It’s time once again to look back and reflect on that past year and spotlight some of the good things that happened, and more importantly, all of the good stuff that found its way into our collective glasses. 2022 was a shit year for me personally, but, on the brighter side, it was another banner year for craft beer, especially here locally in Western New York. I drank a lot of great beer last year and, as you’ll read in this article, so did a lot of members of WNY craft beer community.
If you’re wondering what my favorite beers of 2022 were, please click here, and if you’d like to know what the rest of the Buffalo Beer League loved to drink last year, then, by all means, click here.
I polled 24 members of the Western New York craft scene, representing 15 breweries, cideries meaderies, beer bars, beer groups, craft vendors and more about their favorite beverages from this past year and here is what they came up with.
This one is lengthy, so make sure you have a few adult beverages within arms-reach as you read along. Cheers.
Russell Haentges, Head Brewer, Windy Brew: “Windy Brew Tailgate Brew, Lost at Sea, What’s a PRV?, Pressure Drop Space Monkey IPA, Haggen, Eli Fish Brewing Daylight, Britesmith Brewing Mandatory Vacation IPA, Resurgence Brewing Bridge Pilsner, Circle the Wagons Pils, Frequentum Just Fruit, Dark Czech Lager, First Line Brewing Beast in the East IPA, Liquid Gold IPA.”
Domenic Nicotera, Head Brewer, Spotted Octopus Brewing: “BriarBrothers Brewing Peaches and Cream Sour (wasn’t over sour and loved it), Spotted Octopus Peach and Pepper Blonde Ale (just a hint of heat and great peach flavor) and Autark Red Ale (just a great beer smooth and delicious).”
Nick Torgalski, Head Brewer, Resurgence Brewing: “Resurgence has been doing a lot of collaborations this year, but The Ryan Miller 391 IPA was a great beer to end the year with. It was fun to work with him and it’s an all-Cryo hop IPA and is a nice smooth, flavorful Buffalo-style IPA. It was a lot of fun to collaborate with TCBC out of Syracuse again this year. We look forward to the Stack.Smash.Repeat series repeating again next year with 2 more new and unique beers.
Our barrel aged beers, even though we do not do a lot of these, has been fun working with a variety of different beers – including our white wine champagne beer and the Brewers Select BBA stout – in which we hand selected our favorite barrel and bottled that. We have a fun beer that we cannot wait to release that we brewed last year – a collaboration with Thin Man. It’s a barleywine aged in maple syrup barrels. We get to try this out of the barrel regularly and cannot wait to share it.
Ohhh Fudge – It is a communal brew between a bunch of breweries. This is just fun for the comradery of the Buffalo breweries – fun to get together with all the brewers from Buffalo and watch Josh Dziomba brew. Beer is also about the experience, and getting together with friends is what brewing and beer is all about.”
Andrew Zach, Director of Brewing Operations, Resurgence: “This year I went back to drinking a lot more Lagers, Pilsners and malty beers. I still love a good IPA and sour, but it was quite a change for me than past years. Our Ice Boom Bock, I drank all year long. It’s sweet, caramel, malty and I just enjoyed it all year – and if you like that – The Greatest Shnowman is right there behind it. Smells Like Buffalo and Curly Loaf Italian Pils were right behind the amber beers – these were just great after a long day. There were some great Oktoberfests locally this year. I am biased because I will always love ours, but enjoyed Big Ditch’s, Thin Man’s, and Pressure Drops.
OFW’s Imperial Hefeweizen is one of my favorites, but that beer catches up to you pretty fast. We try a lot of beer from all over the world at the brewery, but we really are lucky to have a lot of great beer in our backyard.
And wanted to give a shoutout to Tim Herzog, because the number of Rusty Chains I have drank over the years is a scary number – it will always be a staple Buffalo Beer! Cheers!”
Sad Boys Brewing: “Tyler – Spotted Octopus Peach and Pepper Blonde Ale, Collin – First Line Brewing Bitch’n Betty, Andrew – Southern Tier Brewing White Chocolate Raspberry Imperial Stout, John – Guinness (can’t beat a classic).”
Tracey Maciejewski, Treasurer, Buffalo Beer Goddesses: “Big Ditch Slayburner. This blood orange version of my favorite Big Ditch beer was a refreshing twist on the original. A stunning orange color in the class, a bit boozier tasting overall (not bad if you need a reminder that this might not be a weeknight sizer) and one of the best can labels I’ve seen in a long time…RIP MJ.
