Homeward Bound: Gene McCarthy’s/OFW Brewing

Taps

It was nearly 11 on a Friday night. I was in an armchair, barely paying attention to the TV and sipping on cold Southern Tier when my phone buzzed. “Wanna go to Gene’s for a beer?”

Welcome to our humble abode! Photo credit: Jenn Reed

Welcome to our humble abode! Photo Credit: Jenn Reed

My response was measured. “I am currently wearing a white v-neck undershirt and gym shorts. I have no intention of changing.”

Matt was undeterred. “We can sit outside.” The truth was, despite my lethargy, I was anxious to get to Gene McCarthy’s. I had been once nearly two years ago to see some music, and the beers they had were great, but that was before the installation Old First Ward Brewing and Matt Conron’s delicious elixirs. Recently, I had stumbled into a pint of OFW’s Red Clover while at Brick Oven Bistro, and since then, I had been hellbent on checking out the remaining brews.

Matt picked me up, and we headed to the bar around 11:30. I felt like a teenager sneaking out past curfew; it was thrilling despite its 20 year expiration. We parked outside next to the railroad tracks that run opposite the bar. We walked past their patio, where some fixed-gear bikes were chained to the wrought frame. Behind the wooden door, muffled strains of The Pogues could be heard – appropriate for the First Ward location.

We entered and the music grew louder. I peered down the dimly lit alleyway of the barroom. The lights reflected off of the OFW taps and onto the bar, lighting the faces of the two gentlemen near the end, who perfectly depicted the blue-collar feel of the neighborhood. A few feet away, the owners of the bikes sat, thick black framed glasses beneath foppish hair. The image was Rockwellian in its depiction of the rebirth of the city – youthful creative energy astride the thick rust-belt blood of the blue-collar work ethic.

Each party seemed equally at home here, leaning on the bar, their golden pints brewed 50 feet from the taps they were served from. I ordered myself a hefeweizen, the OFW Against the Grain (partially because it’s a great song/album, partially because a hefe sounded really good) and a “This is not a Pale Ale” (OFW APA) for Matt. We tapped glasses, and the night officially began.

Sweet nectar of St. Patrick. Photo Credit: Jenn Reed

Sweet nectar of St. Patrick.
Photo Credit: Jenn Reed

Matt and I chose a table near the bar to settle in. I tapped the table in time as the song selection tumbled through some of my favorite Irish-influenced music. We drained our first pints and got up to order another. This time I got myself the Hopster, the OFW IPA. At the bar sat Bill Metzger, who owns a stake in the bar. Matt introduced me, and I shook Bill’s hand. “So you’re responsible for all of this?” I asked. Bill smiled and shook his head.

We toasted to this fine establishment, and I thanked him sincerely. Matt and I retreated to the patio for a moment. Outside, I met another partial owner, Dustin, who is also the head chef.

I told him how much I loved his portabello fingers (tempura battered, deepfried mushrooms that are, bar none, the best in the area. Take my word.), and he nodded, the lit end of his cigarette bobbing up and down. “I love this place, man,” he said as he exhaled.

“Reminds me of home.” As he spoke, a young woman in a tie-dyed shirt sauntered over to us. Her name was Daytona, apprentice at OFW Brewing. “It really is a family,” she offered.

“It really is a home.”

Two pints down and my stomach was grumbling for some starch and grease to accompany the liquid grains. I asked Matt if the kitchen was still open. He shouted to Dustin, who yelled back, “KITCHEN’S CLOSED!” but he went in to drop us some fries anyway. We followed soon after and sat at the bar, where Matt introduced me to Jenn.

Dustin and Christina Photo Credit: Jenn Reed

Dustin and Christina
Photo Credit: Jenn Reed

She was sweet, and everyone who came in had a hug for her as she took their initial orders. I ordered one more pint – the HO Oats Stout, and we talked with Jenn about her day for a few down moments. Dustin delivered our fries – incredible, and in my humble opinion, didn’t even need catsup. I noticed a familiar bottle behind the bar, Buffalo Distilling’s OFC Unaged Apple Brandy. One shot of that, a quick check of the time, and the night had come to an end. We said our goodbyes and Matt dropped me off at home.

Still feeling like a teenager, I crept into the house, thinking about all of the great people I had met, the great beers I had had, and especially, those fries.

The list of OFW beers grows larger and tastier. They’ll be debuting their Oktoberfest and Doppelbock in at their Oktoberfest on October 5, 2014; as well as a new series of saisons specially crafted by Alex Placito, the first of which is on tap now.   They will also be debuting a cask beer program coming this fall. Stop by for a pint, and bring your growlers to take some of the excellence home to share.

The kitchen of Gene McCarthy’s features a great house sauce for their wings as well as the aforementioned portabello fingers and French fries. For a Friday favorite this fall, do not miss the best fish fry in the First Ward.

Nestled deep in the heart of the original Buffalo Irish neighborhood, Gene’s/OFW is not to be missed. It’s got the great food and beer of a busy downtown bar, but it’s served up in the comfort of a corner bar with a diverse clientele sitting hip-to-hip and enjoying this hidden gem. Make it a point to stop out and say hi to Bill, Jenn, Dustin, Daytona, Matt and the rest of crew – and tell them I said hello! Don’t miss your chance for a night out that feels like home, complete with fresh brewed, hopped up, Buffalove.

Port Fingers

Mmmmmmm…… Portabella Fingers!!!!

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2 Comments on “Homeward Bound: Gene McCarthy’s/OFW Brewing”

  1. supersweetshirts September 16, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    One of the best IPAs ive ever had. No need to go to Vermont, Ive had the Topper, this IPA is top notch and its right here in Buffalo.

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