by Erik Wollschlager

In the 90s, the business of beer had become quite stagnant. Big Beer ruled the day, and while many in the Western New York area were loyal to Genesee Brewing, still more were shackled to the aluminum lure of conglomerates like Anheusher-Busch. Those who strayed from these American standards reached across the border for Labatt or Molson, but all of these choices had one thing in common—they were adjunct beers at best; little more than fermented corn sugar and water. The focus of these breweries was profitable mass production. The goal was to make as much beer as cheaply as possible, and ignoring important characteristics of beer, such as…well…taste.

Thankfully for the city of Buffalo, Tim Herzog (along with his signature mustache) recognized that there was more to beer than mass production. He conceived of the Flying Bison Brewing Company, and set about opening the city’s first standalone brewery since 1972. By the turn of the millennium, Tim and Flying Bison were brewing barrel after barrel of beer, with a commitment to quality ingredients and…well…taste.

Fast forward to the present, and Flying Bison has grown with the city. The brewery’s new digs down on Seneca Street have been big news, with the move coming at the forefront of a reconstitution of the area. Named the Honorary Mayor of Larkinville, Tim and his crew at Flying Bison continue to be committed to quality, but aren’t resting on their laurels as they move past their recent fifteenth anniversary. Recently, Flying Bison doubled down on their green initiatives, coming together with Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER and releasing a delicious Belgian Pale Ale, with proceeds benefitting the environmentally minded group. Down By The River is sold in four-packs at local grocers and beverage centers. The notably recycled carton bears Tim’s mustache on the packaging, so it should be easy to spot.

Flying Bison has been a long-time friend of the community, working with local manufacturers whenever possible. Their love for the city of Buffalo is not restricted to the environment alone—the brewery has a knack for incorporating their love for the community in their beers. One of Flying Bison’s signature beers, Rusty Chain, is a Vienna-style lager, which was brewed in order to help local non-profits raise money for green initiatives—city-wide bicycle parking, for example. With the city’s bicyclists covered, Flying Bison turned their attention to the region’s runners, and released Mile 27 Pilsner in mid-May. Just in time to be the exclusive beer of the Buffalo Marathon, Mile 27 enjoyed limited distribution in the week leading up to the race. Tim himself was on hand to pour pitchers of the tasty pils for the exhausted runners who dragged themselves up the stairs into the Convention Center downtown. “Take two—they’re buy one, get one free,” he teased as the thirsty athletes double-fisted their golden prize. Mile 27 was a great upgrade from the standard post-race beer, and it was much-appreciated by race-goers and cheerers-on alike.

Aside from brewing great beer with the environment and the community in mind, Flying Bison knows how to throw a party—which is one of the reasons the brewery fits in so well at its new Larkinville home. The perpetual parade of live bands and food trucks has made the area one of the most fun places to be on any given day, and Flying Bison has certainly contributed. The popularity of Food Truck Tuesday has exploded beyond Larkin Square, and so Tim has offered his parking lot to the purveyors of street eats. Flying Bison will be open 4-8 for a special happy hour, and will host Pizza Amore, 716 Club House, Roaming Buffalo, and Sweet Melodys Gelato. One could certainly spend the summer trying some amazing food and beer combinations. Be sure you share your suggestions with us!

It is incredible that after fifteen years, Flying Bison remains one of Buffalo’s most innovative breweries. The city as a whole has certainly benefitted from Tim Herzog’s commitment to the craft—so many of the local breweries we all know and love may not have gotten off of the ground without footsteps to follow, and Flying Bison trod that unmarked territory into a well-worn path. Whether they’re finding a way to help the environment, or give back to the community, one thing is certain—great beer will always be the engine that drives this city forward. Here’s to fifteen more years of success for Buffalo’s favorite mustachioed master of brews.