HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Buffalo area now boasts over 40 local breweries with hundreds of options for craft beers. A large majority of these beer crafters are using goods and products grown right here in Western New York.
“A lot of people don’t understand how much work goes into this and how much of a team effort,” said Scott Roche, the head brewer at Hamburg Brewing Company.
That team effort starts in a field on a farm. East Prairie Hop Company hosts a harvest weekend every August where other “hoppers”, brewers and their family and friends come out and pick the products from the bines (that’s right — these ‘vine-like’ plants are called bines).
“Hops are used for bittering,” said Gary Kwiatkowski, the owner at East Prairie.
He started growing hops for his small business in 2012. His brother-in-law was looking into it while retiring; he lost interest but Kwiatkowski thought it seemed like fun. That year, he planted a few rows, producing 80lbs., more the following, producing 200lbs., and this year, they’re up to half an acre with an expected 400lbs. of hops coming from the nearly 500 plants.
“The local thing is a big trend,” said Kwiatkowski. “We’re having a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work but this industry has a lot of energy.”
Local breweries are looking to hops farmers, like Kwiatkowski, for their supplies.
“For me, you’re investing in the community and the future,” said Roche. “Sourcing local means I can see where it’s made, meet the people making it, taste it before we spend the money.”
Roche says five or six years ago, the idea of locally sourcing beer ingredients seemed unfathomable and brewers would ship in ingredients from all over the world.
As the craft beer industry took off, regions like Western New York have worked to prove it could produce these products too. And that’s when brew masters signed on with the ‘Go Local’ initiative.
“It’s a booming industry,” said Roche, who has moved around the country, brewing beer in different regions like down south and the midwest. “We don’t know what’ll happen in the next five years so we might come to depend on our local producers considerably more.”
And that’s why Roche says it’s so important to forge those relationships now.
“Now is the time to support them [growers], get them up and running so they can support us down the road.”
If you want to try beer from some of these local breweries, you can head to the Buffalo Brewers Festival happening Saturday, June 18, at the Outer Harbor. Early admission, opening at 3p.m., cost $49; general admission where the doors open at 4p.m. costs $40. Click here for more information.