Let’s recap, shall we?
First – be aware that 2016 was the third year in a row where we undertook a massive construction project. In 2014 we built our brewery and sold beer in draught via Try-It Distributing; in 2015 we built our tap room and began serving our beer in draught alongside delicious food at our brewery on Ellicott and Huron streets.
This year was all about expanding what we had already began the previous two years. We tripled our brewing capacity, added on a grain silo, expanded our beer hall and added on a new bar, then expanded our warehouse, kitchen and tap room storage space. We ran 360 private events this year, which is amazing! We opened for lunch and added on a lot of new staff to support it. Speaking of staff, our staff continued to be our most valuable asset in 2016. They are both our greatest cheerleaders as well as our supreme ambassadors. We are so proud of them and grateful to have them working for us.
For the finale of our expansion, we added on a canning line. It turns out that Hayburner in a can is a good idea! We’re also excited to see how much Low Bridge people drink from the can this summer – Low Bridge is nearly our biggest seller in the tap room, and we find this beer super tasty and refreshing. It’s a brewer’s beer – when the brewers are done with their shift, they’ll often turn to a Low Bridge for refreshment.
We released some nice new beers this year. Just a few of the more popular beers we released: Squeezer, our hoppy kettle sour; Orangeade, a pale ale with orange zest; and we also brewed a few pilot batches of Make Me Wanna Stout, a drinkable coffee stout with Revolution beans from Public Espresso – expect much more of this beer next year. We also released a small batch of a pilsner we brewed for our shared anniversary with Toutant which we called Toutant Pils - expect more of that beer this year as well. Remember Bidwell Wild, the beer we made in collaboration with the Elmwood Village Farmers Market? Well, there wasn’t much of it to go around last year, so maybe you missed it. You’re in luck next time around though – we’ve got about 10x as much brewed this year, and from the taste of it, it may be ready sooner than you’d think. It’s currently aging in wine barrels from Leonard Oakes Estate Winery. Speaking of barrels, we released our first barrel aged beer this year in the form of Bourbon Barrel-Aged Towpath, our imperial stout. We released the beer on an event we called Stoutsgiving, the day before Thanksgiving – I suspect we’ll do this event again next year.
The best new beers we brewed this year were, in fact, collaborations with other breweries. Great Big Steve was a doppelbock-style beer we brewed with Great Lakes Brewing Company, which was quite the honor, as we consider their beer to be world class and extremely influential on us as we were starting up the brewery. Expect us to collaborate with another big brewery in 2017.
The collaboration with Resurgence Brewing Company, Community Beer Works, the Buffalo Bisons, and Consumers Beverages yielded another mixpack of cans, and this year’s collaboration yielded a collaboration beer: Short Stop Saison (name smartly chosen by Ethan Cox of CBW, truth be told) – which was a well-hopped saison, and super tasty at that.
Still, all of these beers and projects paled in comparison to the most important beer we made this year, which came about due to incredibly sad consequences. When we lost local beer writer and friend of the beer community Kevin Wise in July, we gathered just about every local brewery in the area in what was almost definitely the single biggest collaboration of Buffalo breweries in the area’s history, and perhaps one of the biggest collaborations of breweries anywhere in the US (?) Wise PA was a really nice IPA, but the best part of this story is that all proceeds from the sales of this beer, which was sold at all of the collaborating local breweries, will be donated to a college fund for Kevin and his wife Celeste’s children.
The best moment of this year was easy – winning the best craft brewery in New York State award at TAP NY. You can see how surprised and happy we are in this picture. It’s hard to imagine having another moment as great as this for a while. That’s not to say we won’t try though!
That leads us into a preview of 2017. First of all – no more construction. This year we’ll be focused on doing what we do – making great beer and food – and doing it even better. Expect more beer in cans this year. Deep Cut, our double IPA, is just a few months away from being canned. We’re planning on canning a few of our seasonals this year, beginning with our session wheat IPA, FC (Fantastically Crushable), the beer that we began with FC Buffalo, this summer. Sorry, no Galaxy Red in cans this year! But, in even better news, we're excited to announce that we are planning on canning several limited IPAs this year! We should be releasing four to six new IPAs throughout the year, featuring lots of fun hops we’ve contracted for the year. These batches will be one offs – that is, when they’re gone, they’re gone… although the very popular beers may return for an encore in 2018. We’ll keep you posted!
We’ll be sure to continue and grow our barrel series in 2017 as well. In addition to the Bidwell Wild project, we now have 8 x Woodford Reserve barrels we’ll be filling with Towpath sometime in January. We just filled some gin barrels from Tommyrotter Distillery with Beautiful River, our saison. We added two kinds of brettanomyces to the beer after racking to the barrels, which should take 3-6 months to age; after which time we’ll dry hop the beer with something nice and bottle it up. Stay tuned…
We’re also planning on expanding our reach a bit more in 2017 – we’ve had some good feedback from Rochester and would like to be there sometime during the year. And after that – who knows?
Finally, a rundown of great beers we’ve had this year. What’s pretty cool is that this year we can focus just on NY State beers alone – because NYS is truly making some great beers. Here’s a short list – pretty much anything from Grimm Artisanal Ales, Hand & Seal from Brooklyn, Squeaker from Suarez, Sunday from The North, Double from Upstate (these guys have come a long way – congrats!), Hard Core Leaf Peeping from Common Roots, Solera and Without Regarde from Good Nature, who are one of our favorite breweries in NYS right now, Run Like an Apricot from Prison City (our other favorite), Toasted Coconut Kareem from Stoneyard (‘sup Jason!). And, let’s not forget how much great beer is being made locally these days! Sky High Rye from EBC (who won F2P this year in my opinion), Spot Coffee Stout from Flying Bison, Cosmic Truth and Irish Breakfast from Resurgence, Dreizehn from CBW (one of my favorite pilsners ever, and I love pilsners), and Bliss from (sort of?) newcomers Thin Man, who blew us away with that beer.
Here’s hoping we make someone’s list next year!
As always, thanks so much for your support – we appreciate our customers and guests more than you know – the smiles on your faces are the reasons we come to work every day. Have a happy 2017, Buffalo!