A cold beer on a hot summer day is a welcome treat. Buffalo, N.Y. was once a hot bed of brewing activity. In honor of this fact and to coincide with the upcoming Brewfest, we present some Buffalo brewing history…
In 1811 Joseph Webb established the first brewery in Black Rock, NY just a few miles north of what was then Buffalo Creek (now Buffalo, NY). By 1813 his brewery was most likely burned by the British along with the rest of Black Rock.
By 1850 there were some 500 taverns and gaming houses in Buffalo. A story published in the Buffalo Daily Courier on January 7, 1856 said there were 2,243 arrests for the year, 1,792 of which were chargeable to drunkeness and disorderly conduct.
1875 was the year that Buffalo boasted its highest number of breweries–38!
The 1880’s saw the formation of several unions: Brewers Union, Local No. 7, Maltsters Union Local No. 59, and the Beer Barrel Coopers Union Local No. 93.
By 1893 there were 2,512 saloons, 150 hotels, 129 stores and 97 boarding houses where one could buy beer.
Did you know that President Millard Fillmore, purely for political reasons helped the local brewing industry by allowing only Buffalo brewed beer to be served in the White House?
The early part of the 20th century saw the influence of the Temperance Movement throughout the U.S. Before Prohibition, Buffalo had 20 breweries. Only 7 reopened. During Prohibition, drinking, although illegal was done in speakeasies. Ulrich’s Tavern (est. 1868 arguably Buffalo’s oldest operating bar) had a speakeasy known as the Hasenpfeffer Club on its premises.
In 1972, the William Simon brewery, Buffalo’s last standing brewery closed ending a 161 year brewing history. It wasn’t until 1999 when Flying Bison opened to become the first stand alone brewery to open since the closing of William Simon. Nearly 10 years later, Flying Bison ran into financial troubles and halted production. A sale became legal in June, 2010. They continue Buffalo’s fine brewing tradition.
The Grosvenor Room in the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Central, has books, veritical files, and newspapers on microfilm if you want to know more about local brewing history.
The photo above is taken from A History of the City of Buffalo: Its Men and Institutions, 1908, p. 134. Beer/brewing facts were taken from Rushing the Growler: a History of Brewing in Buffalo, 3rd ed. by Stephen R. Powell, 1999.