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Beers of the NFL: Buffalo Bills

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Beers of the NFL: Buffalo Bills

It’s Week 2 of my Beers of the NFL tour and my next beer comes from the Queen City.

Where I live in New Jersey, I’m unable to find any beer that comes from Buffalo, New York.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I’m sure if I went to some super special beer distributor somewhere in Brooklyn I’d be able to find a beer.  But as much as I’d love to take a trip like that for a good brew, I don’t have the time.  (However, I would have the time to take a weekend trip to a brewery… hint, hint… cough, sponsorship, cough.)  The closest I came to buying a beer from Buffalo was when I bought a 6-pack of Bluberry Oatmeal Stout from the Buffalo Bill’s Brewery.  Yes, it was very good.  But the Buffalo Bill’s Brewery is located in California.  How deceiving!

Luckily, one of my coworkers who happens to be a very good friend of mine is from Buffalo.  And because she has a beautiful daughter (and another on the way!!), she goes up to visit her parents in good ol’ Buffalo a few times a year.  So on her last trip, she was kind enough to bring me back a 6-pack of Buffalo Lager from the Flying Bison Brewing Company.

About the brewery:  The Flying Bison Brewing Company is fairly new to the world.  The idea was founded in 1995 and the doors officially opened in 2000 thanks to the help of majority partners Phil Internicola and Tim Herzog.  The brewery started small as a 20-barrel facility, but eventually expanded immensely adding 5 more 40-barrel fermentators.  The popularity of the brewery can be attributed to the fact that there has not been a stand alone brewery in Buffalo since the Iroquois Brewing Company closed its doors in 1972.  It was as if the City of Good Neighbors was in its own state of Prohibition for almost 30 years.  After already going through a time where Buffalo had no beer to call its own, the Flying Bison faced another hardship in 2010.  The brewery almost closed down due to a cost increase for ingredients.  Fortunately, the brewery was bought by F. X. Matt Brewing Co. (the same people who make Saranac beer) and saved the day!  Feel free to sing the famous line from the Mighty Mouse theme right here.  Random Fact:  The name “Flying Bison” comes from the Buffalo’s rich history of aviation… which I didn’t even know existed!

Very quick history of the Iroquois Brewing Company… and I promise I’ll tie it in:  This brewery began back in the late 1800’s and had it’s good times and bad.  The good started almost immediately, selling over 75,000 barrels by the turn of the century.  The worst time was obviously Prohibition.  The brewery stayed afloat during this time by merging all the other local breweries and becoming the sole seller of near-bear (they also sold soda).  And, just like the rest of America, it was very happy once Prohibition ended.  Because of the merger, it became the sole brewery in Buffalo.   But like every business, it kept wanting to expand and there were even more mergers! The Iroquois Brewing Company became International Breweries.  Unfortunately, when the 60’s came, things went downhill.  The brewery went through a lot of issues with management and profit and eventually decided to move away from brewing (what?) and focus on acquiring tobacco and manufacturing companies.  Needless to say, this mindset ruined the brewery and led to its demise in 1972.  They had one beer producer who survived the end, William Simon, but that closed the following year.

About the beer:  I don’t think there’s a beer I don’t like.  I lied.  There are beers I don’t like (I’m not a big porter or stoudt fan.  I will drink it, and I do find some dark beer delicious, but I like to keep my beer light and refreshing).  But if it has the word “lager” in it’s title, I’m sure it will be A-OK in my book.  And sure enough, this lager did not disappoint.

I drank the Buffalo Lager and it was quite good.  The surprising part was that it didn’t really taste like a lager.  Instead, it tasted like a box of sunshine in my mouth.  It went down very smoothly and had a very good finish.  I drank this beer on a beautiful afternoon, so that might have been part of the great experience.  But it was a great summer beer, even though it is a lager that they brew all year round.

