Think about the things you did over the past week. Maybe you stared blankly for 60 minutes into a kids’ soccer game, went to a farmers’ market for some tomatoes or stayed out until 2 a.m. vaping and drinking hard seltzers.
Just 18 months ago, when the world was shut down, these humdrum activities were the stuff of fantasy.
Unless you’re an emotionless robot, COVID-19 probably gave you a new appreciation for stepping out, a new appreciation for the power of shared activity. In the glow of post-lockdown society, the typical feels sublime.
While the brand new taproom by Southern Tier Brewing in downtown Buffalo isn’t exactly a novel concept: big TVs, craft beer and crave-able, maybe-not-healthy bar food, its one that’s been proven to work with a little effort in the food and drink department. The rebooted 716 Food and Sport space will remain a great place to watch a Bills or Sabres game or visit before or after a nearby event, now with an enhanced focus on food and beverage according to a recent press release.
Right now it’s also a good place to stroll into on a Wednesday afternoon (have you tried to find places open for lunch these days?) and belly up to the bar as the massive image of Stephen A. Smith towers above you, glowering through the camera lens. What is Stephen A. on about? Does it matter? Even at its quietest, the new taproom offers the kind of relief that comes after a bout of heavy weather.
To be fair, Southern Tier makes a tasty beverage and the opening day beer menu featured 12 proprietary brews, including four beers exclusive to the location: a lager, pineapple sour, hazy double IPA and a gose. There were also proprietary seltzers and cocktails made with spirits from the company’s distillery. Additionally, the taproom will feature more than just Southern Tier products, roping in brews from other craft establishments and their sister breweries to round out the beer list.
The from-scratch food menu also incorporates beer with a vinaigrette dressing on a salmon salad made with Nu Haze IPA and smoked chicken nachos smothered in a beer cheese sauce.
Business at the new taproom will be driven by Sabres games, concerts and other events at KeyBank Center. At its busiest, it will pulsate with anticipation, buzz with revelry or drown sorrows with resignation. In all likelihood, you’ll end up here at some point and you’ll probably have a great time.
You also might find yourself there at other times. With The Buffalo News building, arena, law offices and many other workplaces nearby, the new Southern Tier Taproom will be a lunchtime draw for media, sports and business types. Middle-aged men in polo shirts and track jackets with hot sauce-stained fingers, chuckling between bouts of light banter. Designer bag toting women in business-casual scouring the menu for a lunch item they won’t regret. Maybe paired with a beer if they’ve got a light afternoon.
Before COVID, the work lunch held a dull, fleeting break from compulsory productivity. But now, being in a shared space with other people, it can feel more like communion, almost sacrosanct. Drink it in.
Hours (could be affected by arena events): Tuesday and Wednesday 3 p.m. – 10 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. – 12 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Monday CLOSED