Monday, October 1, 2012

Preservation Plus, Part 2: Community Beer Works

Looking around Tuesday’s session at the Community Beer Works, I wasn’t too surprised by the attendees. Nearly all were a part of Buffalo’s Young Preservationists, a group whose monthly meetings consist entirely of attending interesting historical bars around the city. Two of the session’s attendees work at Preservation Studios, whose office features a beautiful 1950s General Electric fridge… which was converted into a kegerator.

So, after work on Tuesday, the two Preservation Studios employees walked the three blocks from their office to the “nanobrewery,” and met Greg Patterson, one of the founders of Community Beer Works. Greg began his session outlining some of the early history of beer brewing in Buffalo, particularly at the base of Lafayette. 

The building that Community Beer Works has set up in is part of the old Meyer’s Malting & Milling Company complex that stretched down Niagara and up Lafayette a short way. The prime realty along the Erie Canal served George Meyer well, as well as the brewer C. G. Curtis before him, giving them access to the grain trade that flourished on Lake Erie.  The proximity to the New York Central rail line that traveled immediately adjacent to the site and ran to Detroit and Toronto certainly didn’t hurt either.  George Meyer’s success allowed him to expand his small facilities in 1909, turning it into a large factory that included a grain elevator for milling.

Community Beer Works is located in one of the later expansions, a storage building across from the malting facilities. Schaefer Brewing bought George Meyer Malting and Milling in the late 1950s, but over the last few decades the buildings switched hands numerous times, finally resulting in much of the facilities along Niagara Street to be demolished in 2006.

For anyone who has toured large national breweries, the facilities used by Community Beer Works will seem quaint. For those who been in any successful microbrewery around the country, however, they will see that the brewery is more than adequate for the company’s needs.

Centered around three large boilers and six fermenting tanks, the brewery is immaculate and professional, and able to produce over 960 gallons of beer a month, though Greg did not comment on how much was consumed during in-house testing. Atop the building is a solar water heater, which helps reduce their heating costs during a process that requires quite a bit of boiling.

Most exciting about the facilities is the room for expansion. Right now, brewing is limited to one half of the building, while the other half is retail.  Larger tanks could easily replace the six current fermentation tanks, though these are perfectly suited for their needs at the moment. One refrigeration room has been finished, while a second is under construction, and it is clear that they could make do in these facilities for quite a bit longer if need be.

The company's potential growth is very impressive to see for Buffalo’s only remaining independent local brewery. Started within the last three years by friends with a shared home brewing passion, the Community Beer Works could shortly headline the class of locally brewed beer, especially as their wares begin popping up around the city at bars and hanging from shoulders in their stylish green growler carrycases. 

Finally, at the end of the tour, two of the Beer Work’s brews were available, and we got to taste for ourselves the beers that have been spreading throughout the city.

Frank, an American Pale Ale, was named in honor of Franks everywhere who help you when you need minor favors done. Are you moving? Frank’s got a truck. Cleaning out your gutter? Frank’s got a pretty big ladder. The Whale began as a test name, and at one point they questioned whether “The Whale Brown Ale,” was too much of a mouthful. They decided to shorten it, but the beer is still a mouthful, rich with a taste of dark roasted chocolaty malts.

While their goal is to make incredible beer, the company also wants to change the way people think about brewing. In the same way that you once went to the local butcher and could get to know the person cutting your meat, Community Beer Works wants to replicate that relationship in brewing.

To get to know your local community brewer, check out the Beer Works sales hours on Thursdays and Fridays, 3-7PM at 15 Lafayette Ave, or Saturdays at the Bidwell Farmer’s market, and pick up a growler of Frank or The Whale for yourself. 

(This is part of a four-series about Preservation Plus: Part 1, Part 3)

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