Beer enthusiasts about to get a taste of WNY brewing history

By Joe Kirchmyer

Something very unique has been brewing in Buffalo for nearly three years, and this “wild ale” is about to be unleashed on local beer enthusiasts!

This particular brewing adventure dates back to the summer of 2013, before Big Ditch Brewing Company opened its doors at 55 East Huron St. in downtown Buffalo. Hoping to promote the brewery, Big Ditch President Matt Kahn and Head Brewer Corey Catalano visited the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market on two occasions to hand out a few trinkets and conduct home brewing demonstrations.

During their appearances, the duo collected overripe and bruised fruit from a few vendors and used them in their brewing demos. The unexpected results were both astonishing and history making, and next month Big Ditch will host a special tasting and limited bottle sale of “Bidwell Wild.” The event will take place at noon Saturday, April 9, at the brewery.

“We did not use yeast the days we brewed at the market,” said Kahn. “Instead, we asked the farmers to donate any overripe or bruised fruit. Fruit skins usually harbor wild yeast and bacteria which can result in very unique beers. The beer we made was aged for two and a half years, which is not an uncommon timeframe for these types of wild fermentations. We just bottled the beer a month ago. It is tasting great — very fruity — with some funk from the native wild yeast and quite sour from the native bacteria.” 

Catalano & KahnPerhaps more importantly, Kahn and Catalano believe this is the very first beer to be brewed and sold using native Western New York yeast.

“Just before we appeared at the market I had read about making wild, spontaneously fermented beer,” Kahn recalled. “Knowing that people would be selling fruit at the market, I hoped they might share some of it with us. So we came out there with a simple recipe and brewed it as authentically as we could. We then took the two batches — one made in August and one in September — and blended them together.”

Batch one contained peaches, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and gooseberries, while batch two featured a blend of peaches, pears, nectarines, plums and grapes.

“The two batches turned out very different,” said Kahn. “You can definitely taste the different fruits. It’s a little sour and almost like tasting a wine. It has a ‘funky,’ mature flavor and an interesting taste.

“During the first three days of the lengthy brewing process — a time during which you would typically see the fermentation process begin — nothing happened,” Kahn said of his unique brew. “But on the fourth day, it started to go crazy and you could see the wild yeast living on top of the beer. It bubbled like crazy for two weeks and then stopped, which is pretty typical for beer. It took a year for the fermentation process to finish, and at that point it still tasted very raw. Over the next year it soured from the natural bacteria. It was at that point when I finally realized this beer was going to be pretty good!”

“Bidwell Wild” was bottled in February of this year. The eight gallons resulted in just 64 bottles, of which 50 will be sold for $16 per bottle at Big Ditch on April 9 with a limit of one bottle per customer. The other bottles will be opened for sampling during the event.

“Overall, this was a very unique experiment that went very well,” said Kahn. “I’m not going to say it’s the world’s best beer, but we’re really happy with it.” So happy, in fact, that Big Ditch wants to make this an annual tradition in partnership with the market, now known as the Elmwood Village Farmers Market.

The back label of this very limited brew explains its relationship to the market and its local farmers.

“In the summer of 2013, a year before Big Ditch brewery opened, the brewers participated in a brewing session at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market with the goal of educating market goers about craft beer,” the label states. “Instead of pitching brewer’s yeast into the beer, the brewers collected unsold fruit from the farmers as a source of wild yeast and bacteria. The eight gallons of beer brewed was then aged for more than two years. The result is a sour and complex beer with fruit and berry notes. To our knowledge, this beer is the first to be sold using native yeast purposefully collected from Western New York.”

For more information on the Elmwood Village Farmers Market, please visit For more information on Big Ditch Brewing Company, visit

And for more information on “Bidwell Wild,” stop by the brewery on April 9 for a rare taste of Western New York beer brewing history!