Pressure Drop Greetings From the North Pole. Speaking of labels, this is truly one for the ages. Come for the young polar bears feasting on Rudolph, stay for the parent polar bears toasting their offspring. This is about as solid a chocolate milk stout you could ask for. Perfect cold or room temp, good with things sweet and savory. Overall a beer you definitely want on hand for the 716 winter.
Community Beer Works/Strangebird Lord of the Wings. This dry-hopped IPA was light, flavorful and extremely crushable as noted by how quickly it sold out both in draft and in cans at the CBW taproom. Luckily I was at Strangebird (you must make the trek if you haven’t been) shortly after and was able to snag a second four pack. Saved two for the Bills vs. Miami and myself and a good friend enjoyed them almost as much as we enjoyed the win!”
Paula Taton, Co-chair, Buffalo Beer Goddesses: “Thin Man Decoy Family. Any Belgian-style ale I can get locally is appreciated; this particular beer was absolutely outstanding. Wish I had bought more.
42 North Yodeler. Fantastic new winter seasonal with a reasonably low ABV. I hope it becomes an annual release.
Buffalo Brewing Company Manru Coffee Ale. I normally prefer coffee only in dark beers, but this is the exception. Well balanced & easy drinking. This was a small batch limited release for their 6th anniversary, but I hope to see it again someday at the new location!”
Marlene Urban, Co-chair, Buffalo Beer Goddesses: Thin Man Brewery Cherub. It’s so rare for local breweries to do authentic Belgian styles, a personal favorite of mine, but to see a well-made Oud Bruin is an even more rare treat.
Wandering Gypsy’s Oatmeal Stout and Wet Hopped IPA (the latter was made with locally raised hops) were pleasant surprises on Halloween road trip out to Niagara County.
Brewery Ardennes has become a go-to stop for my husband and I when we are in the Finger Lakes. This August we were lucky enough to try the Fall Saison on its release weekend and loved it.
Finally, Autark Brewing made a delightfully sessionable Extra Special Bitter this summer that I would love to drink again.”
Matt Matuszewski , Head Brewers, 42 North Brewing: “Some of my favorite beers of this past year have been Thin Man’s Bliss, an always solid beer when it’s around; dank pine on the nose with a great tropical and melon flavor. [It’s a] high ABV Double IPA but drinks like something lighter. The Kolsch at Old First Ward Brewing Company is another one of my favorite go to beers; clean, crisp, and balanced. For offerings from 42 North, our winter offering, Yodeler, has been my first choice the last few months. A balanced spiced Amber ale, not too sweet malty and just the right amount of winter spices makes it a brew that always brings me in for more.”
Tom Whitmarsh, Owner, WNY Beer Trail: “12 Gates/Wandering Gypsy Blululemon (great balance of sweet and sour in the blueberry lemon combo), Steal Leaf Brewing Jalapeño Wheat (all the jalapeño flavor without the heat – would be dynamite with a big juicy cheeseburger), First Line Brewing Bitch’n Betty (terrific blueberry blonde ale – just like a blueberry muffin). Other Half Brewing Tables on Tables (super crushable NEIPA), Imprint Beer Co. My Morning Haze (one of the best NEIPA’s I’ve ever had – juicy and smooth), Foam Brewers The Shining (another terrific NEIPA – packed with pineapple).”
Paul Martin, Ellicottville Brewing Company: “Strawberry Crunch Bar was a smash hit for Ellicottville in 2022. We had a lot of fun brewing a cream ale, which we hadn’t done in a while. The first 3 production runs sold out in a matter of days. For 2023, Ellicottville will be producing both 4/6 bottles to 4/6 cans packages along with draft.”
Michael Lantinen, Ellicottville Brewing Company: “Chocolate Cherry Bomb was an exciting release for me this year. It has always been a favorite of mine, and it can’t be beat on a gloomy snowy weekend night. I also really enjoyed our changes to our variety pack releases, most importantly, the Euro-Pack. It was released right around the New Year and the old-school European style lager and pilsners are my favorite beer styles.”
Dean Jones, Brewmaster, Genesee Brew House: “My favorite beers from the past year include some delicious options from Roc Brewing, Faircraft Brauhaus, and Young Lion Brewing. Roc Brewing’s ‘Dark Mild’ was an amazing, easy-drinking British Mild. ‘Holle’s Little Pilsner’ from Faircraft is always spectacular. And of course, Young Lion’s Double IPA is a lot of bang for your buck – a huge beer that’s still crushable.”
Eric Wallace, Brewing Supervisor, Genesee Brewery: “Mortalis Brewing Icarus (Golden Grahams). This is a thick stout. The addition of my all-time favorite childhood breakfast cereal has me seeking out this beer when Mortalis brews it. Tree House Brewing Shore. There was just enough guava and passionfruit in this beer to have you searching for your Hawaiian shirt and beach chair.”