Why the Buffalo Bills and Flying Bison are a match made in heaven:  Last week, I said Iron City Beer and the Pittsburgh Brewing Company are the epitome of the city of its brewed in and its NFL team.  And I stand by that.  But I do think the Flying Bison Brewing Company has some comparisons to the Buffalo Bills as well, just not as much.

Looking back at the history of the Bills, well, it’s tough.  Back in the day when the team joined the American Football League in 1960, the Bills were decent.  They won two titles in 1964 and 1965 before merging with the NFL.  Unfortunately, that merge seemed to curse the team.  Like the beers of Buffalo, the team flourished in its inception then soured after merging.  Perhaps the Iroquois Brewing Company just got greedy.  The true owner, Jacob Roos,  just wanted to make beer.  But after all the mergers and management changes, they focused more on money rather than quality of goods (I guess that’s what businesses should do, but c’mon. In the end, it’s all about the beer).  The Flying Bison Brewing Company hopefully won’t reach this type of hardship.  They’ve already battled bankruptcy once and prevailed!  Of course, to survive, they teamed up with another brewery.  I don’t think the Buffalo Bills will be teaming up with another franchise anytime soon, but they do keep talking about moving the team…  Hopefully not anymore!

Anyway! The Bills have gone through many hardships since the merger.  Not only are they one of 14 teams to have never won a Super Bowl, but they’re the only team to win 4 consecutive AFC Championships and lose 4 consecutive Super Bowls.  Ouch.  And you know what else?  Each one of those Super Bowl losses were to NFC East teams.  Talk about a kick in the face.  One of their most recent hardships came just this past season.  Looking back at the 2011 regular season when the Bills signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to that 6-year $59 million contract, the team was 4-2 and Fitz was having a great year.   Once the contract came, BAM!  Cursed.  The Bills beat the Redskins in Week 8 (contract high for Fitz) then lost 7 straight and threw away a great start to the season.  But after the team’s offseason moves and NFL Draft, I think things are looking up.

You can’t tell me that you’re not afraid of the Bills defensive line.  In addition to Marcell Dareus, Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson, and Chris Kelsay, the Bills signed Mario Effing Williams.  That’s a pretty good addition to their line.  They also signed Mark Anderson who will be a good compliment Kelsay.  They also drafted CB Stephon Gilmore with their first overall draft pick who adds another threat to a ball-hawking secondary.  I don’t know about you, but to me, this Bills defense makes me shiver the same way the Lions defense did after they drafted Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in back-to-back years and signed Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams in 2010.

And if the Bills offense plays like they did at the beginning of the season, I think the AFC East is going to have some stiff competition ahead of them.

Now both the Flying Bison Brewing Company and the Buffalo Bills are back in business.  One thanks to a bailout by another brewing company, and the other because of a smart NFL Draft and good free agent signings.  All Bills fans can hope for is that these moves turn into a Super Bowl Championship.  And if this team is anything like the Buffalo Lager, it’ll be sunshine and happiness the whole way with a long-lasting flavor of goodness.

TMO’s Beer Rating:

Beer Name:  Buffalo Lager
Beer Style:  Lager
Brewer:  Flying Bison Brewing Company
Region:  Buffalo, NY
Alcohol Content:  5.2%
Price:  $8.99/6-pack

Label:  Quality Printing
Color:  Mine for Amber or Copper
Clarity:  Partly Hazy
Head:  Not Worth Getting Up For
Aroma:  Dough’s A-Rising
Mouthfeel:  Tingly Effervescence
Flavor:  Might as Well Be Lite Beer
Finish:  Lingers Longer

Notes: Can’t tell if it’s a good beer until you drink it; Like the Bills (They’ll sneak up on you!!)
Overall Impression:  Good lager.  Refreshing and not too thick.  Goes down like light beer, but more flavor.

Other Beers Brewed by Flying Bison Brewing Company:  Aviator Red, Rusty Chain, Buffalo IPA

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