Microbrew boom keeps businesses bustling

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Like foam in a pint glass, your chances of getting a bottle of locally produced suds continues to rise.
The upward trend across the state is happening here in a big way.

Last year, the craft brewing industry grew by nearly 60 percent, pumping more than $3.5 billion into the state’s economy.

Tim Herzog is the founder of one of the first craft brewers in Western New York, Flying Bison, which just moved into its new space on Seneca Street last fall after operating downtown for the previous 14 years.

“We outgrew the space and we needed something more,” Herzog said. “And here we are in something more.”

One of the biggest factors, Herzog said, was the state’s Craft Act, which was signed into law last winter. It allows breweries like Flying Bison and others to serve what they make on site.

“Now we have nine breweries in the city of Buffalo,” he said. “When I started brewing, they were fewer breweries in that in all of New York State.”

Whether it’s a stout, a scotch ale, or an IPA, the thirst for craft breweries all across New York and especially here in western New York is growing. And there doesn’t seem to be much letting up.

“They continue to grow and then we continue to grow and then we continue to grow and that they continue to grow,” he said. “If you talk to all these other breweries they will tell you that our sales figures are up this year. And our sales figures will be up next year.”

While the Flying Bison is established, they’re one of many that exist across the region. Others, like the Rusty Nickel in West Seneca, are riding the wave of growth.

It’s beer tourism. And the market is so established locally, the Rusty Nickel had customers before they were even open.

“We basically turned on the lights and opened,” said head brewer and part owner David Johnson. “Construction wasn’t finished, but we had beer and we were ready to go. There was 1,500 people here that day.”

The Rusty Nickel actually had to cut back its hours just to catch up to demand.

“We knew people were thirsty for beer here in WNY,” Johnson said. “We just didn’t know how thirsty they were. And we found out pretty darn quickly. Our first week, we went through an awful lot of beer, more that we had ever projected.”

Johnson said it’s not uncommon to look outside his brewery and see a charter bus parked in his lot.

“Who’s even heard of beer tourism? It’s a thing now, and it’s right here in WNY.”

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