Flying Bison Brewing’s Tim Herzog

I’ve written before of my beefs with beer festivals. It’s heartening, then, to see events like Ballpark Brew Bash, which took place in Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field this weekend. Small and intimate but boasting an impressive selection of breweries and beers, BPBP was downright pleasant to attend.

Thanks to a favorable ratio of breweries to attendees and a spread-out facility (the breweries set up on the edges of the baseball diamond and in the concession areas) I didn’t see a single long line –– not even at the Stone or Founders stands, where beloved Bastards both Dirty and Arrogant were on offer. What’s more, though pours were a sizeable 3 ounces (can we get some dump buckets out on the field next year? Some of us are working, here!), there was a shortage of the drunken-bro tomfoolery at which Buffalo normally excels.

Hop pizza

I’m not sure if the majority of breweries were indoors due to the cloudy weather; given a nicer day it would have been great to enjoy beers on the field rather than in the concession stands inside.

After a slice of hop pizza (exactly what it sounds like) courtesy of ever-adventurous Pizza Plant, washed down with a Gordon Biersch IPA, I didn’t even notice the gloomy weather.

An appreciative and intimate audience lent itself, naturally, to a fantastic and unique beer selection: one-offs, hard-to-find beers, and small breweries were in abundance. Everyone seemed to be bringing their coolest stuff; even Coors stepped out with “Batch 19 Pre-Prohibition” –– which tasted pretty much like stale Molson, but I’m no historian.

There was something exciting to taste in every direction.

Though I certainly wouldn’t kick Flying Bison’s Cascades-on-cask specialty ale out of bed for eating crackers, I was also surprised to find a highlight in Ringside’s American Lager. I had never tried anything from Ringside before but found that their offices are located in Buffalo (they brew in Saratoga Springs, contract-brewed by Olde Saratoga [Mendocino] Brewery).

Other New York highlights included Elicottville’s Hopicity and Ommegang Scythe & Sickle. I’m praying to Ninkasi that Community Beer Works decides to make more bourbon-barrel-aged Whale at some point; it was on offer to VIPs at the event and it’s one of the best beers I’ve had all year.

Ballpark Brew Bash is only three years old but it’s developing a reputation as one of Western New York’s best beer events. It will be at the top of my to-do list for 2013!