Friday, January 3, 2014

A Visit to Hamburg Brewing Company

The first word that comes to mind after visiting the Hamburg Brewing Company is "corporate". It is not corporate. It is one of western New York's newest independent craft breweries. Located just off route 219 in Hamburg, the brewery boasts all the bells, whistles, and ambiance of a craft brewery that's exploded into a conglomerate. That's part of what makes this brewery hard to take in. For a start up brewing less than a year this place is posh. Everything from the brewing equipment to the pub is high end and new.

With time to kill and sans kids on a Saturday afternoon, we strolled down the way and dropped in on the brewery. Walking up the main entrance of the facility to the aroma of brewing makes for a strong first impression. Stroll down the hallway, past the brewing facility, to what can best be described as a cavernous, ski lodge-themed pub taken straight of the slopes in Vail or Banf or where ever the rich folk go in winter. It's beautiful if not daunting but at the end of the day people visit a brewery for one thing.

We sampled a few of the flavors including No Lux and OMS. Previously, we sampled the Oktoberfest while dining in the big city. All of the beers are solid if conservative. Hamburg Brewing Company strives for quality above all else. While they nail quality they lack in creativity. If you're looking for crazy experiment a la Dogfish Head you're looking at the wrong brewery. Hamburg Brewing makes the kind of beer you enjoy while your drinking but rarely seek out. We enjoyed the brews but it's hard to envision trolling the local beer stores asking for the latest from HBC.

What the brewery lacks is passion. Passion is the difference between quality and excellence. These guys obviously love craft beer and put up the bucks to prove it. The facility is impressive and the beer is spot on. The facility and the beer are also a little sterile. Nothing about the operation evokes an emotion - good or bad. The flip is they are new and starting out with quality is probably the single most important factor for the long-term viability of a craft brewery (well, after money). I don't know how or when they take the next step but there's potential. In fact, there's so much quality and potential that we took a growler of OMS home.

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