Ethan Cox would not be the first Buffalonian to declare that more beer is key to the community's future.
He does it sober, though, not at last call. Cox leads a group called Community Beer Works that's opening a brewery in Buffalo, the second after Flying Bison.
The "nanobrewery" should turn out its first 45-gallon batches this winter at its Lafayette Avenue site, if all goes according to plan. Buffalo beer supporters, invited to donate money to a Kickstarter campaign on its behalf, have in two weeks pledged over $10,000 of the $15,000 goal.
Cox, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, spoke to the recent TedX Buffalo ideas conference about his drive to "embeer Buffalo." He would like to emulate Portland, Ore.'s success in linking beer to urban renewal, and Community Beer Works is his first step.
"First of all, it will increase the number of breweries in Buffalo by 100 percent, so that's a good start," he said. "But what we're promoting is the idea that other people can, and should, start breweries too."
So you're trying to make beer and prove a point?
"Yes, by showing that you don't have to get $400,000 worth of funding behind you to get a brewery started. That somebody with a home-brewing background can actually make that work. I think that will help bring other people out of the woodwork."
You're encouraging competition without even being open yet?
"We don't really see it as competition. Think about it this way: When Buffalo had its peak number of breweries in the late 1800s, early 1900s, the population of Buffalo was the same as it is today. There's no question in my mind that Buffalonians drink beer. There's also no question in my mind that Buffalo can support more than a few breweries. I think it's synergistic up to a point.
How much will it cost you?
"When all is said and done, we'll get this going for $150,000. It's more than we need to get started, but we're spending a little bit more to get ready for growth. We're getting a much larger water line put in than we really need right now, to get started. But we know that we're going to be using a bigger system on down the line."
How else are you locally focused?
"I know people who are interested in opening up urban farms on the East Side to grow hops, anticipating that we would use them, and we would. I'd like to make an urban estate beer, where the hops and maybe some of the specialty malts come from farms within the city. I don't think anyone can grow enough barley."
If you could have opened without the Kickstarter drive, why do it?
"We want people to feel, 'Hey, I helped open that brewery.' That's what we want. We want people to feel like we're theirs."