business administration degree at SUNY Buffalo State.
He quickly followed that in 2009 with an American Brewers Guild beermaking apprenticeship that included a stint at Hoppy Brewing Co. in Sacramento, Calif., and internships at Sierra Nevada Brewery on the West Coast and Flying Bison in Buffalo.
The love affair with beer continues with Buffalo Brewing Co., which Domres and his wife, Heather, scrimped and saved for during the last several years to open this month.
“I thoroughly love making beer and it’s really been nice hearing people say they enjoy our beer,” said Domres, 30, who works days in Niagara Falls as a buyer for Valmet Paper. He spends many of his nights and weekends on the outskirts of Buffalo’s Larkinville neighborhood brewing beer and tending his taproom at 345 Myrtle Ave.
“It turned out to be a little beer-distilling pocket over here,” Domres said. “We’ve got Old First Ward Brewery, Flying Bison, Buffalo Distilling, Hydraulic Hearth, Tommyrotters and myself, and Big Ditch is a five-minute bike ride from us. But before you go, you should probably stop at Chef’s and have a large spaghetti parm.”
Domres said the emergence of Community Beer Weeks during the last five years served as his inspiration. He and his wife – who are expecting their first child late next month – saved the roughly $100,000 needed to buy a 1,400-square-foot former bleach factory and auto body shop outright and convert it into a two-barrel brewery, one of the smallest in the region. He hopes to brew 400 barrels – about 12,400 gallons – a year.
“We’re trying like mad to get some beer in limited distribution,” he said. “I would love to say that by the end of the year we’d be in 15 bars.”
Domres has improved the two favorite beers from his homebrewing days and added historic-centric numbers: 1842 Vienna Lager, an even-bodied, toasty brew noting the year the Dart Grain Elevator was built; and the light-bodied, moderately hoppy 1804 Pale Ale, commemorating the year Joseph Ellicott designed the Buffalo grid street system. He also offers an 1813 Porter, with chocolate and caramel notes, and hop-forward 1825 IPA that bows to the year the Erie Canal opened.
Domres plans to switch out his 2016 Celebration summer ale for a wet-hopped ale – made with Cascade hops grown at Owls Borough Farm near Springville – that will fall between his pale ale and IPA in bitterness. It hopefully will be available for the start of Buffalo Beer Week, which runs Sept. 23 to Oct. 2.
Domres also plans to expand his current hours – 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday – to 5 to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, the same hours Friday and Saturday and 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday during Beer Week. Pints run $5 and growlers $15; Domres plans to offer $10 flights of four beers starting on Beer Week.