SATO Brewpub, a Japanese brewery serving Belgian-inspired beers out of a former concert venue in a basement on Pearl Street, was a testament to the diversity and creativity of the Western New York craft beer scene. Sadly, the unique brewery and eatery closed their doors on May 7, the latest victim of the pandemic.
Owners Josh and Satomi Smith said that closing he brewpub was the right thing to do and that this was the best way to continue bringing their Japanese food and drinks to the area. Their other locations, SATO on Elmwood and Sato Ramen on Main St., will remain open.
“Being a small family-owned business in these current conditions we believe this is the move we need to make in order to continue to be able to bring our Japanese food and drinks to Buffalo,” they said in a statement. “We truly appreciate all of the staff who have helped us over the years. Together we brought a new experience to the area, authentic Japanese food, and unique craft beers.”
It’s always sad news to report when a local business closes their doors, especially one in the craft beer realm. SATO Brewpub was a place I spent a lot of time at. Like, a lot. When they first opened their doors back in 2016, I was working down on the waterfront and spent many a lunch and happy hour sitting at their bar drinking their latest brews. During the workweek, I could often be found drinking one of their excellent Samurai IPA’s (we’ll never forget you Urban Samurai) or a Shimbo Rice Lager in the middle of the day while watching Sportscenter and chatting beer with former head brewer Drew Hardin.
While SATO might best be known for introducing the glitter beer craze to Western New York, they were also responsible for creating a number of other delicious liquids. Quat Life?, Citrus Maxima IPA, a collaboration with Old First Ward Brewing, Mortys Killing Mortys IPA, a collaboration with Pressure Drop Brewing, Ronin IPA and J-Pop: Hand Me Down Mom Fruited Sour are prime examples.
Speaking of glitter beer, covering that beer release was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in Buffalo beer, not to mention one of the craziest release parties I’ve ever been to. The Brewnicorn, SATO’s Keichitsu IPA (named for a Japanese micro-season that loosely translates to ‘the coming out of worms’) with glitter, was just one example of SATO’s willingness to take chances with their beer, which is something I always admired about them. They were one of the first breweries locally to brew a Brut IPA, then fruit it (Sato Brut Berry Yeet and Tom Brüz) and also concocted an ‘Easter Stout’ with chocolate creme eggs (Bawk’ Bawk’ Bawk’) and an IPA with fish (Sofishticsted IPA). And that’s just to name a few.
If you were never there, SATO Brewpub was about as unique a space as you’ll find. Hopefully another brewery will recognize its charm. But that’s neither here nor there.
SATO was always a place I looked forward to grabbing a beer at and a place I won’t soon forget. To Josh and Satomi, thank you for creating a space for me to make these memories, and to Drew, Justin, Evan and the entire SATO Brewpub brewing team, thank you for all the beers. I won’t forget those either.
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).