Wow. What a year.
Reading back through our annual review from last year, it’s strange, because in some ways, it doesn’t feel like it’s been all that long. Time flies when you’re busy, er, having fun, and it’s been a super busy, incredibly fun year.
When we began the year, we served beer out of here:
Snowy office tasting area (photo by Cody Osborne)
We promised you a place like this:
And this is what we delivered:
Completed tap room (photo by Cody Osborne)
And frankly, our tap room has exceeded even our expectations.
We hoped the beer would be good when we opened, and based on early reactions to our flagship IPA Hayburner, we felt like we were making solid beers. But we were particularly impressed with the limited release beers we brewed specifically for our opening: Golden Shovel, our Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale, Lock Porter, our imperial smoked porter, and Galaxy Red, our India Red Ale which everyone seemed to adore. When we made these beers, it was the first time we had brewed any of them, and were hoping at least one of them would be pretty good. We were very happy with all three, and so were you from what we can tell.
Even more impressive than the beer, however, was the food. Our initial idea was to prepare food that was good enough to keep you in your seats long enough to have another beer. “The beer is the best thing on our menu,” I would walk around and confidently state. Well, I was wrong. The menu that our GM Jon initially developed, that Chef Mike later perfected, seemed to be right on par with the beer in terms of quality. We honestly did not completely see that coming and were tickled pink when it did.
However, of all of the things we accomplished this year, hiring our staff was far and away the most exciting and rewarding. Last year at this time, we had three employees: Matt, Corey and Jon. The three of us did all the sales, brewing, planning, purchasing, etc. for the first 6-8 months. We now have 74 employees. This is a like-minded group of thoughtful, caring, attentive, intelligent, and well-organized people that care about Buffalo, and care about beer. Back in the day, Corey and I used to talk about creating a business that had a great culture, and I’m proud to say that to this point, I think we’ve achieved that.
We’ve done some other really cool stuff too this year. We did samplings/tastings at over 70 different events this year, meeting a ton of really cool people along the way. We created 25 new beers – that’s a new beer almost every two weeks! In my opinion, the two most exciting new beers we’ve made this year could not be more diametrically opposed: Deep Cut, our 8.5% double IPA, which has received a tremendous response, and our 4.6% Jalapeno Cream Ale, which frankly I didn’t think anyone would like, but we had more people tell us they liked that pilot batch than any we made before. We’ve put beer in cans in a one-off collaboration alongside our fellow brewers, and we created a beer in collaboration with some of our favorite local sports teams and our favorite local businesses. We defeated New England! (in beer, if not in football.) We certainly had no idea our tap room was going to be in such high demand for events, but we wound up booking a ton of events over the last several months, so much so that we put someone great in charge of organizing it all (thank you Raven!)
Our managers (Raven, Jon, and Jesse) with Mr. Wood on his charity night
As always, our yearly recap wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention some of the great beers we’ve had from other breweries this year. Scrolling through the list, the following stuck out: Fair Maiden IIPA from Foley Brothers (thanks Jeff), Allagash Session Brett, Grunion Pale Ale from Ballast Point, Perennial Suburban Beverage (fruited gose), and Rainbow Dome from Grimm (fruited, oak aged wild ale). I got to try a 2012 version of 120 Minute IPA from Dogfish Head randomly in the middle of a sales call that blew my mind (thanks Dan), and we got to try a Goose Island Bourbon County Rare from 2010 that did the same (thanks Mike). We hit up BCTC this year and tried some impressive beers, particularly loving Ommegang’s pilot Funky Saison and Peekskill’s spontaneously fermented Lempbeek. Our New England trip (expect a blog post soon on the learnings from this trip) presented us with some fantastic beers as well, particularly Kiwi Time from Jack’s Abby, Ever Weisse from Night Shift, Another One from Maine, everything from Bissell Brothers (we’ve become major fanboys) and Focal Banger from Alchemist.
And it would not be a year-in-review-beer-list if we didn’t nod to some of our fellow local breweries. Hamburg’s Farm to Pint smoked beer this year was pretty nice. Newcomer 42 North made a pretty awesome Oatmeal Cookie Brown Ale that tasted of molasses and raisins, yum. And, as always, CBW had another great year. Their IPA “That IPA” is good, but some of the That IPA variants they made were even better: particularly a cask version they did at Goodbar in Feburary, Yuz Not That IPA (made with Yuzu), and their Simcoe Wet Hopped version.
What’s to expect from Big Ditch in 2016? Well, a lot actually:
- Expect some new menu items in early in January (can you say Duck Burger?)
- Expect many new beers, including an expanded number of barrel aged and sour beers
- And, finally, expect to find easier ways to bring our beer home with you…
Enough with the hints. Have a great new year, Buffalo.