Buffalo-based brewery has big plans

By James Fink
Buffalo Business First

Above is a rendering of a new beer-making facility and event center proposed by Big Ditch Brewing. (Image courtesy of Big Ditch Brewing Co.)

Big Ditch Brewing Co.and Iskalo Development Corp. are jointly planning to build a $32 million, 105,000-square-foot taproom and production facility in Cheektowaga.

The new building along Transit Road is designed to help the Buffalo-based craft brewer eventually increase its output by 333 percent.

The Transit Road development, several months in the making, were announced Thursday morning.

Iskalo Development acquired the neighboring sites at 6700 Transit Road just north of the New York State Thruway last summer, paying $3.5 million for the two parcels. The properties are in Cheektowaga along Transit Road and literally sit inches from the Amherst town line.

Paul Iskalo, development company president and CEO and Big Ditch co-founder, said the Transit Road site “is far enough apart” that it won’t hurt the Ellicott Street location.

“What I wanted to hit was the ‘four corners’ of Amherst, Clarence, Lancaster and Cheektowaga,” Iskalo said. “It is a strong demographic area for Big Ditch. This is a prime development spot.”

Since its debut in 2014, Big Ditch has grown into one of New York’s largest, independent craft breweries.

But, even with the new Cheektowaga facility in the works, both Big Ditch and Iskalo leaders said the brewery’s downtown Buffalo tap room and production center will remain in full force.

“The (Ellicott Street) tap room will not change,” said Matt Kahn, Big Ditch president and co-founder.

Kahn said the Ellicott Street site produces approximately 15,000 barrels of beer annually and is at capacity while running three shifts daily.

When fully developed, the Transit Road site will have a 50,000 barrel capacity, giving Big Ditch a total annual output of 65,000 craft beer barrels.

Production and office space will occupy about 57 percent, or roughly 60,000-square-feet of the Transit Road complex. Iskalo is working with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency on tax breaks and incentives for the production center.

The remaining portion of the Transit Road building will include a taproom, retail sales center and an event center with a 200-person capacity. That portion of the project will be privately financed by Iskalo.

The two-story, long-closed 80-room Clarion Hotel on the site will be demolished to make way for the new building.

Some production will continue at Ellicott Street, but, Kahn said the downtown site will morph into Big Ditch’s research and development hub.

The big draw, Kahn and Iskalo said, was the visibility the Transit Road site will have from local traffic as well as those traveling on the Thruway.

“It gives Buffalo a ‘must do/must see’ approach when it comes to craft beer tourism,” Iskalo said. “And, our hope is that this will benefit all of the local craft breweries.”

Cheektowaga’s municipal review of the project is expected to begin next month as is the ECIDA review.

Iskalo estimates all the necessary approvals should be completed within three months and the project will start this summer. A late 2021 completion date is anticipated.

This article originally appeared in Buffalo Business First.