Buffalo Brewing Company has closed after three years in business. The brewery had recently made the jump from operating within a garden and hobby shop to a standalone business with a taproom in the Heights neighborhood and a brewing operation down Cantrell hill. However, the move didn’t make enough money to keep the business going, and owner Nolen Buffalo made the tough decision to close it down.
“It’s so hard,” Buffalo told me. “We knew we were on a thin budget, and it just didn’t work out. It’s really raw right now.”
Buffalo Brewing started in The Water Buffalo, a gardening shop on Rodney Parham that was Nolen Buffalo’s original venture. The Water Buffalo was one of two businesses in Central Arkansas to furnish homebrewers with malts, hops and supplies, which naturally led to Buffalo Brewing’s founding in 2016. The taproom inside the shop became well-known for not only carrying Buffalo beers but also brews from all over Central Arkansas, at times becoming the only Little Rock spot carrying names like Prestonrose and Bubba Brews. Buffalo was also the first Central Arkansas brewery to make a version of Resilience, the Sierra Nevada pale ale that raised money for victims of the Camp fire in California.
After five years with The Water Buffalo, Nolen decided to take a stab at making Buffalo Brewing his only venture. The brewery was the first to come to the Heights, settling next to Burge’s in August with a taproom that featured 16 brews when it was maxed out. Buffalo began presenting improved recipes, including his popular Luau Pineapple Wheat and Park Hill Blackberry Pale Ale. It was his Flying Monkey Venom Imperial IPA that was almost certainly his best creation; a massive, gorgeous brew that brought terrific balance to a cacophony of hops, malt and booze.
Buffalo and I shared a glass last night at the closed taproom as he reminisced on the last five years, talking fondly of the city’s beer scene and some of the philanthropic efforts he was proudest of. He asked me not to record our conversation, and I agreed. However, in the darkened room, the strobing yellow light from the Lethal Weapon pinball machine in the corner prompted him to tell one story on the record.
“Here’s where you can quote me,” Buffalo said with a laugh. “I always said I would have a pinball machine in my new place. We got here, and they told me there wasn’t enough room. But I said, ‘I’m having a damn pinball machine!’ And I did! And best of all, I get to play it for 12 and a half cents a play,” he laughed one more time.