Depending on the source and/or how wide the radius, the Buffalo Niagara region has upwards of 60 breweries. While this provides ample opportunities for locals and tourists alike, it can make for quite a challenge for new establishments to cut through the proverbial noise.
New breweries often need to have “a thing”- a great outdoor space, prime location, an awesome food selection, games and entertainment – because the area already has plenty of great beer options.
Enter Orchard Park’s newest gem, Wayland Brewing.
Wayland hits all the marks listed above, especially the brews, but they have one thing that no other local place can offer: a connection to Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet.
More on that later.
All one needed to do to understand the level of anticipation surrounding Wayland was browse Facebook and Instagram that Sunday in May when they opened. Despite a pretty nasty downpour, there were a hundred odd people wrapped around the side of the building.
“It was impressive,” said PJ Dunn, head brewer at Wayland, whose background in brewing dates all the way back to 2008 when, while residing in Pittsburgh, he began homebrewing after a friend’s recommendation. Honing his craft over the next 8 years, PJ joined Buffalo’s very own Thin Man Brewing when they opened in 2016. His experience there led to a conceptual conversation in 2019 with his current Wayland co-partners Brad Rowell and Caryn Dujanovich.
The rain-soaked wait to get inside said building was well worth it.
The main footprint is made up of two distinct areas – the Atrium and the House.
The Atrium, a gorgeous room that feels a bit like a gallery space crossed with an observatory, features bar seating, plenty of tables, and a walk-up counter Here you can partake in all of Wayland’s 17(!) taps. This room was packed on both visits, but with plenty of staff to go around, there was very little wait time.
The House, a quieter, more low-key section, features a U-shaped bar with eight taps, along with the variety of Wayland’s merchandise and to-go options. The bar was full late one Wednesday afternoon and, despite the constant demand for cocktails and a short wait for table service, bartenders kept things running smoothly.
In addition, there is a large outdoor beer garden, which includes an ordering window connected to the tap room. Dunn says there are plans for a beer trailer during the busy summer months.
With a slogan like “a place where all paths converge,” Wayland rounds things out with a bocce court and an event space which can accommodate up to 220 guests.
But what about the beer, you ask? The short and sweet take…
A place that has only been open for a handful of weeks has no business serving beer this good.
It is almost never good form to judge a brewery based on its offerings in the early stages of opening. Usually, it makes sense to revisit the brews periodically, maybe checking in over the course of six months or so. No need in the case of Wayland – these beers don’t drink like a place that has been open mere weeks. The variety doesn’t scream new either; I counted 11 different styles on my last visit.
A few standouts:
• Pub Ale (English Best Bitter, 4.2%) According to the menu, it is “not actually bitter.” This could be the lawnmowing beer for your buddy who loves light beers, but is afraid of hops and malts.
• Future Ghost (Hoppy Blonde Ale, 4.2%) This style is more often a miss than a hit – usually tries to be both hoppy and crushable, but accomplishes neither. This version, however, straddles that delicate line.
• Baby Marzen (“A Little Marzen,” 4.0%) A springtime version of one of fall’s best styles? Done.
• Festa (Ground Cherry Sour Ale, 5.6%) A sour for drinkers tired of the smoothie-fication of sours. Cara cara orange zest, cardamom, and Nelson Sauvin hops make this one of the best local sours out there.
These four offerings pair perfectly with rising temperatures. In fact, that seems like a conscious effort on Dunn’s part – 10 of the 15 beers available were at 6.0% ABV (alcohol by volume) or under.
Wayland also does something more places should – small pours of all their offerings. Five-ounce taster glasses just don’t cut it sometimes; neither do full pints. The small pours start at $4.
Hopheads need not worry – at the time of writing, Wayland featured three house made IPAs.
Beer not your thing? Wayland offers custom cocktails, a handful of wines, house made hard seltzer, and a rotating guest cider. The cocktails, especially the You’re So Eddie Money (tequila, mezcal, cucumber, pineapple, lime, jalapeno, ginger) were nearly as popular as the suds during both trips.
Despite Wayland’s early success, one of the problems that comes with putting out such high quality brews? Meeting the tremendous demand.
“We can’t make the beer fast enough,” said Dunn.
Customers should expect regular changes to the tap list. Dunn keeps their website up to date and supplements his beer with guest taps when necessary – Fiddlehead IPA, a stalwart of the craft beer scene from Vermont, was one of the more recent additions.
Brad Rowell and Caryn Dujanovich are behind the operations in the kitchen. Fans of the Grange Community Kitchen in Hamburg, NY, the Grange Outpost in Orchard Park, NY, and West Rose in Ellicottville, NY will know to expect extraordinary plates. Tacos, tortas, and tostadas are all incredibly well-crafted and are a nice change from the usual pretzel sticks and spinach artichoke dip that patrons have come to expect at breweries.
And the connection to Lincoln? The house at 3740 North Buffalo Street, now part of Wayland’s facility, was owned by Erastus Webster during the Civil War; Webster served under then Secretary of State William Seward. Impress your friends with your new-found knowledge of American history and taste in local beer. You’re welcome.