Most Buffalonians have heard it before from our friends at Buffalo First! “DRINK LOCAL. LOCAL BREW CREATES MORE BUZZ.” And it’s true! Well, at the very least, “the buzz” has been verified in the economic sense of the word. Did you know buying locally made and produced products has about a three times greater impact on the local economy? While the multiplier effect of purchasing local products is for certain, in terms of the local brew’s buzz on the brain, you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s any greater.
This past week, I had the pleasure of catching up with the team members of Community Beer Works (CBW) on the West side of Buffalo to discuss how their beer and their mission is creating such a buzz on the local scene. Community Beer Works has both embraced the community at large and promoted a smart and sustainable brewing operation, which is putting Buffalo on the map of the thriving craft brew culture.
What was apparent, from the very beginning of my interview with the team, was Community Beer Work’s commitment to creating a community-centered culture around the drink that is attributed to the birth of society: “I think beer is a really important product to get fresh from the person who actually makes it,” Ethan Cox, President and Co-Founder of CBW said, “I think that people should think of beer in the same way that they think of bread or meat. You know, you should go to the butcher or the baker and talk with him/her and have a face-to-face relationship with that person. Same thing with beer, you know, why not stop into the local brewery and chat with your brewer?”
And why not chat with your local brewer when they make it so easy to do so? Community Beer Works is at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market every Saturday filling up 64-ounce growler containers of on-tap beer. Or, if you can’t make it to the farmer’s market, they are also open for retail hours from 3-7 PM on Thursday and Friday evenings.
Now, Community Beer Works might call themselves a “nanobrewery,” but there is hardly anything “nano” about the socially, economically, and environmentally responsible ways they have decided to deal with their waste products of the brewing process.
“Every brewery has waste products—energy being the biggest—but, in terms of material waste products, spent grain is probably the largest. After you’ve used the malted barley and extracted the carbohydrates and sugars out of it, you’re left with a lot of grain that doesn’t have much use to you [as a brewer] anymore; however, it does have a few other uses. It’s really good for animal feed. Anything from cows, to chickens, to pigs, to worms will eat spent grain and love it,” Cox said, enthusiastically.
Well who in Western New York would love to take CBW’s spent grain? The Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP), of course. This local non-profit has turned out to be a great and obvious local partner for CBW for many reasons. First of all, Cox said, the two were a perfect match because both are located on the West side of Buffalo and are relatively small-scale in operation. In addition, because of both companies’ commitment to their respective missions and socially responsible/sustainable business practices, the relationship has grown and flourished.
So how exactly was this spent grain from CBW used at MAP? Well, the story gets a bit more interesting. When CBW first approached MAP about donating the spent grains, MAP was using them to feed worms in a worm bin that completed the cycle of necessary inputs to sustain a closed-loop aquaponic system for growing local tilapia. Now, I’ll admit that sounds a bit intense, but essentially it means the worms and the fish are working together (by using each others’ waste as an energy source) to reinforce a positive closed-loop system, which makes each species respond more positively and productively. Many communities in urban areas are realizing the extreme potential of aquaponic fish farming and MAP certainly is as well.
In time, MAP discovered that the grain could be used in an additional way; the clucking of urban backyard chickens was an obvious call for it. As it turns out, using the leftover beer grain as chicken feed has been an enormous benefit to MAP by enabling them to reduce their costs for chicken feed and also to provide community members with locally raised chickens. Chuckling, Cox told me that he hopes the chickens have a slight background note of beer, come harvest time.
CBW’s commitment to building community, connecting with local organizations, and buying locally for brewing ingredients is exactly the type of vision that will grow Western New York.