Monday, November 19, 2012

The New Kid in Town

Every once in awhile we bring you actual news - not your "Brotherhood of Man" news but real news. The kind of news and information you find on A Good Beer Blog or Seen Through a Glass. So, finally...some real news.

We would like to introduce you to The New Buffalo Brewing Company. Bill Campbell is Founder/Owner and he was kind enough to sit down and answer some of our questions - from Afghanistan.* Bill and his fiancé (spoiler alert) are both currently in the US Air Force.  Bill is serving in Afghanistan and still found time to answer our questions.

Bill, thanks for starting a brewery in Buffalo. More importantly, thanks for serving.


DB: How did you get into brewing and how did it become a business idea?

BC: After I was commissioned I ended up at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo,Texas, and started to move up the drinking ladder. I made the jump from Keystone Light to Shiner. When I started class I began drinking with Capt Dan Curry and Lt Leon Hontz. Capt Curry was one of the guys in the ‘finer things’ club, and he was also a Captain so he was making twice as much as me and Hontz and could afford good booze. His home bar must have had 500+ bottles in it, with all sorts of fine liquors, bitters, cordials for cocktails, and when it came to beer he was at the same level. I don’t know what the first one he gave me was, but it was honestly the worst thing I have ever had… a pitch black, overwhelmingly bitter beer. I was going to head right back to Shiner but he ended up pushing a Mothership Wit, and it was a revelation.

Over the next seven months I tried craft brews, Belgium Wits, Wheats, Hefewizens, and Sweet Stouts. Shortly thereafter I moved to Manhattan, Kansas. Once I got there I started home brewing some easy beers; Cream Ales (hail to Genny), Kölschs, and then headlong into English styles, milds, browns and stouts. A lot of guys in the military are home brewers. Ben Gartner was an avid and extremely skilled home brewer, and invited me to the local Home Brewing club where I met more guys who taught me allot about home brewing. Someone had to drink all that beer, so another friend, Doug Bunch, ended up consuming many, many gallons of hit and miss batches and providing feedback on what he felt would make the cut commercially. He’s a pretty seasoned drinker of craft brews so it really guided a lot of my brewing.

One of the biggest influences on my decision to start a brewery was going to Tallgrass Brewery right outside of Manhattan. Here I got a chance to start talking to owner Jeff Gill, and he shared huge information about the transition from home brewing to commercial brewing. It went from a ‘this would be cool’ to an ‘I can do this’. Shortly thereafter we started building the business plan, meeting with the city, working with realtors, and buying equipment. This was really the point where I decided to leave active duty and move back to Buffalo to open a brewery.

DB: Sounds like you guys are international travelers. Care to tell us what you’re doing when you are NOT brewing beer in Buffalo?

BC: My fiancé and I are both Active Duty Air Force (I’ll be reserve come the New Year), so we’ve been sent all over the world. Between us I think we have been to 18 countries, from Korea and China to Argentina and Colombia to the Germany and the Czech Republic. Jimmy, our brewer, has also seen such exotic places as Iraq with his time in the USMC.

DB: Why brew beer in Buffalo?

BC: Buffalo is a really interesting town, on paper you would think the place would be booming. Buffalo is one of the businesses gateways into the United States. Toronto is hardly a two hour drive to the north, and Pittsburgh is only a bit farther. Yet, as we all know, the city has struggled for years. There is a certainly a sense the city is going in the right direction, but we still need some grass roots movement to really get on top again. Brewing can be a big part of that, because Buffalo drinks a lot of beer. It’s a beer town. We also have the Niagara Brewing school and Criveller right across the river, so it ends up being a great place to set up shop.

The Brewery

DB: Will you offer beer in cans, bottles, bombers, growlers, all of the above?

BC: At first, we will be focusing on production for bars. We’ll start with 32, 64 and 128 ounce growlers, but we don’t expect to start canning until year 2.

DB: Can you tell us about the brewery system you will use (number of barrels, who designed and manufactured it, etc)?

BC: We have decided to stay local and go with Criveller. They have been a great company to work with. We have equipment designed for a 15 bbl or 30 bbl if we can find a space to fit it. Since we are still searching for a location, we haven’t committed to either system yet.

DB: How are the other local breweries helping in your endeavor? Do you peacefully co-exist or consider them friends and colleagues or bitter archrivals?

