Buffalo in the ’40s: The Beerador and Bevador, beer fridges invented in WNY

By Steve Cichon

With people pouring into town from all over the country and all over the world to spend the holiday with their families, the days around Thanksgiving are generally among the busiest at taverns and gin mills around Buffalo and Western New York as those same people catch up with old friends at old haunts.

Everyone’s home, and everything feels like it should. It feels simple, but it’s a complex mosaic that makes home and our home watering hole feel that way — in many Buffalo places, right down to the beer fridge.

If your favorite Buffalo taproom has been around for a while, chances are pretty good that there’s a Buffalo-made Bevador or Beerador keeping your favorite brews cold. The main difference between the two was size. The Beerador held 22 cases of beer; the more popular Bevador held 264 beers or 11 cases.

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An ad also bragged that the Beerador’s merry-go-round shelves allowed the coolest beer to be moved to the front and easier access to any brand of beer on any shelf.

The Jewett Refrigeration Co. made the beer-bottle-shaped appliances on Letchworth Street in a spot that is now a parking lot for students at SUNY Buffalo State. Jewett started making ice boxes and coal scuttles in 1849, but moved ahead with the times and was an early pioneer in electric refrigeration in the 1910s and 1920s.

1933 ad
1933. (Buffalo Stories archives)

By the time the 1930s rolled around, the Jewett name was found in the kitchens of some of the country’s wealthiest and most famous citizens.

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But the Beerador, manufactured to always keep bottled beverages at a uniform, perfect temperature, was Jewett’s next-to-last hurrah. After years of outfitting hotels and restaurants like the Statler chain and unique venues like the Broadway Market with custom, large refrigeration systems, Jewett was bought and sold several times, until the remaining company in Buffalo became focused on medical applications of refrigeration.

It just so happened that most of the considerations that made the Beerador a great beer fridge also made it a great blood lab fridge.

Jewett Blood Bank

The largest order ever received by Jewett was also one of its final orders. In 1959, the Greek government bought 43 slightly modified versions of the Beerador, which were rebranded “Blood Bank Refrigerators.”

By the end of the 1960s, the Jewett Refrigerator Co. was another manufacturing memory in Buffalo. But 60 and 70 years later, many of us are served bottles of Blue or Rusty Chain from the same Beeradors that kept our fathers’ and grandfathers’ Simon Pure and Iroquois cold.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon writes about Buffalo’s pop culture history. His stories of Buffalo's past have appeared more than 1600 times in The Buffalo News. He's a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. Since the earliest days of the internet, Cichon's been creating content celebrating the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The 25-year veteran of Buffalo radio and television has written five books and curates The Buffalo Stories Archives-- hundreds of thousands of books, images, and audio/visual media which tell the stories of who we are in Western New York.