Nestled deep in the Old First Ward lies a wonderful Irish-themed beer haven called Gene McCarthy’s. I’ll never forget my first trip to Gene McCarthy’s. A little over a year ago, my cousin Hops Ryno and I were looking for a new place to try. Our criteria were simple: good food and good beer. After some internet research Ryno texted “How about we try this place, Gene McCarthy’s?” We both agreed to give Gene McCarthy’s a shot, and we are very glad we did! Gene McCarthy’s has now become a sneak-away spot for co-workers and friends and we find ourselves frequently leaving work a little early to enjoy a good pint and plate.
Now I understand that locals have known about Gene McCarthy’s for a long time. But for some reason Gene McCarthy’s had eluded my radar. I remember the first time I drove down Hamburg Street to Gene McCarthy’s. As my phone GPS guided me through the Old First Ward side streets and houses, I thought to myself “Is there really a bar at the end of this street?” Gene McCarthy’s blends right into the neighborhood, and might easily be mistaken for an ordinary house. But what’s inside is extraordinary.
Let’s talk about the beer. Most of Gene McCarthy’s offerings are brewed directly on premises in an adjacent building to the bar known as Old First Ward Brewing (OFW). And when the weather warms up, you can enjoy a pint of OFW beer in a beer garden located directly in front of the brew house.
Occasionally Gene McCarthy’s will mix in some local brewery selections, but for the most part they are self-providing. Head brewer Matt’s beers do not disappoint a beer lover’s palate. Perhaps their two best-selling beers, “This is Not a Pale Ale” and “Hopster” are perfect every time. Referred to regulars as “Not-A” (pronounced “nota”), OFW’s Pale Ale is named after a nearby sign that reads “This is Not a Street”. Not-A is an extremely drinkable house pale ale, and a great first beer to sample from the board. The “Hopster” is my personal favorite: a well-blended but deceptively strong IPA. The “HO Oats” Oatmeal Stout is another delicious toasted malt offering. Seasonal selections such as Black Santa and Rosemary’s Snow Baby help round out their résumé of offerings. All of Gene McCarthy’s drafts are $5, rendering these beers one of the best deals in town.
On a sunny day the rays can be seen illuminating the bar through the colorfully-stained front door as if a beacon from above. Gene McCarthy’s is welcoming and warm. Old and young folk alike are interspersed throughout this Old First Ward gem, telling stories in between sips of Red Clover Irish Red.
At night, the meticulously-decorated bar gets quite packed. Whether before a Sabres home game or Friday night after work, locals and visitors rub elbows at Gene McCarthy’s to enjoy a St. Patrick’s Pilsner and fish fry.
If you love craft beer, you need to stop into Gene McCarthy’s for a heavenly and reasonably-priced pint. The beer board at Gene McCarthy’s is built from a foundation of traditional standards and seasonal selections. The staff is friendly, the atmosphere is cozy, and the beers are exceptional.
Gene McCarthy’s and OFW Brewing
72 Hamburg Street
Buffalo, NY 14204