We might know a thing or two about IPAs here in Western New York, but out on the West Coast, microbreweries have been making and refining the hoppy-as-hell beer style for decades.
WNY native Karl Kolbe spent a number of years woodshedding out in California’s IPA scene, and after coming back in March – he’s set to unleash all he’s learned with Pressure Drop Brewing, located in the Old First Ward’s Barrel Factory.
Kolbe isn’t just another dude with a bucket fermenter in his basement. He’s been racking up the accolades Out West and getting proper recognition for his homebrews. Winning awards in big competitions is actually what caused him to start thinking about starting his own operation.
“In the first competition I ever entered, I took home a bronze medal for an American Ale. I was like, wow, this is cool,” he told me on a recent visit.
Kolbe then entered a saison and an IPA into a nationwide homebrew competition sponsored by Sierra Nevada and other West Coast breweries. His IPA entry was up against nearly 100 other entries and it was awarded a bronze medal.
“I was like, ok this is legit. From there, I started working at a brewery in Auburn (California) called Knee Deep Brewing Company,” he said. “It’s one of the largest craft breweries in the Sacramento region. They make amazing beers. They actually just won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for IPA.”
After starting in the tasting room, Kolbe move up to working in the brewhouse and just as he was going to start brewing regularly for Knee Deep – he put in his two week’s notice to start working on his own brewing operation back in Western New York.
I’ve had the chance to sample the first few Pressure Drop releases, and they are no joke. Dank, resiny, clear and golden, Sticky Trees is a classic, easy-drinking West Coast IPA. If someone ever asks you what a West Coast IPA is, hand them this beer.
Strummer Belgian Blonde Ale is a more complex brew, perfect for Blue Moon fans who want to get weird. With a golden hue and a slight haze, Strummer features citrus and coriander notes, as well as a subtle, creamy texture.
Knee Socks Double IPA is actually a collaboration with Old First Ward Brewing located across the street, and this one will send you, hop head, to your special place. Weighing in at a diabolical 7.7 percent ABV, Knee Socks is tropical and juicy up front, piney in the rear. It’s a dab-worthy Double IPA that’s as smooth as a Single IPA, which is apparently all the rage these days.
“I’ve got a special place in my heart for bigger beers; so imperial stouts, porters and IPAs,” Kolbe said. “All that fun stuff is where I come from.
“But at the same time, I really like a nice 3-percent, 4-percent session IPA or a nice English brown ale that you can just sit down and drink 10 of them watching football all day. I haven’t met a kind of beer that I really didn’t love.”
Upon coming back to WNY earlier this year, Kolbe said he noticed other breweries in town starting to amp up their game on the ABV tip, specifically Flying Bison.
“They just released that Juice Caboose, and that was like 7.5 percent ABV,” he said. “It’s a super dangerous beer cause you could have two of those and not even realize that you were basically drinking a six-pack in two beers. So yeah, good stuff.”
“We’re going to kick it up a notch and see if people love it,” he added.
Pressure Drop is just doing kegs for now and is featured primarily in the Barrel Factory, at both the Lakeward Spirits tasting room and Buffalo’s Best Cucina. Knee Socks, the OFW collab, is available at Gene McCarthy’s. Keep an eye on their social media pages for more availability and more beers.
Pressure Drop Brewing
65 Vandalia Street, Buffalo, NY 14204
Hours (Lakeward Spirits tasting room) Wednesday and Thursday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.