At the tail end of Buffalo’s Beer Week, the Buffalo Brewery Tours held multifaceted adventure into Buffalo’s rich brewing history, headed by local enthusiast, Willard Brooks, alongside the knowledgeable Peter Jablonski providing tidbits and nuggets of history along the way. Early in the morning, beer and history enthusiasts alike gathered at the corner of Ellicott and Virginia streets and conversed amidst a slight gust until Peter took the reigns and led us on a mini-walking tour when we were shown the remnant of a Phoenix Brewery building, signs still intact.
Next we were shepherded onto a bright yellow school bus where Peter promptly started pointing out several old buildings and sites of breweries such as the German-American Brewery, George Rochevot Brewery, and Christian Weyand Brewery before reading the highest free-standing stone building, the St. Louis Roman Catholic Church. One might wonder why a brewery tour would include a church visit, but as it turns out a good portion of Buffalo’s brewers were Roman Catholic and gave generously to the churches in forms such as the beautiful stained glass windows given by Gerhardt Lang, owner of the largest brewery in Buffalo.
After a turn in the church and boarding the bus again, Peter continued pointing out remnant after ruin of breweries while Willard entertained us all with old radio jingles in the vein of polka music that were used by breweries to promote their beers. The most exciting brewery mention, however, was that of Simon Breweries, where we de-bused and were shown around the brewery by William Simon IV who has never worked in the brewing business a day of his life, but still has multitudes of knowledge about brewing. Though the first floor has now been converted into an auto shop, the upper levels of the old brick building still retain their brew-purpose layout and when we entered the hop storage room, nearly everyone swore that the scent of hops lingered among the massive amount of Simon Pure boxes.
Clutching the various adverts Mr. Simon offered to us, our next stop was Gene McCarthy’s where everyone enjoyed a Weißwurstfrühstück lunch, which is a Bavarian soft pretzel, white sausage from Spar’s European Sausage Shop, with a great mustard mixed by Willard himself! Alongside the meal was served radishes and dill pickles from Bill Metzger, head of the Brewing News, based in Buffalo.
Towards the end of the meal, local brewers Bill Metzger and Ethan Cox took turns speaking about the future of Buffalo’s craft beer brewing movement. Cox expressed hopes for Community Beer Works to become an inspiration and model for beer to return to smaller scale operations as Beer Work’s flagship brew was passed around featuring the floral and citrus notes of the Citra hop. With spirits buoyed by speech and talk, the motley crew continued on the bus for a stop at the United German and French Roman Catholic Cemetery to view the graves of many local brewmasters.
The next portion of the tour looked to a more current set of brews and a ‘pub crawl’ took us from Pizza Plant in Williamsville to the Blue Monk on Elmwood Avenue. At Pizza Plant, tour attendees were able to sample a line of Samuel Adam’s Latitude 48 single-hop creations. At Blue Monk, fine Belgian Beers were dug up for sampling at the pub as well as any of their long, long list of craft beers on tap. Finally, coming full circle, the bus dropped us off at Ulrich’s Tavern once more where we entered Buffalo’s oldest operating tavern for an unhosted happy house and handouts of a free growler and Growler Club cards from Consumer’s Beverage’s Chris Groves, co-host with Ethan Cox of Craft Beer Talk (a broadcast about beer on 1230 AM WECK, also a podcast on iTunes).
Though Beer Week is over, Buffalo Brewery Tours have planned more tours for beer, history, and Buffalo aficionados alike. Tour details and dates can be found on the website.
Peter’s Driving Tour
Photos by Joyce Gao