If you're not familiar with history of brewing in Buffalo, then you're missing out on one of our greatest entrepreneurial pastimes. Once the city was overflowing with breweries, and the area was steeped in the traditions handed down from generation to generation. Post-prohibition did not bode well for breweries in the area, and if the operations were not already closed, they would be soon. The large-scale industry of brewing was good for Buffalo business all around, and many factions of the local economy revolved around brewmasters brewing and customers buying.
Today we see the remnants of old brewing companies and plenty of old Buffalo brewery memorabilia at the local flea markets and antique shops. But we're seeing something else as of late. Slowly but surely, Buffalo's brewing traditions are percolating back up to the surface, thanks to recent urban brewing efforts from Flying Bison, Pearl Street, Community Beer Works, McCarthy's, Pan-American and Big Ditch. If you're not familiar with Big Ditch Brewing Company, it's the latest brewing effort to attempt to make a foray into the world of Greater Buffalo brewers. The personalities behind the micro-beer company are Matt Kahn and Corey Catalano, two zealot hop heads who, in their real world professions, are actually scientists, engineers and chemists.
Matt and Corey have a plan in which they they have already embarked. The plan is to forge ahead and establish a microbrewery starting with beer production of three barrels at a time (or six kegs). While this may not seem like a lot of beer, it's what they need to become established in the craft marketplace. So far the duo has raised 30% of the funding that they will need to get up and operational. They are currently doing the road show that will ultimately allow them to purchase equipment and secure a location in the city.
While the microbrewery is not yet operational, Matt and Corey have been brewing in order to perfect their craft brews. I was fortunate enough to have the two over to my house to test out three of the batches, starting with a brown ale that was flavorful, crisp, smooth and very drinkable. The beer, as with all of their beers, incorporated an unexpected twist - a faint aftertaste of rye. It was decided that the brown ale would be perfectly paired with a steak sandwich from the Old Pink. This was my favorite beer of the tasting.
Next on the list was an apple-cinnamon IPA using apples grown right here in Greater Buffalo. With a hint of brown sugar, oatmeal and raisins, the IPA was exceptional, and although I usually am not a big IPA drinker, I would love to have a growler of this sitting in my fridge on a hot summer's day. Matt and Corey agreed that the beer would go well with a honeysuckle ham. A couple of my friends (all of whom are in the hospitality industry) who were invited along for the tasting couldn't believe their good fortune upon trying this beer.
To wrap it up we all sampled the the German Malt that would send any hop-head to the moon and back. Made for beer geeks, this brew incorporated German smoke malt. The hoppiness lent itself to being paired perfectly with Cajun fish, and the aroma and flavor of this one really signaled Matt and Corey's obsession with the brewing process, and the gift that they share that will allow them to pursue their passion. While I am not a super huge fan of overly hoppy beers, I could appreciate the less-than-subtle punch that this beer packed. In the end, this tasting experience offered a well-rounded and highly-spirited sampling of what we all considered top of the line craft brews.
If you're interested in following the pursuits of Big Ditch (named after the Erie Canal), consider 'liking' them on facebook
or following their blog
. It won't be long before we will be seeing this brand infiltrate our brewing community. In the meantime, if you're in the industry (restaurant, beer, hospitality, etc.) and you would like to reach out to Matt and Corey with potential enterprising relationships, feel free to reach out to them at info@BigDitchBrewing.com