Steelbound Brewery & Distillery doesn’t have a head brewer. Their recently renovated building, with a beautifully industrial interior, wasn’t planned by a designer. The owner got his start in contracting, while one of the brewers is a retired schoolteacher. And the freezer in the kitchen? Tiny and upright, housing mainly ice cream.
Steelbound Brewery & Distillery doesn’t have a head brewer — they have two, which spreads the work out and allows the creativity to flow. A designer wasn’t brought on to plan the layout, because the owner, Bill Bursee, did it himself. That contractor background? It helped Bursee put it all together, while a schoolteacher’s passion project blossomed into a new career. And Steebound doesn’t need massive, industrial restaurant freezers — the food is all fresh.
Traveling in and out of Ellicottville, you’ve most certainly seen the work being done on the corner where Route 219 meets 242. Steelbound, which is now open, aims to offer a comfortable, affordable experience — complete with the region’s freshest foods and newest beers.
“Bill is originally from Buffalo, and we met while living in Springville,” Tim Hooker, one of the brewers (and aforementioned schoolteacher), told me. “We originally wanted to open a distillery, but the brewery/restaurant kind of just happened.”
Bursee’s Buffalo heritage is evident in the theme of the place. The undersides of awnings are lined with old maps of the city, and production will begin soon on the Allentown Pale Ale and Kaisertown Hefeweizen. Steelbound’s chef will bring his product in from local spots like Ford Brother’s (of Ashford) and Wendel’s Poultry Farm (of East Concord), as well as other local farmers.
“One of the main things we’re trying to focus on is having high-quality, fresh food that supports the local community,” Hooker said. “We want to be careful about how we choose the food we’ll ultimately serve — that all plays into the experience. When someone comes in and has a burger and a beer for $13 and can enjoy the ambience of the place, that’s the scene we’re going for.”
Legal complications led Bursee and Hooker to change the original name of Stillhouse to Steelbound - while they would have won that battle, they didn’t want the drawn-out headache.
“There’s a lot of steel in this industry,” Hooker said. “We’re drawing on the name to convey a sense of community amongst our workers. We are bound together like steel. From the brewers, to the kitchen staff, to servers/bartenders and ownership, we’re all one team. We plan on bringing the kitchen staff into the brewery for a few days to learn the process, and vice versa. Everyone will know everyone else, get involved, and understand the amount of work that goes in to make a place successful.”
The interior of Steelbound is gorgeous. A welcoming first floor with dining space and a bar leads to the stage, which is visible from the monstrous upstairs. (Writer’s note: Kane Miller of Olean’s Barnacle Brothers, who is a good friend, built the bars). Too often, live music in bars gets lost because you can’t see the band or the sound is muffled. An upstairs viewing area (complete with drop down screen) ensures you’ll always have a vantage point. Plus, it gives Steelbound the opportunity to host weddings, parties and other large get-togethers.
“I’ve been with Bill longer than anybody,” Hooker said. “When he wanted to do this, he approached me and said ‘I want you to come brew for me.’ It’s been an unbelievable experience so far, and we can’t wait to see where it goes.”
Steelbound Brewery & Distillery is now open at the corner of Route 219 and 242. Find them on Facebook at Steelbound Brewery & Distillery or www.steelboundevl.com.