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Winter Brewfest unites local brewers, craft-beer fanatics - INTERVIEW

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

To hold a major craft-beer event, the easy route for an organizer is to collaborate with a wholesale distributor instead of hand-picking individual brewers.

After all, the wholesale distributor boasts already-established relationships with beer-industry pros and can quickly piece together a lineup—perhaps by inviting new breweries that covet exposure, temporarily boosting struggling businesses or other strategies that may not be focused on the quality of the brew. 

While connecting with wholesalers was once the route of the Buffalo Winter Brewfest, The Results Group has adjusted its strategy to focus more on the individual breweries.

The craft-beer-centered event—with a distinct Irish flair—runs for two sessions on Saturday. The first wave is between 1 and 4 p.m., while the second follows from 6 to 9 p.m.—at the Connecticut Street Armory, 184 Connecticut St., Buffalo.

You can purchase tickets here for $35 and on-site for $45. Admission entitles attendees to their own sampling glass and unlimited beverages and food over the course of three hours.

Though this decision has come under fire a bit on the Brewfest’s Facebook page, designated drivers can attend for $10 and consume unlimited soda and water.

If you’re not interested in buying online or at the door, tickets are also available at physical locations in several spots in Western New York, ranging from breweries to Wegmans locations to Kegworks, a beer accessory shop.

Food will be available for purchase from Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, while Celtic musicians, the Emerald Isle Band, provide additional entertainment at each session.

Heck, there’ll even be a cigar cutter on hand, but you’ll have to smoke outside.

The Results Group, the Syracuse-based company that’s organized and promoted the bubbly gathering since its inaugural event in 2012, has invited a group of 50 vendors from throughout New York State to offer Irish beer samplings on Saturday.

Several of these breweries will have an owner on-site to mingle with patrons and explain a little about the craft-beer business, so prepare for a hearty buzz with a dollop of education on the side.

The local craft-beer resurgence—you can read about Western New York newcomers Big Ditch and Rusty Nickel—is furthered by events like this, especially a festival that’s not just a one-off experience.

The Results Group also hosts a Brewfest in Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, northern New York and southern New York, and participating breweries are exposed to the niche regional audience.

“The Winter Brewfest is a platform for brewers to sell their beer statewide,” explains The Results Group CEO Tom Tarry.

Although it’s easy for Buffalonians to be wary of a unfamiliar, non-local corporation hosting a local event, the host claims a strong local tie.

Tarry, a former sales manager for WGR and WBEN through Entercom Communications’ Buffalo branch, still holds the city of his former workplace in high regard.

“I live in Syracuse, but part of my heart is in Buffalo,” Tarry said in a brief phone interview on Thursday.

Because of his time spent in Buffalo, Tarry has a special appreciation for the mammoth Connecticut Street Armory, which he considers the perfect size for a craft-beer-focused experience.

“The architecture is gorgeous,” Tarry explained. “I was absolutely stunned when we started there three years ago.”

Here’s a list of some of the familiar and pseudo-local breweries among the 50 expected to vend:

Community Beer Works
McKenzie’s Cider
Pearl Street Grill and Brewery
Pan-American Grill and Brewery
Ellicottville Brewing Company
Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
Brewery Ommegang
Southern Tier Brewing Company
Dundee Ales and Lagers
Blue Point Brewing Company
Cortland Beer Company
Horseheads Brewing
Captain Lawrence Brewing Company

In addition, Big Ditch Brewing Company and New Buffalo Brewing will both have representatives on hand to discuss their respective brewery and beer plans in Buffalo.

Here’s a list of a few of the 12 wineries, as one of the Results Group’s 2014 focuses was providing additional options for those who don’t prefer craft beer:

Becker Farms - Vizcarra Vineyards
Merritt
Sheldrake Point

I’m still trying to track down the complete vendor list, and I’ll pass that along as soon as I have access to it.

(Photos are courtesy of Leo Chan from the 2013 Buffalo Winter Brewfest—see the complete gallery here).

TAGGED: beer, buffalo winter brewfest, connecticut street armory, craft-beer, the results group, west side

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