Eddie Graves, Head Cidermaker, Clarksburg Cider: “Of course, I start this out with Eli Fish Ube Bee. I went into that beer thinking I was going to hate it and was beyond blown away. Perfect mix of sour and residual sweetness rounded out by a nice hint of lemon on the nose. Also, Windy Brew Pertnear. It’s beer that tastes like how beer should. Clean and crisp, a solid pilsner that is crushable and makes you just want to crush as many as you can.”
Cider – Seed and Stone Cidery in Rochester Coffey Cider. The nose is filled with raisins and pecans and a slight coffee hint to it. Love it. I honestly cannot get enough of it. For a Buffalo cidery, I will go with Steampunk Dabinett Single Varietal. It’s just what my cider dreams are made of. Tart and dry finishes super clean and makes me work harder in my cidery every time I think about it.”
Matt Gordon, Head Brewer, 12 Gates Brewing Company: “From 12 Gates, I really enjoyed our Blululemon sour (blueberry, lemon, lavender). We drank that beer for all of May and June. Great beer to open the pool and just lay out. I also really loved our new Oktoberfest. All Munich malt with just a touch of residual sweetness. So many customers and employees enjoyed it and it felt like we were drinking it daily on the floor. This last beer has become a staple at 12 Gates this year after taking home third place at NYS Brewers Competition, and that beer is Moonlight Fog. We’ve received so much love and amazing appreciation for this beer. With all that said, I don’t think there’s a better beer than an ice cold Molson or Blue after a hockey beer league win or a post Bills win tailgate chug.”]
Karl Kolbe, Head Brewer, Pressure Drop Brewing: “This year I drank a Maibock from Frequentum at the Rochester Real Beer Expo. They were doing it as a Lukr side pour through a jockey box, which I thought was outstanding. It wasn’t just that the beer was great, it was just so awesome that you could get a milk pour at a beer festival.”
Craig Altobello, Owner, Magic Bear Beer Cellar: “Local: Big Ditch Helles (super crisp and refreshing), 42 North Krupnik BA Quad (always amazing), our collab, 42 Magic Bear-ries, was amazing (and sits at their highest rated beer on Untappd at the moment I believe), Autark Brewing (basically anything he makes, but the English Mild, was phenomenal), Flying Bison Cask XRD Bitter (drank like a dream), BriarBrothers Brewing Desk Pop and our collab, Yeah… That’s MAGIC, were both fantastic NEIPAs and Gene McCarthy’s Hefe is damn near perfection.
Non-local – Brindle Haus Strawberry Shortcake, our collaboration, BoysenBEARy Tart, was one of my favorite beers for sure (and sits at their highest rated beer on Untappd at the moment I believe), Strangebird Petit Colosse hits the spot, Aurora Ferfooksake and Having Illusions were amazing nitro beers, Talking Cursive Joshua ESB (damn near perfect), ONCO Fermentations Nelson Kolsch (everything you want in a beer), Other Half Forever Ever (even though nothing new or standout-ish from them, was the go-to session – so much flavor for under 5%), Brewery Ardennes BBA Tripel (a treat), Fifth Frame Blue Sky (so underrated it hurts) and BA Christmas Ale (2021) from Great Lakes is amazing.”
Shane Stewart, Head Brewer, First Line Brewing: “2022 was another great year for the craft beer industry. My favorite thing about beer is how often my preferred style changes – could be due to the fact that I’m a brewer and always trying different things, but I find my favorites change multiple times over the year. The backbone style that I always can rely on is something light and crispy. From pils, lagers, West Coast IPA, session-style NEIPA, and the newbie to the scene, Cold IPA. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fruited sour and some hop bomb NEIPA/thick stouts, but the light crushers are always my go to! With that being said, Ill touch on a few of my favs in 2022.
Kicking it off is a beer that we brew. Our First Line Pilsner. This is probably my all-time favorite beer here. It’s also our number one selling product. This beer has taken on many tweaks and recipe changes over the past year that we’ve had it available. I take a lot of pride in brewing easy drinking clean beer for our lighter side of the spectrum. Our process for making this pils is probably very different from most, but the end result I think brings one of my favorite pilsners in the area.
Another favorite of mine was a collab between Eli Fish Brewing and Britesmith Brewing, Britefish. It was a cold IPA bursting with flavor – super light and crushable. That beer was definitely a part of my inspiration to get into the cold IPA world. I’m currently working on bring out our very first cold IPA as well.
