Founded in 1878
The Genesee Brewing Company, based in Rochester, New York, is one of the largest and oldest continually operating breweries in the United States. The Brewery makes the Genesee line of beers, including the iconic Genesee, the refreshing Genny Light, and the original Genesee Cream Ale.
The Genesee Brewing Company is part of North American Breweries, the largest independently owned beer company in the United States. With a focus on product quality, facility upgrades (including the relighting of the iconic Genesee Beer & Ale sign), conservation initiatives and employee safety, North American Breweries has invested in the Genesee family of beers, its employees and the community.
With a refreshed sense of pride and purpose, The Genesee Brewing Company will continue brewing the quality beers that people have loved for over a century.
The Aqueduct Spring Brewery—Rochester’s first brewery—opens. By the end of the 19th century, 50 breweries open in Rochester, a reflection of the city’s vibrant German heritage.
Charles Rau establishes the Rau & Reisky Brewery, later changed to Reisky & Spies, renowned as a lager brewery with “a first class saloon” and bowling alley.
Mathius Kondolf, one of Rochester’s early entrepreneurs, purchases Reisky & Spies, changing its name to The Genesee Brewery.
Louis A. Wehle is born September 22. That year English investors purchase the stock of three Rochester breweries—Genesee, Rochester and the city’s largest, Bartholomay Brewery Company. Wehle’s grandfather, Casper, and his father, John, both work at Bartholomay. While still in high school, young Wehle begins assisting at the brewery.
Bartholomay brewery sends Louis A. Wehle to brewmaster’s school in New York City and promotes him to assistant brewmaster upon graduation in 1911.
Genesee, owned by Mathius Kondolf, hires Louis A. Wehle, making him the youngest brewmaster in New York State. Wehle’s first son, John L. “Jack” Wehle, is born December 21 on the brewery’s property. A year later, Wehle moves to Buffalo to become head brewmaster at the Lang Brewing Company.
The 18th Amendment closes all American breweries including Genesee. Louis A. Wehle turns his talents to the baking business. The Wehle Baking Company pioneers the home delivery of fresh baked goods.
Anticipating the end of Prohibition, Louis A. Wehle sells his Buffalo-based baking business to Boston’s Hathaway Bakery for $1.3 million in order to re-invest in beer making.
Prohibition is repealed in February, becoming the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933. Eager to return to the beer business, Louis A. Wehle uses profits from the sale of his bakery to purchase the former Genesee brewery and parts of the Bartholomay brewery. The new Genesee Brewing Company is incorporated July 8.
On April 27, Genesee resumes shipping beer. To commemorate this victory, 400 invitations are mailed for a celebration at the Powers Hotel in Rochester. More than 4,000 people attend.
Louis A. Wehle says he will be happy to sell 100,000 barrels. He exceeds his first year goal by 50,000 barrels. The brewery introduces 12 Horse Ale. Wehle designs America’s only 12-horse hitch and a 12 Horse Team of Belgian Roans becomes the Genesee’s first famous trademark.
Genesee’s Liebotschaner Beer is honored as best of Rochester’s post repeal brews.
Genesee continues to grow, expanding distribution across New York State and into portions of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Jack Wehle goes to work for Genesee at age 22. The following year, Genesee opens its own malt house on the shores of Lake Ontario at Sodus, New York.
Genesee launches its most successful advertising campaign: “Miss Jenny.” Daphne Dore is the first Jenny girl. The campaign ran for more than a decade.
Genesee Cream Ale is introduced with fanfare. Over the next twenty years, the beer’s popularity explodes drumming up sales that exceed 1 million barrels. “Genny Cream” wins two gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival and becomes America’s best selling ale.
Louis A. Wehle dies November 21 at age 75. His son Jack succeeds as chairman.
John L. “Ted” Wehle, Jr., goes to work for Genesee at age 23.
Genesee sales top 2 million barrels. Four years later, sales top 3 million barrels and Genny Light Beer is introduced.
Genesee acquires the Fred Koch Brewery of Dunkirk, NY and inherits Koch’s Golden Anniversary Beer, a Western New York favorite.
Genesee expands into Illinois, Michigan and Indiana, followed shortly after by additional western and southern states. The brewery also introduces Michael Shea’s Irish Amber.
Jack Wehle dies November 7. Ted Wehle succeeds him as Chairman. Genesee introduces Michael Shea’s Black & Tan.
Genesee introduces JW Dundee’s Honey Brown Lager, which will later be honored for three straight years as one of America’s “hottest beer brands” by beer critics.
Genesee establishes High Falls Brewing Company as its craft brewery subsidiary. A new logo featuring the “high falls” of the Genesee River, which has served as the brewery’s home since 1878, brands the company.
Genesee products are now available in 39 states. A year later, Ted Wehle dies on March 10 at the age of 53. A management led buyout reorganizes the brewery as The High Falls Brewing Company.
Genesee brands, Honey Brown and Michael Shea’s showcase new package graphics. At the World Beer Cup the following year, Genesee beer receives a “Best New Package Design” award and Genny Cream Ale triumphs with a gold medal. At the Great American Beer Festival, Genny Cream Ale takes home a bronze medal.
A Heritage of Excellence: Genesee Beer celebrates its 125th Anniversary. High Falls introduces its first low calorie dark beer, Kipling Light.
JW Dundee’s Honey Brown wins a gold medal at the World Beer Cup competition; Genny Cream Ale wins a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival.
The brewery introduces JW Dundee’s American Amber Lager and American Pale Ale to all 41 states in its distribution area.
Genesee Red wins a silver medal in the Vienna-style Lager category at the 24th Annual Great American Beer Festival held in Denver, Colorado.
To celebrate the company’s proud heritage and resurgence in sales, Genesee Beer and Genny Light are repackaged under The Genesee Brewing Company umbrella.
KPS Capital Partners, L.P. forms North American Breweries (NAB) and acquires The Genesee Brewing Company, Labatt USA and a perpetual license for Seagram’s Escapes, becoming the largest independently owned beer company in the United States.
NAB pours $10 million into improvements and upgrades that modernize the brewery. The company invests another $6 million into regional marketing efforts.
Genesee Brewery and North American Breweries started a new chapter in our history when Florida Ice & Farm Co (FIFCO), a Costa Rica based producer of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, purchased the company. FIFCO is a pioneer in the Triple Bottom Line philosophy of management that prioritizes financial performance, employee engagement, community involvement and environmental stewardship. With a parent company in the alcoholic beverage industry, we are poised to make additional investments in manufacturing, people, product innovation, sales & marketing in order to further grow our business.