Amber Lantern Brewing Company
Wyoming County’s Craft Beer Pioneer
by Joe Wright
March 11, 2020
Growing up in East Aurora, NY in the 1980’s, it felt like Wyoming County was another state away. I remember the FM frequency turning to static as Huey Lewis and The News would cut out on the radio in my mom’s little brown Buick Skylark as we passed through Wales Center heading east on Route 20A into farm country. With a couple buddies in the car and our clubs loaded in the trunk, the only reason I had in my teens and 20’s to go out to Wyoming County was to play some golf at Byrncliff Resort in Varysburg. Where the number of rounds I’ve played there has probably reached a couple hundred by now as I turn the corner toward 50. Man how times change.
Although I do like to play a round or two a year at Byrncliff and Iron Wood still, today the main reason I head to Wyoming County is not for golf but for craft beer. Go figure.
So Mrs. UBT and I made the trek out east on a recent Friday afternoon to see what was happening at Amber Lantern Brewing Company in Warsaw, NY and to meet owners Tommy and Kristi Streamer. A hardworking husband and wife tandem who have been married since 2002. Amber Lantern has always provided a convenient stop for us to grab a beer and something to eat when heading back west from a visit with friends to Silver Lake Brewing Project in Perry or a Livingston County brewery run.
As we nestled up to the bar to get our flight, the tantalizing smell and appearance of the Amber Lantern pub fare passed by. Chick fingers, burger and fish sandwich stole the show. Our flight of four to split; Brady is a Lady NEIPA, Spacer Blonde Ale, their signature Amber Ale and a Chocolate Cherry Porter. To munch on, we opted for an order of deep fried pickles (perfect hint of spice with them accompanied with a side of ranch) as we sat and caught up with the Streamers. Like many business owners in this industry, the Streamers work the daily grind in balancing their labor of love that is Amber Lantern and family life in raising two children. On this particular day, Kristi was wearing the dual hats of manager at Amber Lantern and sports mom shuffling her 12 and 16 year olds to and from hockey and basketball.
Amber Lantern’s roots as a tavern run deep in Warsaw. A pillar of the community since 1947 when originally opened by Ray Briggs. After a run of six proprietors operating the Amber Lantern, Kristi’s parents Ron and Cyndy Smith purchased the business in 1987. There Kristi grew up in the restaurant business working for the family before heading off to attend SUNY Geneseo where she earned a BA in Psychology and then SUNY Brockport for her MSEd before heading off to North Carolina to work a stint as a school guidance counselor.
Both natives of Warsaw, Tommy’s obsession for brewing began back in 2005. Like many home brewers, he brewed with and for friends and special occasions while driving truck and working construction jobs to pay the bills. Tommy then found time to enroll at Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago in 2014.
By 2011 Kristi’s parents were ready to retire. So Kristi and Tommy purchased the business and took the leap of faith and turned Amber Lantern into Wyoming County’s first brewpub with custom brewed craft beer brewed on site. Looking back, this was a leap of faith for sure. I was intrigued to find out how the Streamers were able to introduce craft beer to rural Wyoming County almost ten years ago. Keep in mind, the entire population of Wyoming County consists of only 40,000 people (smaller than the population of West Seneca, NY which is 44,000). Kristi recalls introducing loyal Budweiser drinkers to craft beer with their Amber Ale and getting feedback of “It’s….OK.” Not being discouraged, the Streamers look this positive feedback as their Amber Ale would prove to be “a gateway into craft beer” for many Wyoming County locals according to Tommy. But for the average Joe who wants a bottle of Budweiser or Labatt, Amber Lantern will still accommodate along with Stella, Blue Moon and Guinness offered on tap as well.
Amber Lantern carries both micro and farm brewery licenses and brew with a one barrel system. In 2016 Kristi and Tommy hired Ben Bernard, owner of Cheshire Moon Hopyard in Stafford, NY to help keep up with production for the brewpub. With a tiny production area, and no real room to expand, production remains a two man operation with Tommy and Ben. Kristi’s concentration is on the restaurant side. Amber Lantern sources ingredients from New York Craft Malt in Batavia, NY as well as Cheshire Moon Hopyard.
With a small staff and and the brewpub the primary focus of their business, finding the time and man power to set up at regional brewer’s festivals to show case their brews is a tough task for Amber Lantern. So that means it’s up to you to see for yourself. A convenient before or after a trip to Letchworth State Park now that the weather has broken. So kick on some 80’s music (maybe some Huey Lewis) and take the casual stroll out to Wyoming County to take in the full experience at Amber Lantern. That being some solid local pub food, complemented by small batch craft beer brewed with lots of love, by hard working, salt of the earth people in rural WNY.
Amber Lantern Brewing Company
44 West Main St.
Warsaw, NY 14569