When I first passed by the original William Kreiner Malting silo (1890) and saw a sign for BriarBrothers Brewing Company, I couldn’t contain my excitement. A new brewery in a historic silo malting house? Where did this come from?
It came from the brewing minds of Joel and Dylan Betti, two brothers who share a passion for brewing, and a passion for Buffalo.
Upon my initial visit to BriarBrothers Brewing Company, I met the brother brewers, who were happy to chat about their new venture. My first question was, “Why isn’t it called BettiBrothers Brewing Company?”
“Growing up, we were extremely close,” said Joel. “People started referring to us at the Betti brothers. We wanted to step away from that, and BriarBrothers is a better name for a brewery. We grew up on Briarwood Drive in West Seneca, so over a bottle of Jameson, we came up with the name.”
Joel and Dylan started home brewing 5 years ago, because they wanted to make some beers that they could proudly drink. Simple enough. Before long, they developed a following of friends and family. Then more and more people began to take notice. They experimented with different styles. They also began consistently hitting the quality marks that they were looking for.
So they began to look for funding, including a successful Kickstarter campaign. It was right before the pandemic that they decided to start looking for locations, which would determine the amount of funding that they would need. It turned out that not only did they find the ultimate brewing location, the pandemic gave them a chance to take their time, which was an unexpected opportunity for the brothers.
“Our grandfather had a motto – ‘Measure twice, cut once,'” Joel told me. “We never rush into anything. The pandemic allowed us to take our time. To do it right. We were able to do more R&D, to create more one-offs, and additional things that we wanted to incorporate that we otherwise would not have been able to do. We also furthered our brewing knowledge. Best of all, we were able to take our time looking for the perfect location.”
Joel said that it was only a matter of moments upon walking into the historic malting silo that their decision was made.
“It’s one of a kind,” he told me. “It felt like it fell out of the sky and into our hands. We had been looking for locations from Tonawanda to the waterfront. This silo allows up to pay respect to the brewery and the beer scene. We were surprised that the place hadn’t been discovered yet – it was just begging for a brewery to come in.”
Beer and history lovers will be happy to find a number of original malting house elements remain in the silo. There are grain conveyor belts along counters, and lit grain augers behind the bar.
“And when do you get to see a historic silo when sitting on the patio?” Joel asked. “People sit at the bar and ask about the augers. We love telling them about the history of the building. We will gladly tell the stories thousands of times – it never gets old.”
I asked Joel how difficult it was establishing a brewery in such an unusual space. He told me that it would have been very difficult had it not been for the building owners – Silos at Elk Street.
“Because of them, there were no massive hurdles,” Joel explained. “Any potential issue with the concrete barriers or the infrastructure being old and raw was worked through – they had a way to work around it. Like getting the walk-in cooler or the ductwork installed – the things that we thought would be impossible… there were solutions. I can’t say enough about the process.”
Another issue that was solved was ordering the custom brewing equipment from Ultimate Brew Service (UBS) out of Lima, NY. There were certain confines and height restrictions that had to be dealt with. Typically, there is an equipment catalog that brewers get to flip through, while choosing the equipment. Everything at BriarBrothers is more custom in nature – built for the unusual specs of the space.
As for the target customer, Joel told me that, “We make the beer that we like to drink. It’s a wide range, from traditional lagers and pilsners, to fruited sours and IPAs. Being able to do this with my brother, we tend to play around with anything that interests us. We love drinking beer. We’re getting a great response from our Punch Bowl series (the fruited sours), the peaches and cream, the brown ale (more traditional), and soon we will be brewing our Oktoberfest. We also have seltzers on tap. And eventually we will apply for a license to served ciders and wine. We’re looking into expanding our offerings, though we will never have a full bar.”
Dog-lovers will be happy to hear that they is a Hydration Station, for people and their pooches. The station is set up near the fermentors and the brewing equipment, along with some tables, for prime viewing of the operation.
There is also a live music series (Stage @ The Silos) on weekends – a stage is built into a little crevasse in the silo, making for the perfect setting for live music. Rotating food trucks also make appearances.
As far ‘room to grow,’ Silos on Elk Street has an event center, which can be leased out by the public. Joel and Dylan plan on utilizing the center for Bills viewing parties (for example), with a large projector screen. There’s also a small bar in there, with BriarBrothers beer on tap, of course. And who knows… if and when the brewery needs room to expand, the event center could be the perfect setting to do so.
For those who have not yet been to Silos at Elk Street, it is also the home to Cove & Mill Barbering. One of the employees in the building makes beef jerky on the side – TJ Morgan’s – which is available at the brewery. And for those looking for something more substantial, Joel told me that people are welcome to order a pizza from a neighborhood pizzeria such as Carbone’s or Ricota’s. Or they can even bring their own food, like packing a picnic perhaps?
Which ever way you slice it, BriarBrothers is doing wonders for the Buffalo brewery scene. But don’t just take my word for it. This place has definitely got to be experienced, to be appreciated. So why not head down this weekend to check it out. You will be amazed, just as I was.