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Beer Event: Larkin Square Ice Fest

Yesterday afternoon the temperatures started in the single digits.  So what better way to celebrate one of the coldest days of the year than with Larkinville Ice Fest.  At one point the sun was shining and the snow was falling at the same time.  Of course this sun/snow made for wonderful photos, and a great opportunity for me to share my Ice Fest experience with you.  Everyone I spoke with agreed that the organizers, vendors, and breweries made Ice Fest a huge success.

Larkinville (Larkin Square) is definitely an up-and-coming area.  The old buildings are steeped in tradition and nostalgia, and I found myself wondering what purpose some of these buildings had in prior decades.  Since 2012, Larkinville has undergone a sharp transformation, breathing new life and revitalization into the Square.  This transformation was evident yesterday as thousands of people came to Ice Fest.

We began the day with “bagels and brooze” at Hydraulic Hearth.  We arrived around 11:30 am to see a standing room only crowd and a long line for bagels.  Lucky for us, we had direct access to the bar as our friends Mike and Laura had arrived early to anchor seating.

Hydraulic Hearth was packed, and the bartenders did an awesome job serving the masses that had assembled for Ice Fest.  Our bartender was sociable and friendly and was able to meet our demands and numerous beer requests in a timely fashion. 

Mixed drinks such as mimosas and Bloody Mary’s were also available, and “bagels and brooze” theme seemed to be a particularly apt hangover cure.  Not being much of a mixed drink fan, and not being hungover, I decided to indulge in beer: a Community Beer Works Singularity: Galaxy IPA.  This beer is made with a single kind of Australian high alpha acid hops called Galaxy hops.  These hops impart a citrus and passion fruit aroma.  We all agreed the Community Beer Works: Galaxy was an extremely delicious and drinkable beer.  Although the beer selections were predominantly supplied by Community Beer Works, there were also a few other strong non-CBW offerings such an Ommegang Witte and Sculpin IPA.

The bagel line had finally died down a bit, so I enjoyed a Wondermoth bagel: a delicious bagel topped with onion, tomato, cucumber, and hummus with a side of apple slices. This bagel was a perfect complement to my CBW Galaxy IPA.

Also at Hydraulic Hearth, A trio comprised of a saxophone, accordion, and bass player helped set the mood with some soothing jazz classics amidst a backdrop of decorative tomato cans.

Hydraulic Hearth was so cozy that we didn’t want to depart, but we did leave as we wanted to visit other destinations and events at Ice Fest.

We transversed Seneca Street to The Filling Station to listen to a talk about the history of Buffalo Brewing by Community Beer Works founder and author Ethan Cox. 

There were only two selections of beer available at the Filling Station:
Labatt and Rusty Chain from Flying Bison.  I would have liked to see a
couple more selections, but I did enjoy my Flying Bison Rusty Chain as we moved into position to listen to Ethan’s talk.

Ethan has obviously conducted a great deal of research on the history of brewing in Buffalo, and he shared that knowledge with a standing room only crowd of hundreds.  Two kind gentleman shared their cinnamon donut with us from Duke’s Donuts as we listened to Ethan discuss the effects of prohibition and the decline of breweries in the city of Buffalo.  It was amazing to think that at one point Buffalo housed some 35 breweries that all but disappeared in mid- to late-century.  Ethan advised that we must learn from these breweries of the past in order to revitalize breweries in Buffalo’s future.

After Ethan’s talk, we decided to talk the short walk over to Flying Bison to see what was on tap at that location.  Numerous food trucks formed a funnel to the brewery entrance, but because we had eaten we worked our way inside the brewery.

A German alpine hat-wearing Tim Herzog expedited delivery of Flying Bison’s beer selections to the thirsty crowd.  Patrons filled growlers and many enjoyed a free sample of Blizzard Bock by saying a secret phrase.

We decided to enjoy a flight of Flying Bison beers: I ordered a Buffalo Lager, Buffalo IPA, MacBison Scotch Ale, and Black IPA.  Other friends complemented our flight with one of their own, and we enjoyed the diverse flavors with each other.

Ice Fest also offered family-friendly activities such as a sledding hill, outdoor games, and snowman area.  As we headed back to our cars, we noticed Buffalo Pedal Tours go past us.  This looked like a blast, and we remarked that in warmer weather we are definitely going to give Buffalo Pedal Tours a go.

Larkinville Ice Fest provided a welcome cultural departure from everyday Buffalo life on the coldest of days.  The idea of celebrating the cold rather than becoming a victim of the indoors registered true.  The visibility of this area due to Ice Fest will undoubtedly put Larkin Square on the radar as a go-to destination for many beer drinkers and food lovers.  I look forward to seeing future growth and prosperity in Larkinville in years to come.

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