BC: I’m sure Tim at Flying Bison doesn’t remember me, as I must be one of the hundreds of people who go on his tour and tell him ‘Hey I’m going to open a brewery in a couple of years.’ He was friendly and entertained my questions. His brewer taught us a lot about physically setting up and the issues breweries have to get though with the TTB and State to get open for business. I also have spoken with Ethan over at Community Beer Works several times. He’s a real standup guy who I think is setting the right tone for brewing in Buffalo. Pearl Street breweries spoke to me several times about their beers and the amazing draft system they have over there. Flying Bison is King of the lagers, and Community Brew Works is doing some really great beers. New Buffalo is looking decidedly English/Irish. (I need to update the website to reflect this). There is so much room in Buffalo that we can all work and grow together.

The Brew

DB: Looks like you have a steady rotation of beers. Will you offer seasonals or one-off, limited brews?

BC: We like to brew (shocking right?), so we brew allot of small batches (15 gallons) of pretty much anything we think would be fun to brew, fun to drink or just want to monkey around with. (Again… I’ve fallen way behind on the website.) We are going to keep up this trend at New Buffalo and put our experiments out in our tap room. However, one of our first goals is to produce 2-4 beers perfectly and make sure they are always available at bars and restaurants.

DB: When and where can we get your beer?

BC: As I’m sure you know, the approval process is a bear for breweries and with an extension in Afghanistan I was pushed back a bit. We are still on track to have our first beers for sale in bars this summer. We are working with another brewery to see if we can get some space on their system and get started sooner. Watch for a Kickstarter campaign in the near future about just that!


DB: Brewers are pretty good at activism.  How does New Buffalo give back?

BC: Our first public tasting was at a charity event for Roswell. There are so many worthy causes it’s going to be a challenge to pick which ones we will work with. For obvious reasons we would like to work with Veterans in our community.

DB: Many micro-brewers have a bit of a green bent. Will New Buffalo be an environmentally-conscious brewer?

BC: Micro-brewing in allot of ways is almost inherently a green business. When your beer is produced locally you are using less fuel to move it around, less energy keeping it cool, as well as the spent grains we’ll give away to farmers. We have been looking into a C02 capturing system as well for our tanks after speaking with some Alaskan Brewers and about the real benefits.

Last Thoughts

DB: What three things do people need to know about your beer?

BC: Great Beer is the point for us. When everything is said and done we will make high quality, delicious beer. That’s our bottom line.

We are already growing some ‘test’ hops back at the farm, and have spoken with some farmers about getting our own runs of barley grown locally. We are looking forward to working on not just the brewing side, but the growing as well.

We are starting with distinctively English and Irish styles of beers. It’s great that a lot of breweries are pushing out some really big beers. Beers over seven percent are becoming pretty normal, but we want to put out beers that are not only delicious, but can be enjoyed in bulk or with a nice dinner. We just enjoyed some Rochefort 10 last night, and it’s an amazing beer, but you can’t really drink a couple with a meal, and it’s almost 12% alcohol (not to mention its seven bucks a bottle). We want to make sure we are putting out beers most people can enjoy as our main lines. We’ll have a lot of special beers, but those will likely only be in our brewery for short periods of time.

DB: Community Beer Works likes to “Embeer Buffalo”. They say “Our goal is not only to succeed as a brewery, but to better the beer culture of Buffalo. Our city loves beer, and has the potential to be one of the premiere beer destinations in the country. Help make that happen. Embeer Buffalo.” How will you “Embeer Buffalo”?

BC: ‘A Toast to Progress’ is on all of our work and it’s in the same vein. Buffalo truly is set up to become a Beer Destination. We have all the right ‘stuff,’ we are in a central location in the northeast, and we are seeing hops farms and craft malt houses starting to get up and running. Buffalo is still one of the cheapest cities to visit, and very convenient to the Falls and an amazing wine trail just to east of us. We also have a great philharmonic and theater selection. We have to rebuild what it means to be a Buffalonian, and a big part of that is going to be at home drinking Buffalo Brews.

DB: What else should we know about you guys?

BC: We are working on a Kickstarter video to raise some money for New Buffalo Brewing. Watch for it in the near future along with a series of tasting events.

*Bill Campbell did serve in Afghanistan but he informed me after this interview was posted that he provided responses while stateside. 

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