How It Started

Inspired by an intersection and our love of spicy foods, particularly Buffalo wings, America’s number one “finger food,” the Buffalo Water Beer Company was formed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2007. With a lack of beers on the market dedicated to complementing hot foods, a group of Brew City beer enthusiasts took on the challenge of producing a beer to fill the void.

After several months of beer taste-testing , the Buffalo Water Beer Company finally found the perfect formula for its flagship beer, Bison Blonde. With a moderate alcohol content of 4.4% ABV, Buffalo Water’s first ever beer is an ideal match for spicy foods. Whereas higher alcohol content beers generally cause bloating, especially while eating, Bison Blonde is a lighter, golden lager that you can just keep on drinking. The Buffalo Water Beer Company takes pride in the quality ingredients of its beer. Our signature beer, Bison Blonde is brewed in accordance with the Bavarian purity law of 1516, which means it only has four ingredients: water, barley, hops and yeast.

No fillers, no adjuncts, no foolin'!

Coincidentally, the Buffalo Water Beer Company is now located at the intersection of Water Street and Buffalo Street in the heart of Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward district.

The Buffalo Bill

A robust, American bison dominates the design of the Buffalo Water Beer Company’s signature beer, Bison Blonde. You might be familiar with the image, as it was the centerpiece of $10 issued between 1901 and 1925. The famous bison “buffalo bill” was one of few animals to upstage presidents and statesmen on the front of U.S. legal tender.

Yet, the history behind this burly buffalo is still under debate, with two popular stories surfacing.

The Pablo buffalo vs. The Black Diamond bison

Both stories agree that the 1901 $10 legal tender note pays homage to the U.S. government’s dedication to the frontier. In 1804, president Thomas Jefferson had hired his private secretary Meriwether Lewis, seen to the left of the bison, to explore the Pacific coast. In turn, Lewis requested the services of his military colleague and doctor, William Clark, pictured to the right of the bison, to help lead 33 men across the American plains in a journey that would span 863 days and over 4,000 miles.

No doubt, the bison note was issued to commemorate the expedition of two great American explorers, as well as garner interest in the upcoming Lewis and Clark centennial exposition in Portland, Oregon in 1905. Bureau of Engraving and Printing picture engraver G. F. C. Smillie engraved the portraits of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

The Front Side of the famous 1901 Buffalo Bill featuring explorer.

Meriwether Lewis (left) and William Clark (right).

The back side of the Buffalo Bill

So, where does the bos bison fit in?

Come the turn of the 20th century the American bison’s numbers had plummeted from 70 million to 1,091 according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. At this point, the first farms were set up to prevent the extinction of the animal, with rancher Michael Pablo purchasing 13 bisons from a Native American. Some sources say the bison that would be featured on the note arrived at Washington Zoo on October 23, 1897, purchased from Michael Pablo for $500. Hence, many have called the animal the “Pablo Buffalo” to honor the rancher’s commitment to preserving a great American icon. In 1902, one year after the buffalo bill was first issued, the federal government started a restoration project in Yellowstone National Park and discontinued the hunting of buffalo. It appears coincidental that Pablo’s heroics coincide with Lewis and Clark’s anniversary.

While many numismatists agree the note was issued to commemorate Lewis and Clark’s centennial celebrations, many also believe the animal pictured did not roam the open plains. The second buffalo story explains how the portrait is of Black Diamond of the Bronx Zoo, New York City, a 1500-pound animal reject from the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Either way, the bison image (Miscellaneous Die # 5390) was based on a drawing by accomplished wildlife artist Charles R. Knight and was engraved by bureau engraver Marcus W. Baldwin.

Whichever story is true, the buffalo was no doubt chosen as a symbol of adventure, hard work and success. And on April 10, 1901 the New York Times called it "as artistic as any [bill] that has been issued in many years." With many collectors paying up to $5,000 for a buffalo bill today, one can see why.

And while many enthusiasts, including CNN owner Ted Turner, would love to see the U.S. Treasury reissue the century old $10 note, there may be some ergonomic issues preventing this from becoming a reality. While the buffalo bill measures seven inches by three inches, today’s smaller wallets are only equipped for 6 1/8-by 2 3/5-inch tender which was adopted in 1928, three years after the buffalo bill design was discontinued.

However, there is one place you can find the great American bison, and that place is on a bottle of Buffalo Water beer.

The Buffalo Nickel

Another buffalo-inspired form of legal tender bears its mark on the neck label of Buffalo Water Beer Company’s Bison Blonde beer. The Indian Head Nickel, often referred to as the “Buffalo Nickel,” was the first of seven coins to feature the great American animal and will soon appear as the bottle cap for this flagship brew.
So, what’s the story behind this piece of historic currency?

The Coinage Act of April 2, 1792 would define the guidelines for all future coinage produced by the U.S. Mint. One part of the Coinage Act, or Mint Act as it was also known, mandated the reverse side of all gold and silver coins to feature an eagle and the inscription: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

However, in 1890 a new act was introduced allowing then Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber the power to change coinage design if a coin had been in circulation for at least 25 years. Barber now planned to redesign the silver dime, quarter dollar and half dollar coins. The new coins were introduced in 1892, much to the distaste of the public. However, the act of 1890 prevented the U.S. Mint from changing circulating coins in response to public dissatisfaction.

This would change during the early 20th century when President Theodore Roosevelt (co-founder of the American Bison Society - now the National Bison Association) would crusade to improve U.S. coinage designs. The first Buffalo Nickel, designed by accomplished sculptor James Earle Fraser, would be introduced by the United States Mint in 1913 and was minted every year through 1938, except in 1922, 1932 and 1933.

Although officially titled the Indian Head Nickel, this 1913 coin has become
popularly known as the "Buffalo Nickel" by numismatists and collectors alike.

When the buffalo nickel was discontinued in 1938, the image of a buffalo would not appear again on U.S. coinage until 1991, when the robust beast would emerge on the Mount Rushmore Golden Anniversary Half Dollar Coin.

The 1991 Mount Rushmore Buffalo Coin

The buffalo would return again several times, most notably on June 20, 2006, when the United States Mint unveiled its 24-karat buffalo gold coin featuring the original Indian Head and Buffalo designs from the 1913 nickel. The first-ever U.S. Mint-issued 99.99% pure gold coins weighed one ounce and had a face value of $50, but sold at a considerable premium Most of these collectible coins sold for around $800 in 2006.

A collectors item: the 2006 99.99% pure gold Buffalo coin

However, you don't have to spend large amounts of money to see that famous American bison glistening in its golden coat. Instead, pick up a Bison Blonde Golden Lager for a lot less and observe a piece of numismatic history.

The Buffalo Puddle

With the average American Bison drinking between 10 to 12 gallons of water daily, one would imagine the great beast must pee quite a lot! With this in mind, the Buffalo Water Beer Company’s artwork reenacts the buffalo’s urination abilities with a strand of golden urine seen embodying the Bison Blonde text. As is the trend with the modern craft brewers, the Buffalo Water Beer Company isn’t shy when it comes to expressing itself.