BUFFALO, NY – Tuesday marked a milestone for the Queen City's newest entrant into the craft beer market. Big Ditch Brewing produced its first batch of beer, marking the realization of a dream come true for three local men.
"It's a fantastic feeling to see our dream come to fruition, said company President Matt Kahn.
Kahn, along with his business partners, is part of a trio entrepreneurs who bring unique, and necessary sets of skills from prior employment to their new venture.
All three were also home brewers, and beer lovers who dreamed of opening their own craft brewery.
After meeting several years ago, they began pooling their resources and their business plans, resulting in the transformation of a former Verizon building on East Huron Street into a brewery that will have the capacity to produce 15,000 barrels a year.
Initially, they will sell their products to local taverns and specialty stores where it will be available in growlers. Eventually though, with the installation of a bottling line, Big Ditch products will be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores, as well as the restaurant the company plans to open at their brewing facility.
"Making drugs is fun, but you don't get to really do those at the end of the day," quipped Corey Catalano, whose background is in biotech and pharmaceutical engineering, and will serve as head brewer for the company he now partly owns.
Photos: Big Ditch Brewery begins making beer.
"It's good to make a product that, at the end of the day, you get to see people enjoy and I really enjoy it as well," said Catalano, who served several internships at larger breweries in order to prepare for his new role.
Kahn, a chemical engineer by training, was making various measurements and tests on the first batch of beer being brewed, in between trips to schlep boxes from delivery trucks.
"There's an art and science to brewing," Kahn told WGRZ-TV. "The artistic part is sort of the recipe, creating, and tasting…but the process of brewing is just chemistry and biology."
"You have to be enthusiastic about doing what you love," said Kahn and Catalano's other partner Wes Froebel, who besides having crafted beer for several years at home, brings a background in marketing and sales to the venture.
He also believes, more than beer, the company will be peddling a concept.
"We all love beer, and we all love Buffalo," he said. "We wanted to make a good product in the city of Buffalo and support the growth that Buffalo is currently having under its latest renaissance."
"There's not another place in the world we'd want to do this," agreed Kahn, the only one of the three who wasn't born locally, but who like many others who came here for college, fell in love with the city and set down roots here.
"I love living here, I love being here, and I plan to be here for forever," said the native of Queens..
As proud as they are of their product, they seem prouder about the prospect of providing jobs, perhaps up to fifty when they are fully up and running with all aspects of their business.
They named company Big Ditch Brewing in honor of the Erie Canal, which sparked Buffalo's original Renaissance.
The trio seems determined to be a part of its next one.
Click on the video player to watch our story from Two on Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and photojournalists Terry Belke and Scott May.