Buffalo was incorporated as a city in 1832. The next year, John Moffat opened a brewery at the corner of what was then Mohawk and Morgan streets – Morgan was later renamed South Elmwood Avenue.
Moffat was known for producing ale and was the only brewery so close to the core of Buffalo’s downtown – only a block north of Niagara Square. On the small plot of land was all the infrastructure necessary to brew beer – from a grain elevator, to a malt house, to a small bottling works.
Simple ingredients in their product made for a simple brew. Moffat used only malt and barley in the brewing of their ales. They used the simplicity as a necessary selling point, because by around 1900, Moffat was the only brewery in Buffalo that didn’t own taverns where its beer was sold.
Unlike many of the more financially successful taverns which controlled exclusive pouring rights at many neighborhood gin mills, Moffat relied on being the second or third option at independent bars, as well as on sales in grocery stores and home delivery.
“If you never experienced the independence feeling that comes over one who draws his own ale from his own barrel just as he wants it, our advice for you is to try it,” reads one ad for Moffat’s Cream and Old Mellow ales. A Moffat’s barrel could be delivered to your home for $2 when that ad was published in 1903.
Moffat operated as Buffalo’s longest continuously operating brewery until Prohibition, when it closed up shop. The buildings were used for storage until they were torn down to make way for the Statler Hotel’s 1,000-car parking ramp.
The brewery never reopened after Prohibition was lifted, but Buffalo’s Phoenix Brewery sold ale under the Moffat name through the 1930s.
In 1880, the spot where Johnnie B. Wiley Stadium – once known as War Memorial Stadium – stands, was on the far outskirts of the city.
The big landmark along Jefferson Street between Best and Dodge wasn’t “The Rockpile,” but was across the street from the stadium where the Stanley Makowski Early Childhood Center now stands.
The school was built on what was once the campus of the Gerhard Lang Brewery. Built in 1875, the brewery was marked as No. 57 on the 1880 map.
It would be another 10 years before there was any activity on the land on the other side of Jefferson Avenue.
In 1880, the Prospect Hill Reservoir was still Buffalo’s primary source for drinking water. Located at Niagara and Connecticut streets, the original reservoir spot has been the home of the Connecticut Street Armory for more than 100 years.In 1893, the new Prospect Reservoir started serving as Buffalo’s stand-by water source on Jefferson Avenue.
A generation later, that second reservoir would be replaced by War Memorial Stadium as a Depression-era WPA project.
The City of Tonawanda has been home to several breweries since farmers began growing hops along the Niagara Frontier around 1810.
The Tonawandas’ most famous beer factory was at 533 Niagara St. at the corner of Hinds Street.
First opened by George Zent in 1867, the place was also known as Busch Brewing Co. – unrelated to the current discount-priced national brand. The old wooden beerworks, by then owned by Bernhard Voelcker, burned to the ground on the spot in 1913.
Voelcker rebuilt, and the new brewery building eventually sold to Buffalo’s brewer mayor Frank X. Schwab, who was selling a low alcohol, near-beer concoction named “Schwab’s Ambrosia” and home-brewing kits from the location at the start of the Prohibition era.
Given that his grandfather was a brewer at another Tonawanda brewery, Leon Peuquet paid special attention to the brewery he could see and smell from his home. He grew up a few blocks away from the brewery on Adam Street and wrote about the pre-Prohibition days in the Tonawanda News in 1977.
I can still remember the pleasant odor of cooking malt wafted on the southwest breeze early in the morning. You could always tell when they were brewing.
Then there was the early morning sounds of the horses’ hoofs and the rolling wagon wheels as a load of kegs came down over the brick pavement on Adam Street.
No fewer than nine companies made beer at the location.
The Tonawanda Brewing Corp. began operating in the building after Prohibition was lifted in 1933, and a few years later, it became Frontier Brewery, selling Malz-Brau beer in and around Tonawanda.
Malz-Brau was very popular in the years between the end of Prohibition and the start of World War II. During the war, Frontier Brewery’s domestic production stopped abruptly as they signed a government contract to ship canned beer overseas for American troops.
After the war, Frontier’s Malz-Brau couldn’t regain its prewar sales, and the place went out of business not in a blaze of glory – but in a tsunami of suds.
In 1948, during the brewery’s final days, Frontier made national and international headlines with its novel approach to avoiding thousands of dollars in federal taxes on the beer they’d already brewed but had lost the state license to sell.
Tonawanda officials said the yeast would halt the bacterial action at the city sewage plant. So they couldn’t dump it in the sewer.
With the rushing waters of the Niagara only a few hundred feet away, they simply dumped 57,000 gallons of beer into the Niagara River.
The state Conservation Department granted permission and supervised the dumping. It was recognized that the carbon dioxide in that much beer could lead to killing fish and other wildlife in the water, but “since the river is so large, it was believed the concentration would not be large and therefore the fish not harmed,” said an Associated Press report that accompanied photos of the dumping in newspapers around the country.
It took two days to dump the 16 storage vats containing a total of 1,975 barrels of beer.
Shortly after the last drop of beer fell into the Niagara, Supersonic Chemical bought the building. In 1951, the building’s years as a brewery were ended with certainty as 18 two-ton steel vats were removed. Benline Manufacturing created a machine shop in the space.
The building was demolished in 1994, and a strip mall featuring a Wilson Farms was built in its place.
In 1949, The William Simon Brewing Company — makers of Simon Pure Beer — created a series of ads celebrating Buffalo, Buffalo’s industries, the men who work in those industries, and the products they make.
Buffalo Stories archives
“What Buffalo makes… Makes Buffalo” was the slogan which surrounded the campaign.
Buffalo Stories archives
“Be it steel or beer,” the ad reads, “the quality of the finished product depends on the materials, plant, and skill employed.” The photo in the “we salute our steelworkers” ad shows an unidentified local strip mill.
Buffalo Stories archives
As Simon Pure saluted millers, they reminded readers that Buffalo was the first city in the world for flour and feed milling, showing a series of elevators along the Buffalo River.
“Buffalo-made brands of flour, cereal, and feed set the standards of quality for the milling industry the world over. As with our milling industry, so with our brewing industry… for NONE can excel the high standard of quality maintained by Simon Pure.”
Buffalo Stories archives
Food industry workers also were saluted with a photo of the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal on Bailey Avenue.
Of course, Buffalo also was a brewing center, with nine brewers listed in the 1950 City Directory, but the only Buffalo-made beer ever mentioned was Simon Pure.
“Costlier malt, hops, and cereals, expertly blended and leisurely brewed (to) produce that superior taste and flavor that makes Simon Pure a neighborhood favorite everywhere!”