You wake on a mid-November Saturday morning in Buffalo to the sound of snowflakes, the heavy wet kind, falling with a ‘thunk’ in the yard. Your initial thought is reasonable: Finally, dark beer season has arrived! I’d be lying if I told you I thought anything different as I bear witness to the first snow of the season.
Now imagine you’ve just made the 25-minute highway trek southeast of downtown to the quaint village of East Aurora, NY. You enter 25 Pine Street from the frigid outdoors and are overcome with warmth. The worn wooden floors show where thousands have stood, just like you. The lighting is soft but bright, the space feels natural with earth tones, aged brick columns, wood plank walls, a vaulted ceiling at the back, and exposed cross bracing between floor joists above you—everything is rustic and homey.
This is the Saturday evening you’ve been looking forward to ever since you watched those snowflakes (and then hail, snow again, and then some rain) fall to the earth. You notice the hand-written chalkboard beer list, and even that looks exactly as it should. The details make all the difference. The only thing missing, perhaps, is a lit fireplace and beside it your chair, or that favorite spot of the couch, you always find yourself hunkered into on weekends.
The place you’ve just entered is 42 North Brewing Company. In its own unique way, you feel as if in a home away from home. It’s busy but not too crowded. Beer flows from taps, shuffles around, and is drunk by smiling patrons as you and a friend peruse the bar and surrounding tables for a seat. A sensational smell registers in your olfactory bulb and you realize, with watering mouth as you look at the food menu sitting in front of you that, oh yes, Fat Bob’s runs the kitchen. To say this is a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. The food menu is limited compared with the Fat Bob’s Smokehouse you’ve visited in Allentown, but the barbecue offering is more than adequate to pair with the high-quality beer expected from one of the top brewers in Western New York.
My first experience with 42 North Brewing Company was with their cans at Wegmans shortly after moving to Buffalo in 2019. The cans, many with road or topographical maps of the local region for label backgrounds, drew my eye due to their simple elegance among the ever-growing abundance of wild can art these days. And beyond label design, the name 42 North communicates a strong sense of place—the 42nd parallel and the circle of latitude which pays homage to the long history of hops growing in New York State.
Inside 42 North’s brewpub, there are no waiters, no waitresses, and no assigned seating. The bartenders cheerfully take your order and fill your glass. My buddy and I sauntered up to the bar and placed our order. He went with the brisket and I with a pulled chicken sandwich. After much deliberation—as there always is in the matter of selecting a beer—I settled on the Ben Nevis Scotch Ale, my buddy on the Oatmeal Cookie Brown Ale. Dark beer season, commence! Somehow, we get lucky securing the last open table and, like everyone else around us, chat about the past week and the goings on in our lives—the good, the bad, the indifferent.
Our food arrived in quick order. My first introduction to barbecue in Buffalo was at Fat Bob’s Smokehouse on Virginia Place in Allentown. Coming from Syracuse where the original Dinosaur Bar-B-Que fueled me from childhood, I’ll be honest, I was skeptical—but a skeptic no longer. The Fat Bob’s barbecue crew at 42 North does a spectacular job delivering on expectations of quality with a pared down menu. The brisket and pulled chicken were exactly what we were looking for, our expectations exceeded.
If there is one distinct attribute of 42 North Brewing, it is the rustic atmosphere and first-rate beer quality (coupled with barbecue) that complement each other well, fulfilling its payment of homage to the 42nd latitude in its own special way. I would be remiss if I didn’t share the balance of beer styles offered, which was a pleasant relief. As much as I enjoy IPAs, it was nice to browse a beer list that wasn’t overloaded with them and included Scotch Ale, Imperial Stout, Brown Ale, Pilsner, Gose, Belgian Dubbel, Helles Lager, Saison, Hefeweizen, Witbier, Stout, Porter, and IPA.
After my scotch ale performed its vanishing act, I ordered the Asylum Porter, a brew I’ve enjoyed from the can but never from the tap. The beers were incredibly satisfying. Compared to the numerous craft beers available in-store, 42 North finds itself among those at a higher price point, and in my opinion, it’s justified. The effort put in by the 42 North Brewing team manifests itself in premier-quality beer. Details, details, details. What more can be said? To enjoy 42 North beer from the source and in the space designed for its enjoyment along with local barbecue was a true pleasure. I can’t wait to go back. And I especially look forward to exploring more of East Aurora.
Finally, as one of the bar patrons shared, if for some reason the need to flaunt your freedom in East Aurora strikes you, have no fear. There is no open container law, and it is legal to enjoy a can of beer while strolling the sidewalks through the village. Tastemade has featured East Aurora on the matter along with New Orleans; Las Vegas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Butte, Montana (more on that here). But even so, once in a place like 42 North Brewing, you may not care to leave. I’m still not sure why I did.
Cheers to the start of the dark beer holiday season!
42 North Brewing: http://42northbrewing.com/