The brewery that put Buffalo back on the map for craft beer is heading for a growth spurt. Community Beer Works (CBW) is in the process of working out a deal that will see the brewery occupying a building parcel at 518 7th Street – a low profile utilitarian structure attached to a massive historic beauty in close proximity to Porter and Niagara. This is a big deal for CBW, in that the brewery will be able to increase its production to accommodate a growing demand for its beers.
I spoke to Ethan Cox, co-owner of CBW, who told me that the painful search for the perfect space is finally over. As of late, CBW has been hampered by the constraints of not being able to produce enough beer for its customers. Obviously, the need for a larger building was a necessity, but finding the perfect spot became a bit of a headache. So much so, that the CBW partners almost gave up searching… until a couple of ideal locations presented themselves, one of which was the 7th Street parcel.
In order for the stars to align for this development, a few things had to happen. First, the building needed to be purchased by a developer. That happened when Giles Kavanagh teamed up with Roger Trettel. Both of the real estate players understood that if they could attract an anchor tenant such as CBW into the “garage” portion of the complex, that the larger historic building would then be much more viable. Giles and Roger had previously shown a couple of other properties to CBW (respectively), but nothing panned out. It just so happened, that by partnering on purchasing the perfect space for CBW, they landed a killer historic building that they can now play around with.
As for the history of the corner, Ethan told me that structure was once a malting house (circa 1888), before it transitioned into a chocolate company. It’s last use was that of a ministry. Fortunately, the ministry took incredible care of the structure, and now (thankfully) Buffalo has a golden opportunity presented. There just aren’t a lot of buildings that match the awesome historic nature of this beauty, even though these types of building were once ubiquitous in these parts. The fact that this particular one has stood the test of time is a miracle. As for its future? Who knows. But what I can tell you is that it will be bright. Whether it becomes a boutique hotel, or event space… with CBW as an anchor, the possibilities are endless.
The single-storey building that will one day be the home of CBW is ideal for a brewery and taproom. There are a couple of loading docks, and once parts of the roof are carved out to accommodate the equipment, the brewers will find that they are well prepared to take on the production demand that they are now facing. In the meantime, CBW is doing some contract brewing with Woodcock Brewery in Wilson. Basically, they are leasing space at the brewery in order to accommodate their customers. Ethan explained that the relationship also allows CBW brewers to get accustomed to larger equipment, which they will soon have on 7th Street. Along with the low profile building, Ethan is hoping to score some basement space in the larger historic building for barrel storage. “I am also hoping to get a small carve out on the first floor for a brewing museum,” Ethan told me. “We’re so fortunate to have a sympathetic landlord that understands the nature of this relationship. We both bring things to the table here – they are happy to have a tenant that needed this exact sort of space, and the brewery will be a strong anchor for the project. It couldn’t be a better fit. Our meeting before the Zoning Board of Appeals went very well. Once that is set, both parties will be free to go ahead and raise the money that we need. Right now we’re in the process of selecting and architect and design firm.”
Talking to Ethan, it is clear what CBW’s goal is. Rather than looking to sell outward, the mission is to look inward. CBW wants to be “Buffalo’s brewery”. It’s all about brewing the best beer that they can, and getting it into the hands of Buffalonians. “We’re more than a craft brewery,” exclaimed Ethan. “We’re Buffalo’s brewery.” We want to be able to make great beer for the people who live here.”
Another interesting CBW development comes in the form of a can. CBW brewers were involved with a limited edition canning run called Buffalo Brewers Series that was sponsored by Consumers Beverage and Bisons Baseball. CBW joined together with Resurgence Brewery and Big Ditch Brewery to produce a “three pack” of canned beer that will be available at Consumers starting next week. 4300 “three packs” will be available, each containing a beer from each brewery. In order to accomplish the feat, Big Ditch offered up its brewery to CBW to get their beers brewed.
As for their current location, that will most likely still be dedicated to brewing purposes. “Maybe [we’ll] make it SourBeerLand to start, so we don’t have to give much worry to a brewery-wide infection in the big brewery,” Ethan suggested. “We will most like be brewing custom batches at that location, as well.”
Moving forward, we can expect a lot of new developments coming from CBW. The new brewery and taproom will, once again, help to elevate the brewery movement in Buffalo. It will also allow CBW to come up with some big surprises down the road. Say, for example, if CBW had a hand in reviving some brewery history? That’s all that I can say for right now. But expect some big brewing news to come from this growing Buffalo brewery. It’s been a long time coming… and now we’re going to be making some history.