Brewing got an early start in Buffalo, with the first public drinking establishment open for business in the city in 1805. Once the Erie Canal was built a couple decades later, business was booming. A rapidly growing population spiked the demand for alcoholic beverages, and the canal provided a means for shipping wheat and other brewing essentials across the Northeast.
Fast forward to 1920, when Prohibition closed doors on the 29 breweries operating in Buffalo at that time. For 13 years, brewing (legally, of course) was brought to a halt. After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, only 7 breweries reopened in Western New York.
Now, more than 80 years later, breweries in Buffalo are growing at an impressive rate. But the revival of the brewing industry had to start somewhere, and that leads us to our Founder Friday story for this week.
Read on for more about a brewery that kicked off this revolution and its founder with over 30 years of brewing experience. Meet Tim Herzog, founder (and master of brews) at Flying Bison Brewing Company.
How did your startup, well, start up?
The seed of what became Flying Bison Brewery was….Buffalo had no brewery. I had been home-brewing and won a few awards. My neighbors were drinking beer faster than I could brew it. I could see the possibilities.
What do you do? Your startup?
I found friends who have certain talents, and chased down the information on building, zoning, licensing. No one had built a new brewery in Buffalo in quite some time, so a lot had to be learned by me, by the City, and so on.
When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?
I’ll let you know when that happens. Actually when Try-It Distributing said, “We should talk…” They are one of the biggest and best distributors around. Visions of expansion danced in my head.
What tools can you not live without and why?
My cell…of course. Everyone in Erie County has my phone number. I also really like the one barrel “pilot” brewing system. I get to actually brew on it once in a while. Oh, yeah….my pocket knife. I can dismantle most anything with it.
What was some important advice you received when starting up and who told it to you?
I had the chance to meet most of the Craft Pioneers – Charlie Papazian, Michael Jackson (the writer), Fritz Maytag, Ken Grossman, Kim Jordan. They all had some words of wisdom for me, but more than that, it has been their friendly sharing of everything that has helped keep me rolling
What is the best part/worst part of your day as a founder?
Best part is most of the day: watching someone enjoy our beer, seeing our neon in a window, smelling the beer being brewed, creating another job; there’s a lot.
Goals for the next year? Three years?
Next year: Keep breathing; try to grow the brewery even more.
Three years: Keep breathing.
- I love living here
- There were 35 breweries before Prohibition
- We have sports teams
How do you do it? What drives you?
The people I work with. They keep me young(ish); they keep me inspired.
And for even more about Tim Herzog and Flying Bison, check out our Latitude podcast!