Photojournalist and brewing entrepreneur, Bill Owens opened
Buffalo Bill's Brewery in the early 80's as one of the pioneers of the brewpub movement in California. I had a chance to swing by on my way back from Woodland where I was picking up grains from Certified Foods, Inc. for myself and some of the other Zymurgeek members. Buffalo Bills is located in the downtown part of Hayward, California. It's an old building with a lot of charm and the bar section has a hardwood floor that runs the length of the bar. A very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy a good ale.
I ordered a sampler platter of the beers on tap and spent some time working my way through them from light to dark beginning with an American lager followed by an American wheat, pale ale, red ale and ending with an oatmeal stout.
I need a moment here to say that I have a problem with brewpubs that serve their wheat beer with a slice of lemon. In a sense, the practice is really about homogenizing a product, catering to mass appeal because of market driven imagery which I believe marginalizes the seriousness of a quality and well crafted beer. I want to taste and appreciate the characters that should be evident with an American wheat beer! Having said that, I don't particularly like American wheat to begin with but introducing overpowering flavors to my glass of beer just tells me that the beer can't stand on its own without it. Sorry, I had to get that off my mind. In my personal opinion; adding fruit wedges reflects badly on a serious brewing establishment.
Moving on, my favorite from the grouping was the pale ale, which they call the Tasmanian and I ended up ordering a pint to enjoy with my lunch. Very refreshing with a good malt/hop balance if not slightly on the sweet side.
The Stout has an up front coffee/coco powder flavor with a dry finish and subtle hop flavor, a nice beer.
Three different bottled beers are displayed in cases, decorating the corners of the expansive room. These include Orange Blossom cream ale, Blueberry oatmeal stout and their famous Pumpkin ale. Buffalo Bills is a pretty small place and I asked the barkeep about the bottled beers. He said that they are beers that are contract brewed by Pyramid Brewing. I order the cream ale out of curiosity (not of big fan of the fruit flavored beers, kind of a traditionalist if you haven't noticed) because it is hard to come by a cream ale around here. Unfortunately, the orange blossom flavor overpowers this beer in a relentless way.
I finished up my Tasmanian Devil and headed out into the hot California sun and made my way back down the 880 for Santa Cruz. With 150 pounds of fresh malted grain, it's time to get brewing.