by Scott Russell
Poised aside Tonawanda Creek on Transit Road just north of the county line is a colossal two story brick new build that seemingly leapt from the pages of a gothic comic. The 17,000 square foot gastropub, taproom and brewery is home to New York Beer Project, western New York’s latest entrant to the ever growing local craft brewing scene. A faux-weathered welcome message painted on the façade promises “Good times, Good Beer, Good Friends” to the many well-wishers waiting in queue to welcome the opening of Lockport’s first brewery since prohibition. The doors opened last Thursday (11/19), as the giant color cycling neon clock over the front entrance struck five o’clock.
Once inside it became clear that the space was deftly designed and every detail filling it had been well thought through for form and function. The overall feel is industrial rustic steampunk, with warmly colored floors and walls beautifully lit with Edison style bulbs and accented with the occasional greenery. Tables and chairs are crafted of richly finished wood supported by wrought iron bases. I managed to grab one of the few remaining seats at the large main bar and took in my surroundings with a cold pint. With brewery operations not yet in full swing, NYBP is serving up local beers from the likes of Woodcock Brothers, Resurgence, Flying Bison, Community Beer Works, and Big Ditch.
The cavernous main room features a large and well-appointed U-shaped bar surrounded by café seating and an outer ring of dining tables and booths. A large chandelier modeled after those illuminating Grand Central Terminal hovers over the bar as a striking visual centerpiece.
I grabbed my beer and made my way through a short hallway to find the brewery taproom with a lengthy bar, café seating, tables with benches, and an overhead door that will open to a patio on nicer days. Just beyond the bar is the shiny and squeaky clean 5,000 square foot brewery featuring a 15 barrel brewhouse, a 3.5 barrel pilot brewhouse, and a range of fermenters which promise to deliver tasty brews early next year. Here I found lead brewers Jared Lewinski and Jason Crossett, both Brewmaster graduates of Niagara College, with Jared having plied the trade at Silversmith in Niagara, Modern Times in San Diego, and Weyerbacher in Easton, Pennsylvania. Jared and Jason showed me around as we talked about NYBP’s offerings. The flagship five will include “Lockport Lager,” a traditional pilsener at 4.5 ABV, “Destination,” a west coast style IPA, “Train of Thought,” a hoppy amber, “Buckleberry Wheat,” an American fruit wheat beer, and “CMS,” a coffee milk stout that will be offered as a nitro pour.
“We also plan to brew seasonals, specialty one-offs and we’re especially excited to be talking to other breweries about doing some collaborative brews” explained Crossett.
Lewinski then added, “We’ll also be barreling sour ales that will be traditionally served with our house-made flavored syrups to balance the tartness.”
I asked Lewinski about plans for an all local farm-to-pint beer. “Absolutely, we’d love to brew an F2P and are already working with local producers of hops and specialty malt like Climbing Bines and Niagara Malt.”
The brewmasters then introduced me to owners Kevin and Kelly Krupski, who seemed remarkably calm for a packed restaurant on opening night. “Our staff really came together well and are all doing a great job,” said Kevin Krupski.
They showed me around the expansive upper level spaces which are configurable for banquets, private functions or general use when not needed for brewery operations. Kelly Krupski spoke passionately about how the “project” was not just a brewery, but a family friendly, community centric business that proudly supports many local businesses. We stepped out to the upper deck overlooking Tonawanda Creek and doubling as a roof for the patio below, where they point out where they plan live music and gardens by the creek. It’s not hard to imagine how lively it will be next Spring and Summer.
I returned to the taproom and looked over their menu, presented as loose pages on a clipboard. I see New York City features prominently here as well with styles and names that evoke the Big Apple: Sullivan Street pulled pork, Bronx Bombers sliders, and Soho Tacos. Each of these are ten bucks or less and come three up on the plate as sharable dishes, or “food to fight over” as their menu suggests. Modestly priced rotisserie chicken, burgers, pizza, mac and cheese, and a good mix of other items are also available.
I enjoyed my “Port Authority” pizza and another pint, both delicious, while contemplating my next visit.
New York Beer Project is located at 6933 South Transit Rd., Lockport and online at nybeerproject.com