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Craft beer forum draws wide interest

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Once just a hobby for home brewers, the craft beer industry continues to expand. That growth was on display Wednesday night at a forum at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

The title of the program was very business-oriented: The Buffalo Brewing Phenomenon: An Industry Sector on the Rise.

On stage for the panel discussion, there was solid hope for the future from Batavia farmer Ted Hawley of New York Craft Malt and Flying Bison owner Tim Herzog. Hawley makes malt, an essential ingredient for all of those local brewers because New York malt and hops make for a New York-tasting beer.

"There's huge growing pains right now. There's a need for malt. There's a need for hops. There's a need for all New York State.... ingredients," Hawley said.

Hawley has been making malt for two-years from his own grain and the demand and the number of potential customers keeps rising.

Paul Herlan is director of business development for accountants Lumsden McCormick and there was potentially a lot of business to develop in the crowded room.

"There's a lot of people that have come to this forum today, with the idea of getting into the industry and looking to learn more about what exactly you just said, how they can get in and what's involved."

It's not cheap. One new brewer said it may coat $1 million to put together a reasonable-sized brewery with the capability to bottle or can the company's beverage and keep enough cash to operate.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.