Some breweries are inspired by the latest (hop) trends and innovation, while others are steeped deeply in providing a 360-degree customer experience. Prosper Brewing, the latest addition to Western New York’s brewery landscape, is clearly in the latter category.
Claiming to be the first brewery to open in the Tonawandas in the last seven decades, Prosper Brewing is a small operation on Webster Street in North Tonawanda. The brewpub’s small size means a more intimate connection between the brewers themselves and the customers. If you want to critique one of Prosper’s beers, there’s a good chance the person manning the taps had a hand in brewing said beer.
That intimate connection also helps build a sense of community. Brewers at Prosper are more likely to know the names and faces of their customers because they interact with them personally; unlike bigger operations where the brewer or brewers are more removed.
Putting service-to-customers and the community first means having user-friendly beers. In a recent phone interview, co-owner Kevin Whipple told me offering a wide range of beers is key to serving the Riviera Theater crowd, canal concert-goers and all kind of people who find themselves wandering up and down Webster Street. He noted that “You have to have an IPA” to avoid offending the hop police, but also added that their pilsner and blonde ale are popular in the early going.
“We want to have something for everybody,” Whipple said. “If you walk into a place and all they serve is really hoppy beers and sours, well some people don’t like those. If that’s your thing, then that’s your thing – nothing against that at all. But because of the volume of people coming into this area, having a variety of different styles is important (for us).”
With this in mind and some basic research done, I trudged out to Prosper, which is nestled in a strip of Webster Street bars and across from the Riviera Theater. After bellying up to the bar and ordering a flight, I overheard the couple next to me say Prosper is “a nice addition to the area” and the bartender respond by saying they were busier than even they had expected. The Sabres game was on, and the sound was off; but with the team down 3-0 in the second period, it didn’t really matter.
During my visit, 11 house-brewed beers were available and 1 cider. The pilsner, IPA, orange pale ale and other lightly-colored beers were decent, but it was the dark beers that really shined. The porter’s vanilla and espresso flavors were on-point, the Munich dunkel tasted like a delicious, savory graham cracker and the brown ale shipped that classic brown ale taste, with a bit of bitter complexity on the back end.
The one big shortfall Prosper has right now is its size. Holding a capacity of just 40 people right now, Prosper is slated to expand into an adjacent storefront. Also, there’s only one unisex bathroom.
“We’ve had a couple people not recommend us because we’re too small, but I guess that’s a good problem to have,” Whipple said wryly.
“We don’t want to get shut down in the first few weeks!” he laughed. “So, we’re keeping a pretty good eye on how many people we have in here. If you come and you can’t get in, just check back. Try out one of our neighbors and come back later for a drink.”
Pizza, pierogi, chicken fingers and other pub grub dishes are available to pair with those friendly beers. There’s also wine for non-beer drinkers who find themselves dragged to a brewery. Whipple said they aren’t offering growler fills or crowlers just yet, but they plan to soon.
“We’re just a brewpub at this point,” he explained. “We just want to get through the initial rush and hype.”
72A Webster Street, North Tonawanda
Hours: Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m., Friday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 2 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday through Wednesday, Closed.