Buffalo Beer Week, which closed its second year running on Sunday, featured many events dedicated to the great bars and breweries of Western New York. I wasn’t able to attend as many Beer Week events as last year due to the timing of the event (the week leading up to a major running event), but I still managed to get out and enjoy a few of the festivities.
Two great aspects of Beer Week really caught my attention; one made me proud of our existing beer community, while the other motivated me to work harder towards a better future for beer in Buffalo.
The first was the preponderance of collaboration beers. While Beer Week’s official theme was “bigger and bubblier than ever,” it could have just as easily been, as Tenacious D would put it, “that’s f––ing teamwork!” Our breweries joined forces in almost every possible combination: Pearl Street Grill and Community Beer Works joined forces with soon-to-be breweries Gene McCarthy’s and Big Ditch to produce a west-coast IPA; Gordon Biersch and Flying Bison teamed up on an altbier; Flying Bison and Community Beer Works collaborated on another IPA; and Community Beer Works brought their homebrewing friends together to create a Belgian called Blonde Roots. Our brewing community in Buffalo may be small, but that smallness fosters friendship and cooperation, and consumers were able to enjoy an even wider variety of local options as a result.
The brewers enjoyed it, too. “Brewing Lord Lupulin IPA in collaboration with the brewers from Community Brew Works and Big Ditch was a great experience––fun, rewarding, and educational,” Pearl Street brewmaster Phil Internicola reported in an email. “No matter how long you’ve been brewing, there is always something new to learn. The day you think you know everything is the day your brewing reputation begins to lose credibility.” He adds, “Getting together with other brewers is a great way to get exposure to techniques, materials, and experiences that fall outside the confines of the day-to-day routine, and the camaraderie can’t be beat.”
Community Beer Works brewmaster Rudy Watkins agreed. “It’s been so much fun! It was great to work with peers and even better to serve the beers to people. It makes me really proud to be part of Buffalo’s beer scene.”
The other notable feature of Beer Week was the sausage fest. No, I’m not talking about the usual preponderance of delicious German, Polish, and Italian sausage that pervades nearly every beer-related Western New York event; I’m referring to the dearth of women. They’re drinking the beer, and in many cases even homebrewing it-–but they’re largely missing from prominent industry positions. I was a little dismayed to look around a room of over sixty Buffalo beer professionals at the Beer Week plenary session and count eight women, of whom one was our server. So I was pleased to see a women-only beer event hosted by Blue Monk on the schedule.
It ended up being a great night-–we watched the documentary The Love of Beer, which follows women in the beer industry, and talked about styles, tasting beer, and local events while sipping fantastic brews such as Reissdorf Kolsch, Delirium Tremens, and Community Beer Works The IPA. I was pleased to meet a kindred spirit in Christina Vair, the host of the event and a wealth of beer knowledge and passion. I would love to see more events like this in Buffalo; I know just as many women who love craft beer as men, and creating a more inclusive industry environment starts with simple get-togethers like this one. Kudos to Blue Monk for taking the initiative on this issue––and cheers to Buffalo’s breweries for coming together to make Beer Week all about community.