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Flying Bison Brewing Company

On November 24, 2007

You’re looking for this sign –

if you miss it – and on a cold Saturday afternoon it’s an easy sign to miss – turn around and go back.

I am told by a reader (and appreciate being told) that Flying Bison is actually in Riverside – which may make it easier to find for those of you not familiar with the area.

Flying Bison Brewing Company sits at the back of parking lot circled by a chain link fence. It’s open for retail customers only on Fridays from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Located in a working class neighborhood on what I believe to be the west side of Buffalo (it took me a little while to find it and my always shaky internal directional signals had long since turned themselves off), Flying Bison is an actual working brewing company as distinguished from a microbrewery that generally works in unison with a restaurant/pub that sells the microbrewery’s beer; the difference will be obvious from the moment you enter the building:

Don’t be put off by the warehouse exterior; don’t get me wrong, behind that door does reside a warehouse interior but stopping by there for a Saturday afternoon beer tasting will be one of the highlights of any trip to Buffalo. (Right here many people may insert their own jokes about the highlights of a Buffalo trip, let me assure you anyone who jests about what there is to do and see in Buffalo hasn’t been there; in later posts we’ll visit some of the area’s architecture, restaurants, a delightful bed and breakfast and an unexpected wine bar. First things first though – beer.)

If you get there close to three as I did, the party started without you. I opened the door to find several people enjoying plastic glasses of Flying Bison ales poured from the tap. On a utility table to the right of the taps lay a spread of links and ribs with buns and bread set out in their plastic bags for rolling your meat up or doing as I did just making bread on bread hors dourves. There aren’t any seats and if you’re not a native who dressed to stand around in a not too well heated warehouse, it gets cold quickly but the brew will warm your fingers just before frostbite sets in. The beer flows freely – although I didn’t see anyone who appeared to have over indulged – there is no charge for the samples or the eats and you quickly become friends with the regulars; in no time at all a couple of people were offering me tastes from their cups. Every so often someone comes in with a growler (a gallon glass jug) to be refilled or buys several bottles of cold beer from the refrigerator but the sales push is low key to non-existent. The beer stand as it were is worked by three friendly and knowledgeable employees Tom, Pam and Dave who are happy to fill you in on a little company lore (for instance, the Imperial Red is a tribute to a deceased partner Red on the tenth anniversary of his passing) while filling your cup. After sampling each beer available that afternoon, I found the Aviator Red was a decided favorite although I could definitely develop a taste for the heady, strong, seasonal Scotch Ale. I went home with a varied six pack.

Tim Herzog, another of the Flying Bison partners, conducts short tours of the facility, explaining not just their brewing process but educating listeners a little bit on distribution as well. He proudly points out that a keg of FB often leaves the warehouse for a restaurant, is emptied and returns to be refilled within a seven day span; now that’s fresh beer. Unfortunately, my pictures of him and key employee Paul Jackson came out a wee bit fuzzy so visit the Flying Bison website to view their healthy moustaches.

If I’m in Buffalo again – make that when I’m in Buffalo again – Flying Bison will be on my agenda and I highly recommend that it be on yours as well. So many chains invite you into their microbreweries with the promise of good beer and good times; Flying Bison Brewing Company delivers on both.

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