by Erik Wollschlager
Buffalo is back in a big way, and the best indicator may be the triumphant return of our hallmarks: food and beer. Much has been written about the surging beer production that has returned to the city in the last five years, but it must be said that along with beer, food in Buffalo has never been better. When these two things come together, it is as though a choir of angels has come together to provide the delicious soundtrack to your day. It is a perfect marriage of everything good in life, and thankfully, the amazing combinations seem limitless.
The local breweries have been hard at work perfecting their recipes, and just in time for Buffalo’s favorite food festivities these golden heat-beaters are hitting the shelves. It seems like every big brewer in the US and Canada has their version of shandy or radler which is a mix of “beer” and “fruit juice.” Local brewers have heard your call and have produced some amazing and delicious responses to the demand. While chowing down your favorite BBQ at any of the great festivals coming up, try sipping on OFW’s Mango Hefe or Big Ditch’s Blonde Peach. Neither is really a radler, but the fruit-forward flavors of both go great with anything smoked, and would make an excellent base for some homemade sauce to slather on your next pork shoulder.
When the charcoal is rolling and waves of heat are rising from the grates, the surface is just BEGGING for a burger. The flames whisper, “burger me, please” and when you lay down that first patty, the grill sizzles with excitement. Once seared and smeared with your favorite toppings, the next big question is what to drink. Buffalo has some great IPAs, and few things go better with the classic American burger—the sharp, bitter hops meet the rich, fatty meat and perform a joyful dance on your tongue. That IPA from Community Beer Works (or pretty much any of their Singularity IPAs) will go great with your greasy treat. If you forego the beef for lamb, try some of Buffalo’s Belgian inspirations; Resurgence Brewing’s Summer Saison or Loganberry Wit, or even Hamburg Brewing Company’s Small Town will pair well.
Given the rich agricultural heritage of Western New York, one needs not travel far to gather a veritable harvest of fresh vegetables. Farmers’ Markets are popping up in seemingly every township, and with many lifestyles forsaking meat in the name of greener pastures, one may find themselves with a grill full of colorful crisp vegetables. Thankfully, Buffalo beer has the perfect pair for this, as well. Grilling vegetables brings forth the sweetness by carmelizing the sugars. Vienna-style lagers, like Flying Bison’s Rusty Chain, balance sweetness with bitterness and go great with grilled greens. Also try Pearl Street’s Trainwreck for a nice, surprising full flavored pair. If you’re cooking up your marinated portabello cap for dinner, experts say a smoked porter pairs nicely. Give Woodcock Brothers Porter a pour. You won’t be disappointed.
Finally, your favorite and mine—dessert. Ice cream. Pie. Ice cream AND pie. And frosty, frothy beer. Rusty Nickel’s Vanilla Chai Tea Milk Stout is a dessert in and of itself, but the creamy, rich beer would make an amazing float, and would compliment your slice of peach pie very nicely. One would be remiss to ignore the fantastic beers brewed just south of here. Any of Southern Tier’s Blackwater series would enhance your dessert experience, and Ellicottville Brewing’s Nut Brown Ale has the chocolate flavors to accompany dessert, with a bit of hop to cut the sweetness.
Thanks to unseasonably warm weather, Buffalo has seemed to skip spring and go straight to summer. One might lament the limited season of tulips and daffodils, but there is no denying that there are few beers better than a beer in the summer. We’ve cast off the warm, heavy stouts and porters that have gotten us through the winter, and turned our attention to light, crisp beers that cut the through the heat and deliver a chill to the soul. When the sun is beating down and everything around you seems to be melting, nothing is better than the first gulp of a good, cold beer. Double your pleasure, and grab some BBQ take-out from your favorite joint.
Summer doesn’t last long, so be sure get started now. The best things don’t come to those who wait. The best things come to those who know that food, beer, and Buffalo make a great summer. If you’re looking for some inspiration, or a great way to kickstart your food and beer season, don’t forget about Buffalo Brewer’s Festival at Canalside on Saturday, June 20th. This festival has a farm to table angle featuring all manner of pairings of local farms, restaurants, food trucks and lots and lots of local brew. It’s presented by the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Association. See website for more info: BuffaloBrewersFestival.com.