We’re always on the lookout for people starting food and drink blogs in Buffalo, sure we’ll find a new site here and there but it’s rare that they stick around for too long. When I noticed our friend Chef Brad Rowell shared a link to his friend Matt’s beer blog Buffalo Brew Hound, I got excited. Beer was my first love, long before Buffalo Eats I was a craft beer nerd and at one point had a “beer wall” in my bedroom that contained over 400 different bottles of craft/import beer. As Buffalo Eats has become more popular and I’ve started to drink more bourbon and scotch, my love of beer has taken a backseat.
When I started to read Matt’s articles, it really got me excited for craft beer all over again. His articles touch on everything from local breweries, top 5 lists, seasonal beer releases, beer brackets (!) and road trips to breweries. Matt knows his stuff and I’ve found myself visiting Village Beer Merchant and Premier Gourmet more often lately, trying to find beers that have been mentioned in his blog posts.
I decided to reach out to Matt and ask him about his favorite places to eat, what bars he likes to visit and what he’d like to see more of in Buffalo. Here’s what he had to say….
Right now, where are your favorite places to eat?
Matt: To start off, one common theme of some of my answers will involve Blue Monk. It’s always an easy compromise with my wife, Kim, if we cant decide where to go. There’s always something on tap that I want to try and she’s always up for the duck frites with the garlic and sea salt aioli (I always go with the sriracha mayo myself). The cheese plate at Blue Monk is always a great option with a few beers, and the Vietnamese duck burger is my new pick if I’m real hungry.
Being a Hamburg resident, whenever I want Italian we head to Mulberry. I switch my entrees up often there and I’m never disappointed, whether its the chicken parm, the gnocchi, or whatever crazy lasagna they have that night. We also often end up at Medici House (the artist formerly known as Tantalus) in East Aurora for a pizza at their bar. Their craft beer selection is vastly underrated for the quality they have, and there’s always a nice option to have with their margherita pizza. Hit up Aurora Brew Works after the pizza for a flight and a bottle off the shelf, and you’ve got yourself a pretty nice little night. Daniel’s in Hamburg is our place for special occasions, and have never been disappointed in anything there. If Daniel’s had a decent craft beer list to go with their amazing food, that place could be the best restaurant in Western New York in my book.
Where do you like to go to grab a couple beers with friends and hangout?
Matt: When I want to hang out and grab some beers with friends, I want to be comfortable, and a lot of that depends on the atmosphere of the bar. Close to home in Hamburg, I like to head to Mammosers. They are in my top 3 places for wings in Buffalo, and while the beers aren’t going to blow you away, more often than not there’s several decent craft options to sip on. Another favorite of mine recently is Gene McCarthy’s in the Old First Ward. An old neighborhood watering hole combined with a clientele coming to check out what’s the latest treat on tap, creates an unpretentious gem of a beer bar, and soon enough they’ll be brewing their own beer on premises. Although I don’t get out there as much as I’d like, Sterling Place is one of my favorite places to suck a few beers in Buffalo. The ambiance and general attitude of the whole place along with their clear love of craft beer (you wont find any Anheuser-Busch products here) make this place as comforting as enjoying a pint at home in your favorite chair. And of course, as stated earlier, Blue Monk is a frequent stop when I’m heading out for a beer.
If you had a friend visiting from out of town, where would you take them for a good “Buffalo” time?
Matt: If I’ve got someone in from out of town, I want them to eat the absolute, no questions asked, best wings they’ve ever tasted in their life. Accomplishing this is quite simple, with a stop by Nine Eleven Tavern in South Buffalo. The quality and most importantly, the consistency, of their wings is nothing short of a work of art. Just look at the meticulous placement of the celery and bleu cheese on the plate. Since we’re in the midst of the summer, out next stop would be the outdoor patio at Liberty Hound. Sitting down there, sipping on a Saison DuPont while the sun sets, is a great representation of the positive change that Buffalo has experienced as of late. Head to Allen Street Hardware from there for a drink, and soak up the eclectic atmosphere on Allen, before inevitably hitting Blue Monk for a final beer.
What are some of your earliest beer memories? What got you started on this path?
Matt: Sure I was like most young college kids, and drank a lot of fizzy, flavorless swill in my early days. But even at a younger age, I still loved buying a Saranac or Sam Adams mix 12 pack and exploring the different flavors of the beers. I went to college in Pittsburgh, and during my six years there, I endured a love affair with a craft beer bar called Fat Heads. If I had a pocket full of cash, I was skipping 25 cent beer night to indulge myself in this wonderful world of craft beer that I was just beginning to really love. My first tastes of Bells Two Hearted Ale and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA at Fat Heads changed the way I was going to enjoy beer for the rest of my life. Ten years ago at Fat Heads, I also experienced cask conditioned beer for the first time in my life. This was another love at first taste story, but unfortunately, cask beer hasn’t become as ubiquitous as Dogfish 60 Minute in Western New York beer culture.
I guess I got started on this path by trying to encourage my college roommates to expand their tastes in beer beyond Iron City Light. Every year before Christmas, during finals, I would buy a case of that year’s Anchor Christmas Ale to enjoy after exams and to celebrate the season. Since then, I’ve always loved to offer a beer recommendation, or just offer a taste of whatever I’m drinking, to try and flip that switch in someone’s head that maybe there’s more to beer than just watered down adjunct lager.
What are some cuisines or types of restaurants you’d like to see more of in Western New York?
Matt: As far as cuisines that I’d like to see, the Southtowns is in dire need of a good Indian restaurant. But the thing that I would really like to see in the area as a whole, is more quality restaurants with a well thought out craft beer menu. You don’t need 20 taps to have a great beer program. A well planned beer menu offers a high quality option, of a number of different styles, to allow ample pairing options for the customer. I think this knowledge of pairing craft beer with food is something that’s sorely lacking in the Buffalo area. My good friend and Chef Brad Rowell and I have started doing craft beer and cheese tastings on a weekly basis, and I am quite confident in stating the fact that craft beer, and not wine, is the ultimate food pairing partner. When you get down to it, the various complexities of craft beer are so wide ranging, with such different flavor profiles, that to me, wine doesn’t stand a chance. We’ve come up with some beer-cheese pairings that would blow your mind.
From high quality restaurants, I expect, and would like to see a varied beer list. Give me the option of pairing a wheat beer with my salad, or a Belgian style tripel with my carbonara. Offer me a stout, a saison, a dubbel, a porter, an IPA (one place that immediately pops in my head that has great food and a multi-style beer list is Black Rock Kitchen & Bar, but these type places are few and far between in WNY compared to other cities). Lay down a bottle or two of an imperial stout or barleywine for someone to enjoy with dessert. The gist of what I’m saying is, if you have Labatt Blue on tap, do you also need Bud Light, Coors Light and Molson Canadian on tap? Hell no! One macro lager option should be enough to keep people happy. If this is starting to sound beer snobbish, I apologize, but I went to a restaurant this evening that had at least a dozen bottle beer options including Heineken, Amstel Light, Red Stripe, and Fosters, but no craft beer.
Seriously, is Fosters necessary? Who orders this? I’ll leave you Buffalo Eats readers with that question to ponder.
We’d like to thank Matt for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. If you are any type of beer fan, an experienced connoisseur or even a guy looking to put down the Labatt Blue for the first time, I think you’ll enjoy Buffalo Brew Hound. If you are on twitter, follow along on Matt’s beer journey via his account @BfloBrewHound.