A trip to RiverWorks is more than grabbing a house brewed beer, no matter what your intentions. While you might try to stick to a beer and some food, you will ultimately find yourself distracted, wandering through fields of kayaks or Motopeds. Earlier today I came down to RiverWorks to discuss a potential exciting plan for the site, and to have a beer with co-owner Earl Ketry.
As we waited for others to arrive to the meeting, Ketry talked about his new zip-lining course (soon to be underway). I have to hand it to the guy – he’s a true visionary for Buffalo. Not only is he getting ready to launch his newest fun-loving, venturesome idea, he’s incorporating an aspect that speaks worlds of his character. While most people know “Earl” as a rough and tumble businessman (he’s a former steel worker), Ketry has a softer side.
According to Ketry, the new zip-lining course will be the first in NYS to incorporate a zip track with two lines, designed to accommodate para and quadriplegic people and their companions. A while back, Ketry ran into a young person who was in a wheelchair. After meeting this particular person, Ketry went back to the zip-line drawing board. He told me that he wanted everybody to experience the thrills of zip-lining, even if it meant that he had to alter his original plans. How cool is that?
After the meeting with Ketry, I got sidetracked by Chris Herr, who is the head brewer for three of Ketry’s property interests – Pearl Street, Lafayette Hotel, and RiverWorks.
Herr and I sat down over a drink, to talk about the brewing success story at RiverWorks.
“No one in the world is doing this,” said Herr. “Not only the brewing in a silo, but the distribution center – 96 beer pumps that get the beer to all of the bars in restaurants at RiverWorks. At this point, I’m running three breweries. I’ve mitigated challenges at RiverWorks – there are some serious cooling issues… in the summer the silos are 101 degrees – there are three tanks.
“Two are at boiling, and one is at 170 (mash temp) it gets hot. I’ve lost 15 pounds so far. We thought that the concrete might keep the place cool. That didn’t happen. This place was 16 months in the building – nothing else is like it – it was ambitious. We sell 8-10 thousand pints a week at RiverWorks. We have 32 beers on draft between all three locations.”
What is most interesting about Herr is that he set out in life to be a recording engineer. Then he got into home brewing. At one point, he reached out to Pearl Street Brewing (one of the only brewing games in town at the time) and asked if he could pick their brain. When he showed up to the brewery, they told him that the assistant brewer had just quit. Before he knew it he was the assistant brewer, and the rest is history.
The business of brewing is a big deal for these guys. Not only does it keep beer lovers coming back time and time again, it affords the venue to do all sorts of inspirational projects. And it doesn’t stop at zip-lining. Incredibly, there are plans for an observation deck in the “Bin House” at the top of the Six Pack, that will second as a tasting room!
So there you have it – a little bit of zip-lining, and numerous other adventurous ideas a brewin’. Oh… and did I mention silo climbing? The fun just never ends at RiverWorks.