by Erik Wollschlager
When I first ran into John Domres, Jr. of Buffalo Brewing Company last autumn, he was knee deep in his Kickstarter crowd funding campaign. Thankfully for Domres, his family, and the city of Buffalo, the newest nano to begin construction came out on the other side with everything they’d hoped for, and then some—the city of Buffalo had come up big in Buffalo Brewing’s holiday campaign. The generosity was great, and wasn’t from the average bearded, flannelled craft beer drinker. “The most surprising thing was that the people who gave the most were from the generation before us.” While the brewery had the support of the citizens of Buffalo, the weather didn’t necessarily cooperate, and the harsh Buffalo winter all but put a hold on renovations at the Myrtle Avenue brewery. “The harsh winter slowed things down a bit, but we’re back at it. I submitted plans to the city and they’ve come back with some plumbing suggestions. We’re hoping to start construction in the middle of May, and to complete it by the end of June.”
Construction isn’t the end of it all, though. There are a lot of things that Domres and his family must do before opening their doors to the public. It’s a labor of love, though, and his passion is evident from the moment he begins to talk about what he calls his ‘beer baby.’ “I’ve named my brewery as a tribute to the history of Buffalo brewing. My wife drew the logo by hand with the same heritage in mind. I’m one person starting a business with his family. I can’t think of anything more Buffalo than that.”
He’s right, too. The City of Buffalo has been the belle of travel blogs all over the country, and the burgeoning brewers have a lot to do with that. Beer is so deeply tied to Buffalo’s history that it is a wonder that the canal itself isn’t golden and hopped to perfection. The grain silos, the malthouses—for decades, Buffalo was synonymous with beer; the city loved beer and beer loved the city. At the time, the canal provided an excellent means of transportation for all of the ingredients needed. In 2015, there is a distinct focus on local access—the business whose product contains the most local ingredients is of the utmost interest. Buffalo brewing has that covered, with plans for an onsite garden. “We’ll have raspberries, grapes, and herbs—we may even do an herb series similar to CBW’s Singularity series.” The Singularity Series are IPAs brewed with the same recipe—the same malt and the same hops—but each batch features the characteristics of just one hop. The idea is to do something similar, only his recipes would feature a different herb each time.
Completion of construction, opening the taproom, recipes; these are all short term goals that Domres hopes to reach by the end of the year. He understands that the viability of Buffalo Brewing is tied to the long term. “I’ve spent a long time planning, to be certain we’re stable for the long haul.” Staying power is, of course, every business’s hope, but Domres intends for a more concrete measure of the strength of his business. “I want to be known as the guy that makes the best beer in Buffalo.” A lofty goal, for certain, but as more breweries open in the city and its surrounding areas, competition gets stiffer. For most, the competition is friendly, and driven by the quest for the holiest grail—a chalice brimming with the perfect beer. Each new brewery brings new ideas, new flavors, new recipes, and new opportunities for collaboration. Buffalo, right now, is a brewer’s playground, and as the local brewmasters swing and slide around their brewhouses, we sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Domres and I drained our pints of OFW’s finest (myself, the Hopster, and he, the Oatmeal Stout) and left our stools at Gene McCarthy’s to check out the brewery. I followed him to a humble warehouse not far from the First Ward and we ran through heavy rain to get inside. Once there, he started mapping the layout for me in prideful points and arms-length measurements. At first glance, it seems impossible, for there is a lot of work to be done. As with anything, though; a labor of love—a labor of passion—is never impossible.
As we left the building and parted ways, it struck me how very Buffalo this whole thing is. John’s just a guy, and we spent as much time talking about sports and families as we did brewing and breweries. We could have spoken that way for hours, because that’s what Buffalonians do – the City of Good Neighbors; and that’s what Buffalo Brewing is. Good Neighbors, Great Beer.