The last on my list is one of our recent sours – Flyin Hawaiian Swedish Fish Hawaiian Punch sour. This beer is jam packed with different flavors and ingredients that give you a well balanced sour with great levels of sweet and tart. Had a lot of fun making this one and even more fun drinking it.”
Joe Yager, Buffalo Beer Geeks: “2022 brought a lot of ups and downs in my life, but one thing that was consistent – drinking some good beers. As I reflect on my year of beer, I had dozens of fantastic 4.75-5 star brews (as per my Untappd). Some local and plenty non-local thanks to beer shares with friends.
First off, my favorite style…IPA. Locally, I would have to say Big Ditch’s Riwaka Punch stands out. Riwaka has become my new favorite hop (trumping Nelson) over the last couple years and this beer showcased it fantastically. Non-local, but still kind of local, was a few brews from my favorite brewery Other Half. Their yearly collab with Monkish LGA 2 LGB, 8th Anniversary and All Riwaka Everything were all huge stand outs for IPAs. And my last standout IPA was from a newer brewery in Albany, Fidens. Their Socratic Questioning #31 (rotating beer with different hops) included 3 hops, but the one that stood out was Nelson, my second favorite hop.
My next favorite style is a good ol’ crispy boy aka a light lager or pilsner. Locally, no one has been crushing this style more than Thin Man. 11 Degrees was my favorite from memory, a Czech pilsner. Maybe tied for local and their ability for a fantastic crispy boy is Old First Ward. Their St Patrick Pilsner and Helles Lager both blew me away this year. I also had so many good ones from non-local breweries I discovered these past couple years including Saurez, Threes, Wild East, Hunan Robot, Drowned Lands and Schilling to name a few. But the one that stands above the rest is from the biggest name of them all…Hill Farmstead. Poetica is Czech Pilsner at 4.8% and I crushed a 32oz growler without any trouble.
My next favorite style, which is too high in alcohol and cost to enjoy on the daily, is a high ABV stout, usually with adjuncts and/or barrel aged. Locally I have a few. First off was this year’s Thanksgiving-eve stout release of Aqueduct at Big Ditch. 5 different barrel aged stouts…1 base and 4 variants. Hands down the base was my favorite and one of the best ever BA stouts to come out of Buffalo. Thin Man has a great barrel program and we got to take advantage of it for 2022’s CollaBEERation Festival by blending 4 different barrels and adjuncting it with toasted hazelnuts and vanilla. The other standout from Thin Man was Soft Black Stars – no adjuncts and sat in barrels for 22 months. The result was a very, very tasty BA stout. As for non-local, thanks to some friends I get the chance to try some insanely good out of town stouts. Picking the best is impossible so I’ll mention a few standouts. Angry Chair Double Barrel Fionn or Barrel Aged German Chocolate Cupcake, Veil Starve B, Side Project Beer: Barrel:Time and Horus Maple Maple Distraction.
Lastly are all others. Barleywine is a favorite of mine and while I wish we saw more barleywines I had a couple standouts this year. Standouts were the 2022 box set from Anchorage including 3 different variants of their Deal With the Devil. And Side Project Continuance. Eli Fish made a fantastic BA Heavy Maple Scotch Ale – they do a very good job with their barrel program and this one stood out. My favorite seasonal beer is Oktoberfest and two new great breweries BriarBrothers and Autark came together to make AuktoBrofest, which may have been my favorite local marzen this year. Meads have become a norm at our shares and I had a few that blew me away. Pye Road Blood of Knights, Schramms Bramble + and Pips Amalgamation. And while sours aren’t really my thing, Frequentem has been killing it in 2022 and they do a series Not From Concentrate, which is considered a Sour IPA, but it drinks far too smooth and the Cara Cara Orange, Lime and Grapefruit was absolutely fantastic.”
Paul Marko, Buffalo Beer Geeks/Download Design: Favorite “local” beers of 2022 – Autark Whispy Hibiscy Pale Wheat, Brickyard Sindaco Italian Pilsner, BriarBrothers Brewing Agora Brown Ale, Lucky Hare Wild Hare Kriek, Noble Shepherd Champagne Saison, Strangebird Pharaohs Demise Belgian Golden, Big Ditch Blossom Street Barrel Aged Helles, Thin Man Blendatron Stout and Thin Man Ex-Cowboy Saison.
The other beers of NYS note were a barrel aged pumpkin beer from Prison City, “Pumpkin Escobar,” and all the latest mixed fermentation series from Suarez, “Summer Woah.”
Here’s to another great year of craft beer in 2023.
Brian Campbell is co-founder and Brand Manager of the Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), and Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague).