The Buffalo of Yesteryear: Iroquois Brewing, brewer of the 'pearl of American beers' - The Buffalo News

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The Buffalo of Yesteryear: Iroquois Brewing, brewer of the 'pearl of American beers'

The recent revival of locally produced beer led by craft breweries such as Big Ditch and Resurgence in Buffalo marks a return to the city’s sudsy past, when firms like the Iroquois Brewing Co. manufactured tens of thousands of barrels of beer annually.

Located on Buffalo’s Near East Side along Pratt Street between Broadway and William Street, the Iroquois brewing plant had “not its equal, as far as excellence of architecture, completeness of detail, convenience and up-to-date appointments and management are concerned,” according to a passage in the 1901 history book “Buffalo – Old and New.”

Remnants of the plant still stand today. Indeed, the faded façade of the red-brick building at 230 Pratt St. still reads, “IROQUOIS BREWING CO. OFFICE.” The 92,000-square-foot combination of warehouse and office space went on the market earlier this year for $1.85 million, Buffalo Rising reported in February.

What's left of the Iroquois Brewing Co. on Pratt Street in Buffalo. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

The Iroquois Brewing Co. name lives on on Pratt Street. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

The site was originally home to the Roos Brewery, “the first lager-beer brewery in Buffalo,” which opened in 1830, according to “Buffalo – Old and New.” In the 1890s, Iroquois bought the property, tore down the Roos site and built its own brewery in Roos' place. There, it manufactured “healthy and nutritious lager beer, considered to be the equal in point of quality of any beer brewed,” the “Old and New” authors wrote:

All the latest inventions in brewing appliances have been utilized, which give the Iroquois many advantages. The annual capacity is 125,000 barrels, and this year’s output will reach over 70,000 barrels, which in itself is a guarantee of the quality of their product. Moreover, over one half of the output is exported, thereby giving the Iroquois brewery the reputation of being the largest exporter of beer in Buffalo. … The Iroquois Brewery furnishes “the pearl of American beers,” as its product has been fitly termed by those engaged in the trade.

Iroquois grew over the years, distributing beer across as many as eight states when it formed the International Breweries Co. conglomerate in the 1950s, according to a 2012 history published in Buffalo Spree magazine. But it eventually ceased operation in 1971, unable to compete with megabrewers such as Pabst and Schlitz.

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