When the new craft beer salesman out of Rochester walked into Coles in early to mid 2003, little did I know how much this initial meeting would change my life. After placing an initial order of a keg of Left Hand Sawtooth Ale and case each of Old Speckled Hen and Otter Creek Copper Ale I was hooked. An order of Harpoon IPA and Stone Arrogant Bastard followed that the next week. I, along with Coles, was following the footsteps previously walked by Dan Syracuse at Pizza Plant and Dennis Brinkworth at Colter Bay.
As the word spread, along with my number of taps, Coles was quickly gaining recognition as a craft beer destination in Buffalo. Imports from Belgium and Germany as well as Californian IPAs were gracing my tap and bottle list. Local craft beer aficionados as well as a heavy influx of Toronto beer enthusiasts were becoming both regulars and new friends. This new fervor for craft beer led to higher direct sales at Coles as waitresses/bartenders were upselling customers from the usual macro lager to these new flavorful ales.
The proven success demonstrated at Coles, Pizza Plant, Mr. Goodbar, Alternative Ales, and Colter Bay soon led to many bars add draft lines around town. With this came higher sales which led to higher tips and the trend continued from there. Stores like Premier Gourmet & Consumers success led to locations like Village Beer Merchant, Aurora Beer Works & the new Brewed & Bottled in Lewiston that specialize on craft beer. The big chain stores like Wegmans, Tops, 711, and Wilson Farms had to add major craft beer areas in order to maintain market share.
So many additional jobs have been created due to the craft beer movement. More craft demand led to more salesman at Try It, Certo Brothers, and Buffalo Beverage (now defunct). TJ Sheehan from Syracuse bought out Beers of Paradise and they also became a major craft player in the Buffalo/WNY region. The craft beer dedicated salesperson became a thing. In addition, workers at beer stores, the multitudes of locals working for local breweries, local brewery reps for out of town breweries have also benefited.
Beer travel has emerged so many non 716ers are coming into the Buffalo region to fill hotel rooms, visit breweries/beer bars/restaurants/beer stores. The craft beer movement is touching so many businesses & many of them probably do not even realize it.
Neighborhood revitalization has occurred due the rise of craft beer in Buffalo. Would Niagara Street be anywhere as close to where it is today without Resurgence and Community Beer Works leading the way?? The same can be said for Big Ditch in the downtown sector. The breweries initial investment in these downtrodden areas have directly lead to additional private sector and federal/state dollars being invested. Thin Man hopes to repeat this success in the Chandler Street location in Black Rock.
I think the craft beer future in WNY is bright and the best is yet to come. Local beer taps are dominating the bars, brewery tap rooms and brewpubs are constantly full of beer loving crowds. Taps that used to pour the likes of Stone, Ballast Point, Smuttynose are much more likely to be replaced by Resurgence, Big Ditch, 12 Gates, Hamburg, and hopefully soon Thin Man. While not knowing the exact numbers, craft beer has grabbed a hefty percentage from the beer giants AB InBev and Miller/Coors. Even craft pioneer Samuel Adams has felt the impact. With the aforementioned AB-InBev and Miller/Coors purchasing craft competition like Wicked Weed, Goose Island, Elysian, and Golden Road, the consumer has to pay attention to what they are purchasing. These giants have lost Billions in marketshare to the craft upstarts and are not likely to simply accept this. Its more important than even for the craft community to bond together. The giants have take a wolf in sheep’s clothing approach & its important to keep this in mind. The recent AB-InBev investment in craft beer website ratebeer.com proves they are taking all steps to work their way into the craft movement.
I am personally excited for the craft beer future of Buffalo & WNY & can’t wait to see what happens next.
Mike Shatzel is owner of Shatzel Group, including Cole’s, Brennan’s Bowery, Thin Man, Liberty Hound, Allen Burger Venture, Moor Pat, The Terrace, and Colter Bay.