Crossing the border into Buffalo for some US beers is a common thing for craft beer lovers in southern Ontario. Even when our Canadian dollar is dropping, the lure of different beers can be strong.
I’ve hopped over to the Buffalo area for trips as short as a few hours to stock up on supplies, but most people combine a beer day in Buffalo with at least one overnight so you can actually enjoy some beers while you’re there! So, for anyone who hasn’t done a beer day in Buffalo, here are some of my personal tips on where to stay, where to drink and where to buy some bottles to bring home.
Where to Drink Craft Beer in Buffalo
There are a few places that get top mention by many beer lovers, and a handful of them are in the Mike Shatzel’s empire. He owns Moor Pat, Coles, Blue Monk, Allen Burger Venture and perhaps other places. So, feel free to hit any of them up. Coles gets a lot of love, and while they special events and tap list is impressive, I have to admit I’ve never been a big fan of their food.
Now, if you’re in town for a hockey game or other event, the old school Pearl Street Grill & Brewery is convenient, and stopping at the nearby 716 Sports Bar at Harbor Center will at least yield surprisingly decent food to go along with the massive wall of TVs to catch the game, even if the beer selection isn’t quite as solid as other options.
Pizza Plant gets a nod for people who like beer, but may be heading over with the family, so require a more family-friendly spot. Their location on Transit Road in Clarence (close to the Griffon Gastropub, another worthy beer stop) has always been popular, but they’re just opened a new spot at Canalside, which should be a great addition to that part of the city.
The Riverside neighborhood is a great area with Flying Bison and Hydraulic Hearth there (the beers at Hydraulic Hearth are brewed on-site by Community Beer Works). Plus, Resurgence Brewing is probably the top spot in town when it comes to breweries, although there are many many others I haven’t mentioned – these are just my personal favourites.
Where to Buy Bottles of Beer
A big attraction for Canadians heading to Buffalo for beer is picking up bottles of US beers we can’t get here at home. Grab what you like at any of the breweries that you visit, then hit Premier Gourmet. It is easily the bets bottle shop around. Chances are they’ll have the local beer you want. If you’re seeking a special brew, and can’t find it there, then Village Beer Merchant is a possible stop as well. Their selection is smaller, but they do get some beers that you may not find at Premier. For the price conscious, places like Wegmans and Consumers beverages carry good selections as well.
Where to Stay in Buffalo
Extending your beer day in Buffalo to include some actual sampling requires an overnight. The challenge here is that Buffalo is a bit spread out when it comes to hopping around to the best bottle shops, bars and breweries. Your best bet is to do your bottle shopping first, then so sampling over in the Riverside neighborhood.
Then stay somewhere close to downtown, where you can hop on the light rail train or be within an easy taxi ride or hearty walk of some of the best beer bars. For location and price, the Hampton Inn and Suites downtown hotel wins for me. It has a really solid breakfast and is close enough to all the bars and pubs. As a bonus, if you’re a meat-eater both Dinosaur BBQ and The Lodge are just minutes away, two good eating spots with decent bottle or draft beer options.
Final tip – if you’re not staying more than 48 hours in the US, then you’ll need to pay duty on any beer you bring back across the border. Sometimes they don’t mind and wave you on through even if you have alcohol any haven’t been in the US long enough to get an exception. But, don’t expect that – be prepared and have your receipts ready and expect to pay a duty surcharge when you’re crossing back into Canada.