Another Buffalo Brewers Festival is in the books, and given all of the hard work that went into it, it’s hard to believe it’s already come and gone. I had to take a few weeks to get my wits about me and also needed to find time to write this because if you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot going on in Buffalo beer right now. This year’s festival, which was pared down from last year to include a slate of all local breweries, cideries and meaderies, was a true labor of love for yours truly, one that really did pay off in the end. And in a true showcase of this city’s brewing scene, these brewers really did step up.
An exciting new feature this year was the People’s Choice Competition, which featured participating breweries all making the same beer style, which the public then drank and voted for their favorite. This year’s beer style was saison and 42 North Brewing took home to coveted one-of-a-kind trophy (which was graciously created by Kyle Anderson) thanks to their delicious Island Farmhouse Sour Saison, one of our highlights of the festival, just as it was last year. It’s just a fantastic beer. New York Beer Project finished in second place with their refreshing Watermelon Saison, Pearl Street (Gin & Tonic Saison) and West Shore Brewing (Magnolia Mountain Saison) tied for third, Rusty Nickel placed fourth with their Farmhouse Saison (more on this beer below), one of the best beers we had at the festival, and Resurgence Brewing rounded out the top five with their Cucumber Saison, which kept us as hydrated as a bottle of water.
The addition of the People’s Choice Competition was a welcome one, as was the addition of the Consumer’s Beverages Pint Tent, which allowed festivalgoers to purchase pints of their favorite beer right at the festival. When I spent time at the tent, I grabbed pints of 12 Gates Cherry Vanilla Wheat and German Radler. More bathrooms and more beer available also made for a great time, and if I had a nickel for how many times people complimented the food – cheers Ru’s Pierogis and Lloyd’s Tacos – I’d be rich.
The 2018 Buffalo Brewers Festival also featured a number of debuts, including that of Ellicottville’s Steelbound Brewery, Batavia’s Eli Fish, Pressure Drop Brewing and Brickyard Brewing Company. All were a welcome addition to the party to say the least.
For my most memorable beer from the Brewers Fest, I kept notes the best I could in-between running back and forth getting people ice and water. I also had to make sure I was able to try all of the beer I wanted to try.
Blackbird Cider Works Lakeside Loganberry – As juicy and refreshing as it was dry, I could not tell you how many times I had to make a run to the Blackbird booth for this to keep my wife’s glass full. One of the more memorable ciders I’ve had lately.
Brickyard Brewing White Bronco New England IPA – A favorite of mine from both the Buffalo Niagara Brewers Invitational in February and Thawfest in April, the latest batch of White Bronco might be the best yet. I’m becoming a broken record with this beer, but it is straight fire – all mango, white grapefruit and pineapple.
Buffalo Brewing Company Charlie’s Boatyard Brew – I am falling in love with Vic Secret hops. This one features massive citrus and is dangerously smooth. It’s only available at Charlie’s Boatyard and might be one of the best beers I’ve had from John and his crew at BBC.
Eli Fish Brewing Awry Saison – Mild spice notes with a bit of faint citrus. It’s a crusher and doesn’t even drink to its 5% ABV. This was a nice introduction to these guys’ beer for me and I believe a road trip up the 90 is in store soon.
Four Mile Brewing Tropical Wheat – Hands down one of the best beers I had at the Brewers Festival. A little lactose made for a clean, creamy smoothness with notes of pineapple and mango. This was great. I might say this is the best beer I’ve had from Four Mile.
Lilly Belle Nutty Helen Mead – I’m admittedly just getting into mead, but I had at least two people tell me this was the best beverage they enjoyed at the festival. A little syrupy sweet with notes of smoky, roasted honey. This was the most unique drink I had there.
Rusty Nickel Farmhouse Saison – Talk about Buffalo brewers stepping their game up for this festival – Rusty Nickel was no different. Quite possibly the best beer I’ve had from them, this Farmhouse Saison was light and crisp, though it maintained some earthy, more traditional saison characteristics. This was the other beer that I voted for in the top three on my People’s Choice Competition ballot.
Steelbound Brewery Kickin’ Back Kolsch – This kolsch was insanely crisp and one of the most drinkable beers of the entire festival. I also really liked the Subabrew IPA and Heff Another One Hefeweizen. These guys are making some solid beers already.
West Shore Brewing Dark Cherry Sour – Tart dark cherries with a little pucker to back them up. This one was so smooth and refreshing. I had to get one sour on this list and Josh up at West Shore is brewing some quality fruited sours right now.
Windy Brew Raspberry Farmhouse Saison – As refreshing as refreshing gets. I haven’t had many beers from them, but this was the best Windy Brew beer I’ve had yet. Huge fresh raspberries all the way through from the aromas to the flavor to the aftertaste. This one was consistent. I voted for this beer in the top three on my People’s Choice Competition ballot.
Here’s hoping that next year is bigger and better than this year. I know I’ll be there next summer and I hope to see all of you there as well.
Brian Campbell is a co-founder/Brand Manager of the BNBA’s enthusiast arm, Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague) and www.buffalobeerleague.com.