Buffalo Beer Gets an Experimental Boost

Home of some great seasonal beers, and the experimental XIPA NJ007. Photo from buffalobrewerydistrict.com

Home of some great seasonal beers, and the experimental XIPA NJ007. Photo from buffalobrewerydistrict.com

The story of Pearl Street Grill & Brewery’s new XIPA is truly a result of the struggle of David vs. Goliath; in this instance, David is the innovative local brewer whose main interest is to bring great beers to the city of Buffalo, and Goliath is big brewing, who buys up giant shares of hop futures in an attempt to cripple the exploding craft brew industry. This is a story of small breweries and small hop growers coming together, loading their sling with great beer and taking down the beer behemoths.

The story begins with a partnership between Chris Herr (head brewer for Pearl Street, The Pan-Am and the soon-to-be brewery at RiverWorks) and Crosby Hop Farm, located across the country in Woodburn, OR. You may recall, in my previous conversation with Chris, he spoke about upgrading the ingredients used at his breweries. Crosby was a natural partnership; their mission statement is on the front page of their website: “The mission of Crosby Hop Farm is to provide craft brewers of all sizes with the most innovative and highest quality hop products available, delivered with a superior customer relationship experience.” Chris has worked with

Crosby Hop Farm sends some hop love Buffalo's way.  Photo from blogspot.com

Crosby Hop Farm sends some hop love Buffalo’s way. Photo from blogspot.com

Beau Evers at Crosby, and Beau offered some insight from the farmers’ perspective. “Being an independent hop grower and hop supplier combination here at Crosby Hop Farm, we do not have access to grow or source some…proprietary varieties, so we’re always looking for new experimental varieties from partner growers that differentiate themselves with aroma and oil profiles that are conducive for the IPA category. We’ve had the opportunity to market and distribute this new experimental NJ#007, which comes from Jackson Hop Farm in Idaho, to a wide range of our craft brewery clients across the US.” The point of these collaborations is to gather consumer feedback, both from brewers who will use the hops, as well as feedback from beer drinkers. Beau explains further: “Most importantly, brewer and consumer feedback is extremely important, and I asked Chris to help out on this front. He has gone above and beyond to collect such data to help determine if this variety is worth growing in the future from an agronomic standpoint.”

So what does all of this mean? It means that residents of Western New York have the unique opportunity to sample a beer made with an experimental hop strain. Chris has worked hard to turn these green nuggets into the delicious IPA that is available now at Pearl Street. The XIPA is a good example of what might be considered a ‘West Coast’ IPA in that the hops not only deliver the bitterness that one would expect when drinking an IPA but the hops give the beer some fruit flavors as well – sweetness to balance out the bitterness. Often, when one thinks of West Coast brews, the hop fruit is citrus, but that is not necessarily so with the XIPA. The hop bitterness fades to sweeter fruit flavors such as white grape and peach – definitely a unique flavor. The beer turned out pretty hefty, weighing in at 7.4%.

photo from buffalobrewerydistrict.com

photo from buffalobrewerydistrict.com

The release party for NJ007 XIPA was held at Brawler’s Back Alley Deli, a smaller pub that sits beneath Pearl St proper. Early on, the bar was lined with local beer geeks excited for the opportunity to sip on something special. Chris himself was behind the bar, peddling pours of the new beer. He took the time to speak with each person who had come out, gathering feedback to provide to the farm. Some amazing desserts were provided that had been baked with Pearl Street beers. The stout brownie was my favorite, and my only regret was eating only one. The feedback seemed positive; everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves, and especially enjoy the beer. From the dungeons of Pearl St., a growler of the XIPA made its way to a recording of the What’s Going On In Buffalo podcast. Each of the hosts had at least a swig, and though IPAs aren’t their favorite style, everyone seemed to enjoy it. Listen here – we discuss the brew around the 19:30 mark.

The release of NJ007 XIPA is special for several reasons. The farm produced fewer than 150 lbs of the hop, so for some of the crop to land here in Buffalo says a lot about where we are at as a region. The expanding roster of brewers, the growth of the Buffalo Niagara Brewer’s Association, and the continuing popularity of enthusiast clubs have all worked diligently to make Buffalo a destination for beer drinkers. Opportunities like this define Buffalo as more than a destination for drinkers; the industry has taken notice and they’re getting in on the action. The XIPA was brewed in order for the beer drinkers of Buffalo to provide feedback – our opinions matter! This is certainly an exciting time to be in Buffalo, and we can hope that the industry’s interest in Buffalo will continue to flourish, and we as a region can help to shape the craft brew industry as it continues to grow.

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