by Kevin Wise
Last week, 42 North Brewing Company opened its doors to thirsty East Aurorians. 42 North is located at 25 Pine Street just off of Main Street and right around the corner from Vidler’s. The brewery unveiled its picturesque taproom and brewery in soft-opening fashion. But word has quickly spread to the Southtowns that 42 North is serving quality beers in an aesthetically impressive setting.
I visited 42 North last Friday night with Willard Brooks, President of the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association. We were greeted by Chief Brewing Officer Clay Keel, who gave us a quick tour of the brewing facility. An impressive and shiny new Specific Mechanical brewing system occupies a corner of the spacious brewery. A handful of fermentation tanks are steadily bubbling away. Empty kegs are stacked and waiting to be filled. In true planning foresight, the footprint for additional fermentation tanks has already been reserved. Based on its initial success, there is little doubt that 42 North will need to install these additional tanks sooner rather than later.
After touring the brewery facilities, we headed upstairs to see the taproom and sample some beers. One of the coolest features of 42 North is the ability to look down into the brewing facility from the taproom vantage point. Being able to overlook the brewing facility provides a sense of authenticity and satisfaction; the beer in your glass was brewed by people and equipment you can see.
We tried the West Coast IPA, a solid and not overly bitter IPA constructed with New Zealand hops. Although 42 North plans to tweak this recipe a bit more, the first attempt was exceedingly drinkable and filled with kiwi and lemon citrus flavors. At 7 percent and 65-70 IBUs, this beer could easily morph into a flagship beer for 42 North. The next version (currently fermenting) will contain the high alpha acid hop Waimea, and will undoubtedly be just as tasty.
We then tried a full-glass “flight” of beers. Tapkeeper Matt Matuzewski poured four offerings: Oatmeal Raison Cookie Brown Ale on Nitro (5.8%), a Pilot Saison (5.9%), Walloon Wit (5.4%), and Batch Zero Red Ale (5.7%). I was particularly impressed with the Walloon Wit, a refreshing and sessionable beer that contained just the right amount of spice.
An upcoming beer that 42 North is eager to roll out is the Bohemian Pils. European-influenced and experienced assistant brewer Naz Drebot is brewing an authentic Pilsner. Drebot has spent time in the Czech Republic and has maintained communication with his colleagues in Europe, so this Pilsner is poised to be a genuine gem.
The taproom at 42 North possesses tremendous charm. The darker wood used to construct the taproom is reclaimed from a barn fire in Holland, NY and the lighter colored wood and bricks are from the Richardson-Olmsted Complex, a former insane asylum in Buffalo, NY. The wood obtained from historic buildings frames a wonderful ambiance for the drinking space. In another room located off to the side of the main bar area, there is a game room with a bubble hockey machine. Board games are scattered about on large tables.
The people who run 42 North have built a foundation for success. There are six owners, all of which have a passion for East Aurora. We had the chance to sit down with John Cimperman, one of the owners of 42 North. Cimperman has managed marketing for numerous professional sports teams in the past, and was a principal at Cenergy Marketing and Communications in East Aurora for 13 years. He spoke about the grassroots nature of 42 North and how all the local investors (from East Aurora) bring a unique talent or resource to the table. One owner is involved in hops, for example. But the common theme that was repeated often was that 42 North was constructed as a local endeavor, envisioned by people from East Aurora. The longer we spoke with Cimperman and Keel, the more confident we became in the mission of 42 North. There is a focus on regional collaboration between farmers, hop growers, and food obtained from the area.
Chief Brewing Officer Clay Keel has assembled a dedicated and knowledgeable crew, from brewery operations to kitchen staff. Alex Sowyrda, chief of recipe development, has considerable brewing experience and will be a valuable asset to the team.
42 North gets its name from residing on the 42nd north parallel of the Earth. A sense of place is certainly felt at 42 North Brewing. If a strong opening week is any indication, 42 North will quickly solidify its place as a Western New York craft beer destination.