by Erik Wollschlager
People were really upset about the name,” says Jason Havens, one-third of the brains and brawn behind Rusty Nickel Brewing Company. “They said it was too close to Rusty Chain—we talked to Tim [Herzog, of Flying Bison Brewing] and he was fine with it. The best, though, are the people who tell us that nickels can’t rust. We know. That’s the joke.”
The newest Buffalo Brewery to ‘unofficially’ open its doors is no joke, however. Jason, along with partners Scott Fiege and Dave Johnson (who is an award-winning brewer of beer and cider), has developed an old day-care building into something truly amazing. On approach, the building is warm and the exterior calls to mind a large country shed—maybe the type of barn where hay may be stacked to the sides and bluegrass would play for the reeling dancers. The interior is as comfortable as the exterior, with reclaimed pallets decorating the walls. Displayed above the pallet-planked walls are ghosts of Buffalo brewing past; serving trays and wooden cases bearing the names of those who came before us.
It was a Monday evening when I happened upon the West Seneca haven. I walked into the barroom where Rusty Nickel’s unique creations are poured in pints and goblets, and was greeted by Scott and a few other people who had gathered around the bar, each flanked by a large glass pitcher of pretzels. Much to my surprise, a friend was elbowed up to the oak, so I chose a spot next to her and got the scoop. She introduced me to Scott, and we chatted about RNBC, their great beers, and what they have in store for the people of Buffalo.
On tap that evening, they had Not Yo Grandpa’s Cream Ale, Chai Tea Milk Stout, Ebenezer IPA (which is also available on tap at Ebenezer Ale House, which shares a parking lot with Rusty Nickel), the Oatmeal Cookie Ale, and the Slice O’ Havens Imperial Cream Ale. I ordered up a flight and prepared myself for the one-of-a-kind flavors that the names betrayed. If you find yourself at Rusty Nickel, heed my advice—the Oatmeal Cookie, Chai Tea Milk Stout and Slice O’ Havens are unlike anything available in Buffalo right now. They are beyond worthy of your taste, though, the Oatmeal Cookie and Slice weigh in at over 10 percent alcohol by volume, so sip carefully.
As I sipped on the flight, Scott, Jenn and I workshopped some beer names. Obviously, Slice is named for Jason, and I suggested Red Beer’d, in honor of Dave, the bearded brewmaster. Jenn thought they should brew a Scotty Too Hottie for Scott. “Funny you should say that. We already have one,” Jay said, as he disappeared for a moment. He came back with a Bell jar of deep brown liquid. “This is our Scotty Too Hottie. Unfermented wort from our Milk Chai Stout, warmed and constituted with a bit of whiskey.” The drink was sweet and it seemed like it could be the ruin of many a Rusty Nickel visitor.
Following our heated treat, we wandered into the brewhouse where Dave was hard at work, kegging batches of fermented brews ready to be enjoyed by the public. While we were back where the magic happened, we talked about what was still to come for Rusty Nickel. Right now, they’re knee deep in their CrowdBrewed funding campaign(crowdbrewed.com/rewards/RustyNickel) that culminates on April 1st, 2015. The boys have set up some great prizes, so join in the fun and give them a hand! While the doors are open limited hours at Rusty Nickel, Jay, Scott and Dave confess that there is still a lot of work to do. They intend to have their full grand opening in May. For now, there are several tables in the bar area, with additional seating outside on the patio to enjoy those ‘warm’ Buffalo spring evenings. It was mentioned that once the construction is complete, the brewery will offer a small menu, as well as expanded food selections from Ebenezer Ale House. Thankfully, the spring is loaded with reasons for celebration, and their facebook page is updated regularly with events—often in conjunction with Ebenezer. The parking lot gets full quickly, so be sure to come early and lock down your spot.
It’s been a long time coming for Jay, Scott, and Dave. They’ve been hard at work for over a year and they seem pleased with the progress so far. I have to say, at first glance, their hard work is incredibly evident. Buffalo is very lucky to be home to some really amazing beer, and Rusty Nickel is more than just a notch in the ever-expanding Rust Belt. “I’m excited for what it is,” says Jason, with a far away look in his eye, “But I’m even more excited for what it will be.”