When it comes to brewing as it pertains to Buffalo, Ethan Cox, co-founder of Community Beer Works, is considered the guru. Ethan is the local beer go-to for anyone who has a question about the craft industry, especially how it pertains to this city. Before the advent of Community Beer Works there were certainly some home brewers and of course Flying Bison, but the micro brewery scene was dead. Miraculously, it seems as if today there is a brewery opening on every corner, which, according to Cox mirrors the growth of Buffalo beer in the 1860s. So what does this all mean for Buffalo and its beer lovers?
Well, that is something that you will have to read about in a new book researched by Buffalo historian Michael Rizzo and co-produced by Cox and Rizzo. “When it comes to Buffalo history,” says Cox. “Mike is this city’s premier historian. In this book, we discuss what took place in Buffalo’s brewing industry up until prohibition. From the start of prohibition to the end, the city went from having 18 operating breweries to 6. And those six didn’t make it long. At our peak we had around 37 operating breweries, although many of those were run out of taverns (similar to what we see today at Hydraulic Hearth). For Buffalo, this new brewery movement is a return to normalcy for Buffalonians. Many of us grew up with few beer choices, and what we had access to was not very good (but it was cheap). Now we’re getting back to producing great beers that are made locally, so they are fresher and you’re supporting people in your community when you drink them.”
The book, titled “Buffalo Beer : The History of Brewing in the Nickel City” might be considered the starting point where another book about Buffalo brewing history left off. Author Stephen Powell once published a Buffalo brewing book called Rushing The Growler (no longer in print) that tacked compiling much of the historical data regarding the breweries. That book covered many of the defunct breweries in Buffalo, and was a fascinating and solid read. This new book pulls out the characters from those breweries and goes into great detail in a storytelling manner that will captivate readers who have come to appreciate the brewing history of this city. The book even digs up the dirt on a few very obscure breweries that are relatively unknown to even the most ardent Buffalo brewing historians.
Much of the 144 page softcover book delves into the malting history of Buffalo, which is key because this city was a giant supplier to other city’s throughout the country. Buffalo was, at one point, a malting mecca.
A number of Buffalo brewing historians were interviewed during the making of the book, including Powell and Dave Mik who, according to Cox, “is beyond a shadow of a doubt the expert on Buffalo brewing history.” Mik’s personal breweriana collection is apparently so vast and astounding that it is impossible to take it all in no matter how many times one has paid a visit.
Buffalo Beer : The History of Brewing in the Nickel City contains mostly historical information, but does touch upon the modern day resurgence of the industry. It is Cox’s hope that people get excited about the history of brewing in Buffalo, and learn to appreciate the importance of the industry as it relates to modern day Buffalo. “Larger breweries are now beginning to put out decent beers that are cheaper – some are even buying smaller craft operations,” Cox reminded me. “When you drink a beer that was made around the corner, however, you are supporting your city and getting a fresher beer in the process. We must all make a conscious decision to not just go for the cheap stuff. Buffalo brewing is coming back, and it’s time to tell the stories that helped to lead us to where we are today, and where we are going.”
You can reserve a copy of Buffalo Beer : The History of Brewing in the Nickel City by visiting either one of the local Talking Leaves Bookstores in Buffalo. Preorders are being accepted, with book delivery anticipated on January 12, 2015. Be one of the first to get your hands on this awesome read.
Buffalo Beer : The History of Brewing in the Nickel City | $19.99
16 pages of color plates, and also black and white images throughout (many from the Dave Mik collection)
- Series: American Palate
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: The History Press (January 12, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1626196370
- ISBN-13: 978-1626196377
Available for pre-order at Talking Leaves Bookstore (Main Street, University District & Elmwood @ Bidwell)
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