For the past 10 years, Dan Syracuse called his annual imperial stout-tasting event “The Russians Are Coming” as a nod to the 18th century origins of Russian imperial stout as a strong, dark brew made in England for export to Russia. This year, Syracuse realized that name was not appropriate in light of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Instead, he held his first Ukrainian Freedom Imperial Stout Celebration on Sunday at his Pizza Plant Italian Pub on Transit Road in Amherst, with stout sales going to benefit Buffalo’s Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center.
“We are looking forward to the continued evolution of this tasting event, whose previous name now unfortunately means the opposite of freedom,” Syracuse said. “We decided to make lemonade out of lemons and turn it into a benefit.” In so doing, Syracuse is among several Western New York beer sellers jumping on the beer wagon to support Ukraine through sales of special brews. Buffalo Brewing Company created a Lviv Cocktail Euro Lager that put $2 from every pint sold toward Ukraine relief through Sunday. Big Ditch Brewing expects a 50-gallon batch of a new Ukrainian Dark Lager to be ready in a couple of weeks. Several WNY beer houses have held events devoting a portion of beer sales to the cause. Pizza Plant owner Dan Syracuse pours a flight of imperial stouts during the Ukrainian Freedom Imperial Stout Celebration at the Pizza Plant in Amherst on Sunday, March 13, 2022.Derek Gee/Buffalo News Perhaps the biggest effort is being brewed by 42 North Brewing Company in East Aurora, which launched a global invite to fellow breweries to help craft two special beers to benefit Global Empowerment Mission, a Poland-based relief organization providing aid to Ukrainian refugees in Poland as well as families still in Ukraine. The beers are called “Resolve” in honor of the resolve of the Ukrainian people, and one of the two recipes came from 42 North’s first brewer, Naz Drebot, now owner of 2085 Brewery in Kyiv, Ukraine, said 42 North manager partner John Cimperman. “Our friend Naz helped us build 42 North in 2015, and many of the recipes we still make today are his,” Cimperman said. “Naz loved living in Western New York, and it felt a lot like home to him because of our neighborly attitude.” When Drebot’s U.S. work permit ran out, he opened a brewery in Portugal before returning to his homeland in Kyiv, Cimperman said. When he spoke to his friend about the new beer, Cimperman said Drebot conveyed that “he is humbled, he is grateful, and most important, he is safe in Kyiv” – at the moment. Drebot contributed the recipe for Resolve Freedom India Pale Kellerbier, while 42 North brewer Matt Matuszewski designed Resolve Freedom Kellerbier. Both will be ready in two to three weeks. Meanwhile, Cimperman has put out a call for other breweries to start producing Resolve, and so far 10 have accepted, including several in Europe and two local ones, Thin Man in Buffalo and 1927 Brew House in Cheektowaga. Cimperman said he hopes that breweries that can’t help make Resolve “will at least get a couple of kegs to put on their taps.”
Andrew Puhacz, treasurer of the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center, is on hand for the imperial stouts at the Ukrainian Freedom Imperial Stout Celebration at the Pizza Plant in Amherst on Sunday.Derek Gee/Buffalo News At Sunday’s stout-tasting, Andrew Puhacz, treasurer of the Dnipro Ukrainian Cultural Center, said Buffalo’s two Ukrainian centers are collaborating to share more ways to help in the coming weeks. Puhacz was offering “United for Ukraine” buttons and small Ukrainian flags in exchange for donations to the Ukrainian American Freedom Foundation, providing medical and humanitarian aid on the ground via Poland. While Puhacz was at Syracuse’s tasting party, his fellow leaders of Dnipro gathered at the Genesee Street center to begin forming a refugee crisis committee in hopes of bringing Ukrainian refugees to Western New York and helping Ukrainians already here get legal status to stay longer. Dnipro President Emil Bandriwsky said the center will be holding informational meetings for the community and updating a calendar of local fundraisers at ukrainiansofbuffalo.com. Besides events at Ukrainian cultural centers and churches, he said other cultural centers are reaching out to help. On Saturday, Dnipro will host a Polish Ukrainian Solidarity Night featuring Polish and Ukrainian food, beers and liquors, music and dance, raffles to benefit Ukraine and an update from Adrian Kubicki, general consul of the Republic of Poland in New York. The Italian Cultural Center of Buffalo is planning a Stand Together for Ukraine event on Sunday, March 27, while the Buffalo Irish Center will hold its own Benefit for Ukraine event on Saturday, April 10. On Sunday at Dnipro, Bandriwsky motioned to a row of flags displayed around the center’s meeting room, including the flags of Poland, Italy and Ireland donated by those cultural centers. “I gotta buy more flagpoles,” he said. He said Dnipro welcomes participation from anyone wanting to assist with local efforts on behalf of Ukraine. “We have had such strong support from the people of Buffalo and Western New York,” Bandriwsky said. “Everyone is afraid of being nuked by Russia, so nobody wants to go to war against them, but there are things people can do to help.” Even drinking beer. The Buffalo Beer League is keeping a list of beer-related ways to help Ukraine and promises to keep updating it at: