Buffalo in the 70s: Which beer did your dad drink?

By Steve Cichon

The 1970s saw the closure of Buffalo’s last two big, traditional breweries. While the names Iroquois and Simon Pure lasted even after the East Buffalo institutions closed, both were being brewed by the Fred Koch Brewery in Dunkirk. By 1979, even the names were gone from the market, and Buffalo had had its last Iroquois and Simon Pure.

Koch’s main offerings– Golden Anniversary, Holiday Beer and Black Horse Ale– all did reasonably well in Buffalo.

For most of the 70s, however, it was another “almost-local” brewery that held the largest market share when it came to the still-blue-collar, still shot-and-a-beer, still-neighborhood-tavern Buffalo.

At the start of the 1980s, Rochester’s Genesee Brewery brewed the beer that Buffalo drank more than any other.  By the time the calendar rolled into the 1990s, Genesee had been supplanted by Labatt.

Koch’s, Genesee and Labatt were all on sale this week in Buffalo during the week of December 15, 1979. Chances are pretty good that 35 years ago this week, most of our fathers or grandfathers bought a case or two for the garage fridge, getting ready for the big family Christmas party.

At Bells, it was yellow labeled no-name beer on sale.

Two signs you were in Buffalo in the 1970s: Black Horse Ale and the Buffalo Stallions at the Aud.

Super Duper had Genny, Genny Light and Genny Cream Ale six-packs on sale.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Koch’s Holiday Beer was a different recipe than Koch’s Golden Anniversary. It wasn’t just a label change at Christmas.

Labatt beer (still not officially “Labatt Blue”) and 50 Ale (which was Canada’s most popular beer through the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s) were both on sale at Tops.

Still officially called “Labatt Beer,” the labels told drinkers to “call for Labatt Blue.”

Consumer’s Beverage also had two more Buffalo favorites on sale: Old Vienna and Schmidt’s. And, of course, Consumer’s had its own branded 10-ounce glass bottles of pop on sale, as well.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.