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Ready to Drop – Pressure Drop Brewing

The Old First Ward is landing another micro brewery. Head Brewer/CEO Karl Kolbe and Lexi Craine/COO are in process of getting a 15 barrel system up and running. Until recently, Karl was living in California (for 13 years), where he was working for a large brewery, while brewing his own beer on the side. Like a lot of other brewing enthusiasts, one day he got the bug to start his own commercial operation.

At first, he began to look around for a site in Cali. “My buddy and I were looking around for a good location,” said Karl. “But nothing fit our needs. Being from Buffalo, one day I was reading Buffalo Rising, and I came across an article on The Barrel Factory – they were looking for another tenant, and the space was exactly what we were looking for. My cousin Lexi was in Buffalo, so she went over for a reconnaissance mission and liked what she saw. So I reached out to co-owner Steve Bystran and we talked on the phone for three hours. After that, my buddy (Lexi’s brother, now investor, living in San Diego) and I flew to Buffalo.”

It turned out the The Barrel Factory was exactly what they were looking for. There was plenty of space for tanks, daylighting, historic bones, and a plethora of other businesses to work with. “Our beers will be featured at the Lakeward Spirits tasting room and bar, right next door,” Karl added. “We’re in talks with local distributors and outlets as well. In the meantime, we will be offering our beer here in the building, and doing tap takeovers around town. I recently did a brewing collaborative with Old First Ward Brewing Company, at their facility right down the street. It was great to work on a similar system – the brewery where I was working out west was huge – it was a lot of fun teaming up with a craft brewer in the area. We’re calling the beer Knee Socks (brewers will know why). It’s going to be available at Gene McCarthy’s in a couple of weeks. There’s a great brew scene around here. The beer community all gets along, and everyone is so helpful. Brewing beer is way too much fun.”

Signage by Chris Kameck

Karl and Lexi are gearing up for production to begin at the beginning of November, with the first batch being released at the end of that same month. Their capacity right of the bat is 40 thousand pints every two weeks. “I’ve got 40 serious recipes that I’ll be working with. We’re ready to come out swinging with IPAs (especially the bigger IPAs), pale blonde ales, and then some lighter offerings. We’ll have porters and stouts (session range), and a nice oatmeal stout (4.2% range) that will be a great winter beer that you can drink all day. It’s a perfect football beer. I’m also excited to collaborate with Adam Bystran – head distiller at Lakeward Spirits. I’m going to take his spent barrel aging rum barrels to age some of our beer, probably an imperial stout (10%) that I will age for six months. The beer will soak up all of the character from the barrels, adding the spirit and spice flavor.”

Talking to Karl, his enthusiasm for brewing was catchy. He talked about a new day for brewing, where indie brewers were bringing back old beer traditions, such as Belgian style table beers that died out years ago. Now they’re coming back, and it’s the small brewers that are leading the way. Karl also told me that he’s hoping to team up with a new winery that is preparing to open in The Barrel Factory building – Leonard Oakes. The winery will also be producing and serving up hard cider (more on that soon).

“This is three years in the making,” said Karl. “We’re in the mood to make some beer! At any given time, we will have eight tap handles here at The Barrel Factory. We’re also going to be featured at Buffalo’s Best Cucina (restaurant and catering), which will be opening in the building. We’re going to hit the ground running. It’s crazy to think that our equipment just landed in August – the timeline is incredible. But every small batch that we have brewed over the years we always took into consideration how to scale it. That has helped out a lot. We’ve been in recipe development for years. We’ve also been developing flavors that will be perfect for the Buffalo consumer. We’re lucky to be part of a great team. We’re so excited to be brewing in Buffalo. We owe so much to those who came before us, especially Im Herzog at Flying Bison. He was the one that set out to tell people that they should be drinking beer from places where they could actually shake the brewmaster’s hand. If it wasn’t for Tim, and all of the work that he did to fight for craft brewing in NY State, we would be opening in California instead of Buffalo.

Lead image: Karl, Lexi and Joe Strummer

Pressure Drop Brewing | The Barrel Factory | 65 Vandalia Street corner of Republic Street (free parking in back) | Facebook

Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is ‘queenseyes’ – Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world’s largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer |

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  • James Perry

    Congratulations Karl on your endeavor! I am a Buffalo native and resident of San Diego for many years. If you are trained in the arts of San Diego (west coast style) beers, then you will take that side of the country by storm… Can’t wait to try a west coast IPA + all other creations when i’m in Buffalo over thanksgiving. Sitting at Abnormal Brewing as i read your amazing story. Make me some Nelson by Alpine! All the best! James.

  • OldFirstWard

    I was looking at some Pumpkin stout and ale at Wegmans recently. I had the urge to try some until I looked at the price sign. Bottles selling for nearly $8 each and four packs of smaller bottles going for $14. I won’t pay those prices and neither are a lot of others. I might not like it after a sip and end up pouring it down the drain. The craft beer prices are ridiculous. Besides, Jack Daniels bottles of spiked lemonade are only $1 or a bottle wine can be had for less than the beers.

    • RayFinkle

      ever better you can get a st Ides mix brew at the local gas station for only $1.25 or even a Zima bottle for a buck in the consumer bargain bin ! “eye roll”

    • TV62

      Wegmans proofs everyone, even when the person is obviously well over 21 years of age. It is ridiculous. Tops employees have to ask for I.D. too. Some places even scan the license. My 77-year old father-in-law had to show his driver license. I never buy beer at those places anymore.

      • Johnny Pizza

        Ah you’re that guy.

    • eagercolin

      Sometimes beer is expensive — alert the media!

    • JC

      Crap…… guess we better shut all the craft breweries down, now that Jack Daniels hard lemonade has a strangle hold on the market.

    • Cvepo

      And some bottles of wine cost well into the triple digits. What’s your point?

      • OldFirstWard

        Let’s see…did I say that craft beer prices are ridiculous? I certainly did.

    • Matt Marcinkiewicz

      Get Southern Tier Pumking, either a single 22/24 oz. bottle or the 4 pack, and if you feel the urge to pour it down the drain after one sip, let me know and I will risk incurring whatever diseases you may harbor in order to save the remaining product from an undeserved fate circling a drain somewhere in close proximity to The Barrel Factory.

    • Matt Gracie

      You could always just throw a fistful of candy corn into a schooner of Genny.

  • OldFirstWard

    I’m curious how rival brewers a block away from each other can collaborate on selling beer. It would seem to me that the costs of the initial investment in equipment and supplies would not be very conducive to selling a competitors product alongside yours especially if theirs turns out to be the better product. Unless, of course, one has a financial stake in the other.

    Kind of like Mr. Pizza selling La Nova slices in their pizzeria. In the end, everyone is in business to make money for their business.

    • Matt Marcinkiewicz

      I never go to the OFW to drink (even though a guy I play trivia with at Founding Fathers every month has lobbied on behalf of Gene McCarthy’s/Old First Ward Brewing on multiple occasions pretty convincingly). But if this becomes a ‘craft beer district’ of sorts then I’ll probably be there, going to both of them. I speak for myself only but I don’t think I really do.

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    brewery, winery, and distillery all in the same building? Looks like I’m going to be heading to the OFW for the first time since I ran the Shamrock Run with my dad back in the early aughts

    • Matt Marcinkiewicz

      …this is an exaggeration, but not by much

  • Matt Marcinkiewicz

    Also worth noting is that his dog is apparently named Joe Strummer. This guy seems pretty cool