When Nathan Lyman opened his Aqueduct Spring Brewery on South Water Street in 1819, he couldn't have foreseen that by the turn of the century, Rochester would have 55 breweries. Genesee Brewing Company is the only one from 1800s Rochester still left in the city.
Charles Rau established another brewery in 1857 at High Falls on the Genesee River. There was good water from the falls and the company carved caves into the rocks to keep its beer cold. Later, Emil Reiskey joined the venture with the brand becoming Rau and Reiskey, sold as Reisky and Spies to Mathius Kondolf in 1874. At the time it was known for its saloon and bowling alley.
Genesee Brewing Company was founded in 1878, renamed by Kondolf. British investors bought stock in Bartholomay Brewery, Rochester Brewing and Genesee Brewing Company in 1889, leaving Genesee under Kondolf's ownership.
The Prohibition's Impact in Rochester, NY
In 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawed alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine. Every distillery and brewery in America closed, including Genesee. When the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition in 1932, a former Genesee brewmaster, Louis A. Wehle used the money from selling his bakery to purchase the Genesee brewery and parts of the Bartholomay brewery. Wehle incorporated the new Genesee Brewing Company on July 8, 1932, making Genesee one of only five Rochester breweries of the original 55 to survive Prohibition. Genesee paraded its famous 12-horse draft wagon in Washington D.C. to comemmorate the end of Prohibition in 1933, pulled by a dozen Belgian Roans. Issuing a special beer called 12 Horse Ale as its first trademark in the post-repeal era, the Genesee brewery shipped over 150,000 barrels of beer including Genesee, 12 Horse Ale and Liebotschaner, which was subsequently voted the Best Beer in Rochester.
The Jenny Girl
1952 saw the first Jenny Girl, Daphne Dore. The Miss Jenny campaign was Genesee's most successful promotion effort, lasting over a decade. Genesee Cream Ale came out in 1960, becoming the best selling ale in the United States. Known as "Genny Cream" to locals, this classic won two Gold Medals at the American Beer Festival, shipping over a million barrels in twenty years. By the American Bicentennial in 1976, Genesee Brewing Company had shipped over three million barrels and introduced Genny Light in 1974. Genesee bought the Fred Koch Brewery in Dunkirk, NY in 1983, taking over production of Koch's Golden Anniversary Beer.
Craft Beers in Rochester
In 1995, recognizing the huge public appetite for craft beers, Genesee opened a craft beer division, naming it High Falls Brewing Company in honor of the home of Genesee Brewery since 1878.
Genesee Brewery & Brew House - A Rochester Tradition
Still one of the largest and oldest continuously operating breweries in the United States, Genesee keeps current with the times while not forgetting its traditions. In 2011, the brewery retrofitted its famous giant sign in Auburn, NY with LED lights and installed a new canning line to handle 24 ounce cans. Genesee has always been, and remains, one of the great Rochester traditions, intimately intertwined with the city's history and urban skyline.
Check out how we featured Genesee Brewery in our artwork: