Craft has always had the connotation of being made by hand. In the case of Buffalo Rock Brewery, being handmade extends past their beers to their very foundation. Originally built as a car wash, Buffalo Rock has been transformed into a destination for craft beer in Waterville.
According to co-owner Troy Burns, while Buffalo Rock’s final landing spot may not have checked all wish-list boxes for a location, it certainly checked some of the most important.
“We knew the building had been sitting unused for quite some time,” Burns said. “We were happy it had a decent parking lot, even if we would have ended up having to tear the whole building down.”
From Carwash to Craft
Instead, Burns and co-owners Tim Burns and Brian Wilson, used some of the building’s unique designs, such as the former car bays, to create an open-air concept buoyed by modern glass garage doors. According to Burns, the open air feature made the brewery instantly popular. “With the garage doors open, summer was absolutely wonderful,” Burns said. “People were able to feel like they were always outside. Our indoor areas were full and the patio areas were full. It was the greatest feeling.”
Rooted in History
The name ‘Buffalo Rock’ is an homage to Waterville’s history. Roche de Boeuf, which is a limestone landmark on the Maumee River, roughly translated to ‘buffalo rock.’ According to Burns, he always hoped to tie the name of the brewery to Waterville’s roots. “Originally, we had considered Pray Falls Brewing Company,” Burns said. “John Pray was the founder of Waterville and we thought we could link back to those historical roots. In the end, we really liked the name Buffalo Rock and its connection to a local landmark.”
To get Buffalo Rock off the ground, Burns said he has leaned heavily on Toledo’s craft beer community. While he praised the entire community for their support, he noted Earnest Brew Works, Wild Side Brewing, and Upside Brewing as being particularly helpful. In the early stages, he said he always asked local breweries and ones he visited what went well and what did not when they were starting out. According to Burns, he was surprised with some of the consistent themes.
Thriving with Support from Waterville & Local Breweries
“We have been fortunate to have a lot of good friends that know a lot of good stuff,” Burns said. “They all said to brew more beer than you expect to sell. They said you could never imagine the demand in the early days of opening a brewery. And they said the worst thing you could do would be to open and then not have enough beer available for people to try. They were definitely right; it was great advice.”
Buffalo Rock has been positioned well to serve Waterville. According to Burns, though, it has still been hard to keep up with demand. “I wish we had a bigger space and a larger brewing capacity,” Burns said. “We currently run a three-barrel system and it’s just not big enough. We had initially planned to be a one-barrel system to start. We would have never been able to keep this place running if we would have gone that route. That said, we still can’t brew enough to keep up with demand, especially now that we are canning some of our beers.”
And while COVID-19 is an ever changing curveball, Burns praised the city of Waterville’s leadership in making this an attractive location to open a new business. Burns said. “I have been absolutely amazed at what [the City of Waterville] has done for us, jumping through all kinds of hoops and making things happen, even during a pandemic when seemingly everything was shut down. And obviously the staff and customers have been great as well.”
The “Cheers” of Waterville
According to Burns, Buffalo Rock was created to be a place where folks come to share conversations and laughs, the bar, rectangular tables, and local music create the focus. According to Burns, this was intentional. “We kind of looked at Buffalo Rock as being the “Cheers” of Waterville,” Burns said. “It’s a place where people come to talk, have some drinks, and share some laughs.”
Buffalo Rock is located at 345 Anthony Wayne Trail in Waterville, featuring Toledo food trucks. Buffalo Rock Brewing is open from Wednesday-Thursday from 4 pm-10 pm, Friday from 4 pm-11 pm, and Saturday from 12 pm-11 pm. buffalorockbrewing.com.