The funny thing about this process is how every last detail means so much.  All it takes is one bad gasket to completely stop the show (not to mention the flow...). Yes, we’re way down in the weeds right now – which is why it’s a good time to take a step back and look at the big picture in order to take stock of what we’ve accomplished and to acknowledge those that have helped us get here.

When we started this journey over three years ago, we knew what we wanted to achieve, and how we wanted to get there.  I explained how the idea came to us in our very first blog, and detailed the process in the next one.  Throughout the entire time we’ve been climbing this mountain, it’s always been fun and incredibly rewarding.  Buffalo, as a city, has been so supportive of what we’re doing and of our progress, that it made the work easy.

I remember bringing early prototypes of beers we made in late 2011/early 2012 and getting lots of good feedback.  The beers were good, but we’ve improved so much since then, and a lot of it was due to the feedback we got over that first year or two.  In actuality, we did what we set out to do: get lots of feedback, and keep tweaking things until we got it right.
First tasting at Alternative Brews, 2012

This wasn’t just true of the beers either.  Our initial plan was to start fairly small.  But because of all the positive feedback, and the eventual location of our brewery, we had to change the plan to meet what we feel will be high demand.  We are built for the long term, to be a fixture in the heart of Buffalo, and we have no intentions of going anywhere.

There were really two turning points; two people that we met, that set us on the path to where we’re at right now.  The first was John McKeone at the Small Business Development Center at Buff State.  John was the first to review our business plan.  He was impressed with our plan and had us make a few changes to it.  After that, we wondered “what’s next?”  He was the person that told us to “put ourselves out there”; that is, be aggressive in making our dreams a reality.  I’m fairly sure we wouldn’t be at this stage without him.

The second person that turned us in the right direction was Paul Iskalo.  

Matt and Paul, examining the future tap room
Now, in actuality, I should be thanking my wife here.  We were scouting for potential locations and she was messing around on Google maps when she came across a vacancy sign on a building on Ellicott and Huron streets that would eventually become our brewery.  There was no listing for the property mind you; it was just dumb luck that she happened to find this building.

Google maps image of the brewery
After viewing the place a few times, we met the owner, Paul.  He immediately had a ton of questions for us, about our plans, about our intended use… and about our future.  He thought about our business in a way I had not: were we prepared for success?  We met over dinner to discuss our business followed by several meetings  at his office.  Paul did not know much about craft beer, but he instantly understood the fascination and excitement surrounding it and began to embrace it as we described our plans.  

It was a few months after this initial meeting that Paul decided to partner with us with the goal of creating a brewing center right in the middle of downtown Buffalo. Since that time, we’ve worked on the execution of this plan, and both Paul and his team over at Iskalo Development have been fantastic to work with.  They contributed to our facility design, aided in construction management, and provided a ton of input on creative development.  They took our initial ideas and ran with them.  They are a fantastic company and we are lucky to have such excellent partners.

Before we open, I intend to write a blog thanking everyone who has helped to get us open, but I don’t think it’s ever too early to say thanks.  To John McKeone and the SBDC at Buff State, and to Paul Iskalo and the fantastic team at Iskalo Development, we want to say thanks now.  We hope we make you proud.

The Big Ditch team

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