CBW on the move and moving up
A new tasting room will be located on the lower west side
Photo by kc kratt
Kegs (from the brewery): Yes
Kegs (from distributors): Yes
On Tap at Restaurants/Bars: Yes
Founded in 2012, Community Beer Works has had one goal: “To foster a sense of community and place and enrich our hometown through the production of damn good beer.” Judging from the response of local drinkers, that goal is being met. After starting as a home-brewing co-op, CWB has become one of the best-regarded breweries in WNY.
At first glance, and greatly due to their social media presence (banana suit and horse head included), the team at Community Beer Works might seem to be a bunch of jokesters making beer for fun. And that’s not entirely false. The vibe is always relaxed and nonpretentious. Through fund-raising events, social awareness, and collaboration efforts, “community” is not only part of the brewery’s name, but also at the core of who they are.
As cofounder Christopher Smith says, “We entered the industry as reluctant capitalists, and we think we’ve found a unique approach to making and selling beer.” And “unique” definitely describes Buffalo’s first nanobrewery. Operating with a Psycho Brew 1.5 BBL (barrel) system, this brewery pushes out an average of 713 gallons of beer a week, which roughly translates into 372 pints a week, or 17,856 pints a year. That’s a lot of beer.
Head brewer Robert Turley and director of brewing operations Ryan Demler put out a consistently product, with core six brews always available. Frank, The Whale, That IPA, Amazing Larry, Pun Intended, and Interrobang are CBW’s most popular and widely distributed brands. With about 135 accounts in WNY, beer drinkers can usually find CBW at their favorite watering holes.
The brewery team plays with flavors and ingredients. They keep it fun and experimental; some creations are better than others, but they are always interesting. In 2017 alone, they brewed fifty-six different beers. Recently, the team has been very successful with sour beers and hazy IPAs. With namesakes like Flying Jelly Attack Raspberry Witbier, Thoughts and Prayers Ale (civil activism never tasted better), Salty AF Amber Ale, and Resting Peach Face, the stories behind the beer names are almost as good as their flavors.
CBW has remained at the forefront of the industry since its inception. Its brews have inspired praise and admiration from industry colleagues and consumers alike. The Whale—a medium-bodied brown ale with notes of toasted malt, coffee, and chocolate—has been recognized by the Governor’s Cup for Best Beer in New York state. It also won a gold medal in the Brown Ale category at Tap NY. Most recently, Interrobang—a bright, piney, juicy American IPA—won the twenty-ninth spot in Draft Magazine’s 50 best IPA’s in America list.
Put simply, CBW puts hard work and commitment to the core mission first. It believes that a business has an obligation to be an active force for good in the community and a champion for sustainable business practices. These beliefs, along with a dedicated group of hard-working beer nerds and a faithful consumer following, is what has brought the brewery into its sixth year in business.
And now the brewery is looking at big changes, as it gears up to move its tasting room into a new location. With a priority of showcasing the neighborhood, the team chose a building in Buffalo’s lower West Side, hoping to inspire guests to take a walk around the area, explore the storefronts, and experience the vibrance of this changing neighborhood.
At its new 7th Street brewpub, CBW more than doubles production capabilities with a system that produces 100 barrels of beer per week, says hospitality manager Chris Sutton. (You can go ahead and do the math on how many pints of beer and hangovers amounts to.) In addition to the state-of-the-art system, the new location features a kitchen with a full menu, so guests can grab a beer, order a bite, and stay for a while. There’s also talk of a Members Only area with an annuity that covers membership along with other fun benefits, which may or may not include a Members Only jacket.
CBW president Ethan Cox will not pinpoint an exact date for opening of the new location. “We’re still unable to say much besides mid-to-late spring, but it could still be as late as early summer, possibly very late spring. Let’s say by early-mid summer at the very latest,” he says. Word on the street is that CBW’s sixth anniversary party will take place at the 7th Street location this April.
The new location is not the only big project these overachievers have in the works; they are also working on another brewpub location in Niagara Falls. What’s next for CBW? “More nonsense, specifically in Niagara Falls!” Ethan says.
Adds Sutton, “Once we’ve finished up these projects, we’ll take a week or two to decide what crazy concept we’ll execute on next. Whatever it is, it’ll be fun. Because, what’s the point of owning a brewery if you can’t have fun? We’re living the dream.”