Buffalo Beer Week 2012... A visit with Tim Herzog of Flying Bison Brewing Company
It’s the final weekend of Buffalo Beer Week 2012.
Recently I had the privilege to visit Buffalo and one of the stops I made was to the Flying Bison Brewing Company, home to Flying Bison Beer. Located on Ontario Street in central Buffalo, Flying Bison is the only brewer that calls Buffalo home.
As we approached, I was surprised at how small the place looked. You grow up in Southern California and you get used to breweries looking huge. Think Budweiser in Van Nuys, or Miller in Azusa. What I experienced in Buffalo was in fact a small business, run by a guy, Tim Herzog, who loves beer and just wants to produce a great product and make enough money to keep doing it.
As I talked with Tim, he took me through all the particulars of beer brewing. Beer is the third most popular drink in the world, behind only water and tea. Four ingredients make up the base for every good beer. Water, a starch in this case barley, hops, and yeast.
Perhaps the most important is water. Tim showed me how they filter and refilter their water to remove all outside tastes and impurities, and listening, I was reminded how important good water is to good coffee and it all started to make sense. Clearly the old commercial from Olympia Brewing Company in Washington was accurate. In beer, it’s the water, and a lot more.
That a lot more, is where Tim comes in.
Flying Bison uses roasted barley as their starch. Here’s a good rule of thumb for you…. dark roast equals dark beer with the deepest roasts going into the dark stout beers you see on the shelves these days.
Next up are the hops and this is where your beer gets its taste and that nice head of foam. Hops come from two main regions in the world, Germany and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
The last ingredient, yeast is what turns the fermenting starch into alcohol. Quite simply, no yeast, no beer.
But those are just the physical ingredients.
Struggling to make it as a small brewer, I listened as Tim graciously answered every question I had, whether it was about his brewing capacity [about 4000 barrels a year, compared to Miller at 40 million a year] or the origin of the growler [a grumpy old man’s empty wooden lunch pail], a popular method to buy tap beer in Buffalo.
I learned about prohibition and how on the day it was repealed, the Anheuser-Busch Company, brewers of Budweiser, somehow were able to deliver a case of beer to the White House. Since Busch was brewing in what at that time was the frontier of America, in sparsely populated St. Louis, he attracted much less attention from the authorities than did the eastern brewers in places like Buffalo. Maybe that explains how Busch was able to get his beer brewed, fermented and delivered in one day.
Clearly Tim, founder of the New York State Craft Beer Association knows his beer as evidenced by his many years in the profession and his recognition as a certified national beer tasting judge.
But what struck me most was the love Tim has for beer. As I walked and talked with him I realized I was talking to a guy uncommonly committed to a good quality brew in a city that loves beer.
I learned that first hand that when he opened a line from a keg and gave me a taste of something special. He’s brewing an Altbier in the German tradition for Buffalo Beer Week 2012.
Smooth and crisp, this beer was special, unlike anything I’ve ever had. And perhaps that’s because there are few brewers here in the US trying this. Tim was so excited about sharing this beer… it was clearly the water for chocolate moment where you realized that his beer was being made with not just blood, sweat, and tears, but love by this gracious man from Buffalo.
Anyone can put together the big four... water, barley, hops and yeast and make beer. It takes a craftsman to blend them together and make something great. It takes a craftsman to handle that "a lot more" part of beer brewing, and Tim is clearly up to the task.
As I sampled a few of his other beers, and a wonderful orange cream soda on tap, I had one last question. How did Tim feel about home brewers. He smiled, and told me to look around because I was looking at the results of home brewing.
Flying Bison Beer was home brewed before it moved into its 10,000 square foot brewery. All the recipes they used, were Tim’s when he was home brewing. Not only was he the general manager of Flying Bison Brewing, he was the founder.
As Buffalo closes out Beer Week 2012, Buffalonians would be well advised to find somewhere to try a pint, or fill a growler, of some Rusty Chain, Aviator Red, or that new Altbier from Tim Herzog and the crew of Flying Bison Brewing Company.