Beers, brews and pretzel necklaces
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Beers, brews and pretzel necklaces

Feb 25, 2019

BATAVIA — Sure, they may have ditched whimsical costumes in favor of zip-up jackets and winter hats, and swapped the sunshine of October for cold February rain and a thick cover of clouds, but in exchange, attendees of the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District’s first-ever FeBREWary Craft Beer Walk had the opportunity to sample over 18 chilled, rugged, foamy craft beers — and for that, they were ever grateful.

And a little rosy-cheeked, whether from the cold or the alcohol, we’ll never know.

“Basically, what the FeBREWary event is, is it’s similar to the Wine Walk, except with craft brews,” Barb Dietrich, executive director of the event, explained at her station inside the Genesee Valley Pennysaver headquarters, where she and a line of other volunteers were busy ID’ing guests, stamping hands and doling out specially made mugs and maps as some of the events approximately 400 walkers set out for the first of many stops on their exploratory journey. “We have breweries from all over Western New York participating at around 15 different businesses, and every business is located in the BID.”

The purpose, she said, is to first show people what the BID has to offer, and then to invite them inside its many storefronts to see what local businesses have to offer.

“Maybe, you know, participants have never been in a few stores, or there are things they don’t normally get to see,” Dietrich said. “We’ve had great participation, and even businesses that aren’t like a regular stop have opened up their doors for the event.”

Saturday evening’s tour of more than 15 area businesses, including some of the city’s newest kids on the block, proved an overwhelming success according to its organizers, who said that even with the wind and rain, they considered themselves blessed to have chosen a date that sandwiched itself between two ends of wicked winter weather.

And a few doors down, at Adam Miller Toy and Bike, the taps were flowing and the laughs were roaring, even if some homemade pretzel necklaces had gotten a little soggy in the rain.

“We’ve participated in BEERtavia twice, but this is our first time doing a winter walk,” said Kristi Streamer, who owns Amber Lantern Brewing in Warsaw with her husband, Tommy, over the swell of walkers who’d just burst in. “We just had someone who said they didn’t know there was a brewery in Warsaw. That’s why you come to these things, to meet people and hopefully entice people to come visit you.”

She and Tommy were doling out mugs of Black Squirrel IPA — “No squirrels were harmed in the making of this brew” — and an Irish Red called Grace O’Malley during the event, and, though they dealt with some especially boisterous walkers, did it all with smiles.

“Oh yeah, it’s fun,” Kristi said over her shoulder. “We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun.”

As guests mmm-ed and ah-ed over the “roast-y, hint of coffee or chocolate” IPA that was balanced “with citrus-y hops,” Tommy let the cup of his brewing knowledge overfloweth.

“Our Irish Red is called Grace O’Malley. She was an Irish pirate from I don’t know when, but she was pretty impressive, apparently,” Tommy said. “We brew that in the months leading up to St. Patty’s Day, and there’s not much special about that other than that it’s really delicious.”

Back at the Pennysaver, it seemed that, with the chilly temperatures and warnings of severe winds on Sunday, a few who’d purchased tickets just weren’t able to swing the trip, in the end.

“Still, for a first-year event I would say this has been outstanding, and we’ve done really, really well,” Dietrich said.

All funds raised will go back to the beautification of Batavia, and directly support the BID mission of making Downtown Batavia a destination, she said.

“People should come down and check out the shops and be more conscious of shopping local. That’s really what we’re all about.”

And as more participants stepped out from the icy raindrops and into the warm and welcoming expanse of another Main Street store, eagerly awaiting the filling of their mugs, and discussing their post-beer crawl snack stops — “Sporto’s or Settler’s? Both have great breakfast.” — there wasn’t an unsmiling face to be found.

“There’s beer,” John Roche of Adam Miller Toys and Bikes had joked earlier in the evening. “You can’t go wrong.”

And as he said it, he handed out business cards and tiny cups of Cheez-its to the patrons sifting through, so that those interested in making purchases would still remember him tomorrow, “after the headache.”

By Jessica Dillon, Batavian Daily News

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