Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Off we’re gonna shuffle........
“Shuffling Off to Buffalo..for BEER!"
Buffalo, New York, birthplace of both Buffalo chicken
wings and my wife, is a great beer town with a rich
brewing and beer drinking history, so I was delighted
when my globetrotting bride suggested a brief trip to
her hometown for the Buffalo Brewfest. Having been
married there and having made numerous family visits
over the past twenty five years, I am reasonably familiar
with the “Nickel City”, especially with some of it’s great
beer spots. But I had never been to a place she
scheduled as a second destination on our two day
itinerary, the oldest continuously operating tavern in
So, happily we arrived at Newark Airport only to
discover that our flight was delayed for two hours until
they could find a replacement for the aircraft that was
scratched due to equipment problems. But not to
worry, because as soon as we were airborne, the
extremely personable and witty captain announced that
in addition to the free soft beverage service, he was also
ordering beer and wine to be dispensed on the house as
compensation for the delay.
To make it even better, after he emerged from his visit
to the bathroom, he passed the flight attendant’s
serving station and jokingly asked the forty passengers
if we’d like anything while he was there. I jokingly said
“Sure! If you’re offering , I’ll have another beer”, to
which he cheerfully replied “Coming right up”. Certainly a
great start to a beer trip is being served a cold one by
the guy flying the plane!
We arrived at Buffalo-Niagara International and headed
directly for dinner at the oldest tavern in the city,
Ulrich’s, “The German Restaurant with an Irish Pub”.
Ulrich’s, which opened its doors in 1868, offers a
delicious German menu and a very decent selection of
German and local microbrews.
Patrons are presented with a four page, illustrated
history of the place which is nice to read while waiting
for dinner. Also a great part of the ambiance is the
décor, which includes numerous examples of Buffalo
breweriana. Signs and advertising trays from all of
Buffalo’s now defunct breweries are displayed: Magnus
Beck, Gerhard Lang, Schreiber’s, Stein’s, Iroquois and
Simon Pure. (It’s still possible to see more than a few
neon signs of the last two in neighborhood tavern
windows, Iroquois and Simon Pure having survived until
1971 and 1972, respectively).
The best in Ulrich’s, though, is the large section of
stained, leaded glass behind the bar, spelling out in
script, “Iroquois Beer and Ale”. Ulrich’s (as did much of
Buffalo) ignored prohibition. The short history proudly
tells of the upstairs Hassenpfeffer Club, operating as a
speakeasy all during those miserably dry fourteen years.
The “private” club was well supplied by the whiskey and
wine made in the basement and the smuggled beer, with
all of these libations being transported to the club by
means of a large freight elevator which still exists today.
Most likely, all this flouting of the unpopular law was
made easier by the man who served as Buffalo’s mayor
during prohibition, Francis X. Schwab, who in addition to
his mayoral duties was a brewmaster who also pleaded
“nolo contendre” to a bootlegging charge in the 1920’s.
While on the subject of mayors, no article about beer in
Buffalo would be complete without a mention of Mayor
James Griffin, popularly known as “Six Pack Jimmy”, who
made national news when during the great blizzards of
the 1970’s he advised Buffalonians to “stay home, grab
a six pack and watch football.” Now THERE’S a
But I digress. Ulrich’s, which in the 19th century had
five major breweries within a two block walk , is a great
stop for lovers of German food and beer. The
Jaegerschnitzel is highly recommended.
Buffalo is home to New York’s first brewpub, aptly
named the Buffalo Brewpub. Thirty six taps in addition
to the house brewed beers and peanut shells and
popcorn crunching under your feet make this a nice,
informal place to grab a brew and a burger. Here again
are well preserved pieces of old Buffalo breweriana to be
enjoyed along with your beer.
That pub was my first experience with a brewpub, over
twenty years ago. It was also the first time I met Tim
Herzog who at the time was the bartender and certified
beer judge. Tim subsequently opened the Flying Bison
microbrewery, brewers of Buffalo lager, Aviator Red,
Dawn Patrol Gold, Barnstormer Pale Ale, Bird of Prey
IPA, Barrel Roll Bock, Baron von Bisonfest, Skye Pilot
Scotch Ale and The “Herc” C-130 Strong Ale. All of his
flight or Buffalo themed beers (in honor of Buffalo’s one
time aircraft industry) are excellent and several growlers
find their way back to Jersey after every visit.
The Buffalo Brewfest, held at downtown HSBC arena,
offered many samples of local, regional and even
national brews. As is customary, they use (and
disregard) the “ticket” system of dispensing beer. Only
one brewery, Ithaca, requested a ticket when I
presented my glass for a taste of Flower Power IPA. The
rest cheerfully poured as much as you liked of anything
There were, however, two undrinkable beers at the
festival. Buffalo Amber, from the brewpub, was infected
and sour. Somebody should have tasted it before they
offered it. The other was Brooklyn Brewery’s “The
Concoction”, which tasted like a schwartzbier into which
someone had squirted a tube of Testor’s airplane glue.
Absolutely awful stuff. It was fun to watch other festival
attendees taste their samples and time how long it took
for them to start looking for the dump bucket.
My favorite beers at the affair were an IPA made by an
unknown brewer for the Pizza Plant Restaurant and all
of the beers made by the Ellicottville Brewing Company.
The guys dispensing for the Pizza Plant were adamant in
their refusal to divulge the name of the “local brewer”
who makes their Hop Inferno IPA, which was so good I
figured it must be Mr. Herzog. But when asked, he said
he used to brew it but no longer does. The only
possible reasons I can think of for the secrecy is
possibly they’re selling somebody else’s beer and calling
it their own, or maybe it’s made by a seven year old kid.
Whatever the reason notwithstanding, it’s GOOD! The
blueberry wheat, Black Hops, and Oktoberfest of the
Ellicottville brewery were all outstanding.
One booth at the festival was manned by the Craft Beer
Exchange. Although not offering beer, they did give me
a couple of t-shirts when I mentioned that I wrote for
Beer Nexus. The Craft Beer Exchange dispenses freshly
tapped beer in growlers at Sunoco stations in the
Buffalo area. What a fantastic idea! Fill up the tank with
regular while you’re filling up the growler with high test!
“Honey, I’m going out to get gas in the car. Be right
back! (Heh, heh!)
A good percentage of people exiting the festival,
including us, headed for a late night sandwich and a
couple more brews at the Pearl Street Brewery, only a
couple of short blocks away. This is a huge brewpub on
three floors with outdoor seating, good food,
outstanding house brewed beer and the ambiance that
only a restored 19th century factory building can offer. I
love to watch the belt driven ceiling fan system,
powered by a central motor, while enjoying a Lake Effect
Pilots handing out beers, 140 year old taverns, great
brewpubs, beer festivals, wings, Flying Bison, gas
stations filling growlers and Niagara Falls only twenty
five minutes away are all wonderful reasons for a beer
lover to visit the “Nickel City”. Try it sometime!
has to say
and it could
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Beer My Way.........
Beernexus.com proudly presents....DAN HODGE, beer reviewer, historian and raconteur
anything and everything about beer
by Dan Hodge
|My original plane that
at Flying Bison Brewery