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The Buffalo of Yesteryear: The Lion Brewery, 'monarch among similar establishments'

“As the lion is the monarch of the forest,” wrote one of Buffalo’s early historians of the city, “so the Lion Brewery is monarch among similar establishments of its kind; if not in architectural extent and capacity, then certainly in the purity and wholesomeness of its products.”

The Lion Brewery’s throne sat on the east side of Jefferson Avenue between Best and North streets, at the edges of what are now the Fruit Belt, Kingsley and Masten neighborhoods.

Founded by George Rochevot in 1857 at the corner of Spring and Cherry streets, the Lion outgrew its original headquarters and built a new facility on Jefferson in 1871, according to the 1901 history book “Buffalo – Old and New.” The plant eventually grew to encompass nearly 121,700 square feet.

At the time of the book’s publication, the authors wrote, the Lion ranked “as one of the most popular, successful and attractive breweries in the city.”

Rochevot was a Bavarian immigrant from the German region of Rhenish who died in 1897 at age 64, according to the book.

From “Buffalo – Old and New”:

The establishment is thoroughly modern in every respect, and each department is equipped with the latest and most improved machinery. The buildings are constructed of brick, stone and iron, and are provided with every appliance to render them as nearly fireproof as possible.

The Lion Brewery caters almost entirely to local consumption and its output includes the three popular brands, “Celebrated Private Stock,” “Bohemian” and “Export.” This brewery uses only the best and purest quality of malt, and its process of pasteuring [sic] its products makes them in every way superior to other brands. Their bottling department enjoys a large patronage from families, clubs and restaurants. More delicious, refreshing and health-promoting beers cannot be found on the market than those of the Lion Brewery. Mr. Rochevot … was a brewer of national reputation, and his long and useful life in Buffalo was characterized by strict integrity, honorable dealings and loyalty to his friends and city. When he established the brewery … its capacity was small; in 1858 it was 400 barrels – today it is 60,000 barrels.

After Rochevot’s death, his family squabbled over his estate, leaving the brewery business “in shambles,” according to the 2015 book “Buffalo Beer: The History of Brewing in the Nickel City.”

The brewery was sold to the Schoellkopf family several years after the publication of “Buffalo – Old and New,” according to the 2015 book. It became known as Consumers’ Brewing Co., and the site was later home to the RND Machine Co. Part of the RND property was demolished in 2013, according to the Buffalo grassroots group Preservation-Ready Sites.

What remains of the RND Machine Co. shop at Jefferson and Best streets in Buffalo. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

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