Buffalo beer industry has experienced uptick in recent years


Tim Herzog has always felt that beer could save Buffalo.

Herzog is the president and founder of Flying Bison Brewing Company, which has operated locally for 16 years.

“For me, this industry is everything,” he said. “I enjoy helping in the back and making the beer, I enjoy meeting the customers and seeing them try new beer. I was always told that it was impossible to be successful as a brewery in Buffalo, but here we are, 16 years later.”

Flying Bison, Herzog said, was the only major local brewing company in Buffalo for about 12-13 years.

Over the last few years, the industry has revitalized itself. About a dozen new local breweries, from Community Beer Works to the Resurgence Brewing Company, have started to challenge Flying Bison’s domination of the local scene.

“It is a huge cultural shift in Western New York,” Herzog said. “I guess the locals suddenly decided that they want to make tasteful beer.”

Wendy Francis, the owner of the Buffalo Brew Shop, a shop which specializes in helping people brew their own beer, said the future of local craft beer looks promising and is hopeful about the next few years in Buffalo.

“Craft beer is growing in leaps and bounds,” Francis said in an email. “The more people who are exposed to craft beer will want to learn more about it and will want to learn how to brew their own.”

Francis, like Herzog, has been involved in the scene for quite some time. While Herzog specialized in the actual brewing process, Francis was more involved in helping locals be able to start their own home-brewing hobby.

She said the recent upswing in local breweries has also been mirrored with an increase in people interested in home brewing.

“Buffalo is becoming the home for craft beer,” she said. “With all the breweries now operating in the Buffalo area, it has certainly helped inspire the home-brewing hobby.”

Brewing beer at home, she said, is much easier than people think it is.

Carlos Leyte, a junior accounting major, tried brewing his own beer with a friend about a year ago.

“Brewing beer for the first time at home is kind of complicated and messy,” he said. “[It’s] super interesting to see all the little things you can change to get different flavors and textures of the beer.”

Andy Hulpiau, 21, of Buffalo and friend of Leyte’s, helped him through the process of making the beer.

He said it was extremely easy, but the fermenting process took way longer than he expected it to.

“All you really have to do is heat up the ingredients and put water and yeast into a barrel and let it sit there for a couple months,” he said. “It made 11 bottles and it turned out all right.”

Even thought his own batch didn’t turn out as good as he wanted, Hulpiau said that local brews, or even home-brews, taste way better than any large brewing companies.

“Local breweries taste way better than brewing companies,” he said. “Brewing corporation’s beer tastes like garbage and the local beers actually have taste.”

Brian Windschitl is the senior arts editor and can be reached at brian.windschitl@ubspectrum.com