Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pink Boots at Flying Bison

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." ~Shakespeare

July 29-30: Drove across Ontario, Canada, for a very long time. The landscape had some rolling hills and nice dairy farms and corn fields, so it reminded me of Wisconsin and the Midwest. In fact Buffalo reminded me of a large midwestern industrial city like Chicago. And Buffaloians talk with what almost sounds like a Milwaukee accent. Must be the shared German heritage.

Flying Bison's Owner/Brewmaster Tim Herzog had me meet up with him and his friends on the Canadian side of the bridge - in the tiny 1940's-style resort community of Crystal Beach. The Lennons, friends and neighbors of the Herzog's, rent a cabin there for two weeks each summer. They invited a bunch of friends to their bright yellow and green cabin for a barbeque. (Yes, U of O's fighting Duck team colors - it reminded me of Eugene.)

There I met up with the extended family including Tim's wife Betsy and sons Colin and Peter. Both boys work at the brewery part-time and Peter has declared he wants to be a brewer. You go boy!

After a wonderful barbeque dinner served with Flying Bison's Kolsh and Pale Ale, it was nearing dark and time to tackle the Peace Bridge and U.S. Customs. I was worried since I was packing the several cases of beer I've collected along the road. On the way into Canada, Canadian Customs asked me if I was bring in any tobacco or alcohol and I said, "Oh, I've got some beer." The Customs Agent said, "So, mostly camping stuff right?"

"Right!" I answered.

This time I was going through U.S. Customs and we are a much bigger pain in the tush than Canada. What with terrorist women brewers smuggling American beer back into the country and all. However, Tim has natural good luck, and I do to, and together we manifested that our U.S. Customs Agent was a growler customer of Tim's. The Agent said, "So, this camper is from where? Oregon?"

"Yes it is. I'm on a long vacation," I said.

The Custom Agent collected our passports then said, "Ha! I know that guy. Hey Tim, my growlers are getting dusty. Think you can do something about that?"

After some light banter, the Agent waved us through. That's good. I was sort of afraid they would have to do an intense inspection as I have tubs of books and winter clothes in the van and cupboards and dinette benches in the trailer, and the Agent could have elected to tear apart all of it. Made it to Tim and Betsy's home in Buffalo without further ado.

The next morning I was up at 6:30 am to shower. Although at home I may not shower two days in a row, on the road I take a shower whenever I can get one, because I never know where I'll get the next one. Then Tim made me a scrambled egg and toast breakfast. What a nice host!
Tim rode with me to the brewery where he let me mash in. He has a 20-barrel Criveller system with rakes, but without a hydration collar, you have to keep the grain moving so it doesn't clump. No silo and a two-person opperation to mash-in, with one milling while the other is mashing. We made a Vienna Lager.

I spent a fair bit of time in Tim's offices working on my long blog about the Michigan Beer Festival. Ryan Coleman worked the brew while Paul Koehler ran a filter. Tim gave me the complete tour and answered the phone which rang a lot. He not only runs the brewery, he takes the keg orders and he's very involved in brewery legislation on a local, state, and national level.

Photo at top of page, L to R: Ryan, Paul, Teri and Tim.

Flying Bison is in a very old mixed use (residential and industrial) neighborhood. The brewery is hidden away on the back side of a building, but after seven years his customers have figured out where it is and they wandered in all day, tasting beer and picking up kegs and growlers. There is no retail employee, just Tim, Ryan and Paul, so Tim and Ryan took turns waiting on the customers.

Flying Bison is up to over 2,000 barrels per year, but it has been an uphill climb for the seven-year old brewery. Tim's done lots of educating of the local populace, and he had some very bad luck over the years, beginning when his partner was killed in a motorcycle just before opening day. However, I believe that Tim actually has natural good luck, because had he not, I believe the brewery wouldn't have survived at all. Now Tim has a good team in place, and Flying Bison is poised for a productive future.

The building Flying Bison is in has lots of room for added tanks, and hopefully a silo too. They also have a 1-barrel pilot brewery, which Tim used for homebrewing back in the day. Photo at right shows the 1-bbl pilot system and Ryan weighing hop pellets. And they contract brew beer for several breweries.

Flying Bison is so named because Buffalo was once a major center for airplane manufacturing. Now, the local Coast Guard pilots are good customers and Flying Bison's barleywine is named after their squadron.

After a much-too-short day it was time to leave for Rochester. I told Tim I was sorry I couldn't schedule two days for each brewery so I could stay all day long and still drive, but if I stretched out my trip anymore I'd never get home, and I already miss my husband too much.

Tim said, "Tell your husband 'Thank You' for lending you to the brewing industry for the summer." I told Jon that, and he liked the sentiment and asked me to put it on the blog. Jon says, "You're welcome!"

Luckily I'll see Jon in a week when I arrive "home" to attend the MBAA Hop Symposium in Corvallis, Oregon, which is about 50 minutes from Eugene.

Thank you to Tim at Flying Bison for gifting me a 6-pack of his special strong beers.

P.S. Thank you to Rohrbach Brewing Company for letting me use their computer to access the Internet.

P.P.S. Sorry all the indoor photos are so dark: I don't have any photo manipulation software on my laptop so I can't lighten the photos until I return to Eugene at Halloween.

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