Iron City Brewing Company
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|Location||3340 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania|
|Annual production volume||1.2 million US beer barrels (1,400,000 hl) (2004)|
The Iron City Brewing Company (also known as the Pittsburgh Brewing Company) is a beer company that until August 2009 had been located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. On June 11, 2009, it was reported that the brewery was "moving" to Latrobe, Pennsylvania. That move was recently completed and Iron City is now produced in the Latrobe Brewery that was once used to produce Rolling Rock.
In 1861, a young German immigrant, Edward Frauenheim, started the Iron City Brewery, one of the first American breweries to produce a lager, in the bustling river port known at the time as the "Smoky City." This founder of Frauenheim, Miller & Company started brewing Iron City Beer, now the flagship of the Iron City Brewing Company (PBC), in a city thriving on heavy industry and commerce.
By 1866, the brewery had begun to grow. The business outgrew its original facilities on 17th Street and moved into a four-story brick building that the company built at Liberty Avenue and 34th Street, then worth an estimated $250,000. Just three years later, Iron City Brewery erected an additional three-story building at the site.
The two buildings, carrying an average stock of about 10,000 barrels, used state-of-the-art brewing equipment. At the time, 25 of the operation's 30 skilled workmen were employed full-time, and Iron City Brewery continued to expand its markets to become the largest brewery in Pittsburgh.
After the 1866 expansion, Leopold Vilsack, a Pittsburgh native who learned the brewer’s trade at Pittsburgh’s old Bennett Brewery, joined Frauenheim, Miller & Company. The young man later became a partner, investing his small wealth in the firm when Miller retired and another partner died. Iron City Brewery then became Frauenheim and Vilsack Company.
Frauenheim and Vilsack’s fame spread throughout the brewing industry across the country, as the company had built one of the most complete and extensive breweries in the United States. With a brewing capacity of about 50,000 barrels a year, the Iron City Brewery was an impressive operation, able to compete favorably in sales with any brewery west of the Atlantic Coast area. Historians and newspapers were amazed that a brewery could be so big. The total value of Iron City, from stock to raw materials, was about $150,000 – an unheard of sum for a brewery.
During the latter part of the 19th century, trusts became the business vogue, and industries began to merge or form trusts to achieve stability through size and take advantage of economies of scale. The brewing industry was no exception.
On February 3, 1899, the Pittsburgh Dispatch reported that 12 local brewing firms applied to transfer their license to the trust known as Pittsburgh Brewing Company: Wainwright Brewing Company, Phoenix Brewing Company, Keystone Brewing Company, Winter Brothers Brewing Company, Phillip Lauer, John H. Nusser, Ebhardt & Ober Brewing Company, Hippely & Sons, Ober Brewing Company, J. Seiferth Brothers, Straub Brewing Company, and the Iron City Brewing Company.
In addition to these 12 Pittsburgh and Allegheny County breweries, nine breweries outside the county took part in the merger. In all, 21 breweries joined to make Pittsburgh Brewing Company the largest brewing operation in Pennsylvania and the third largest in the country. The combined facilities, worth about $11 million, provided a capacity of more than one million barrels. Greater efficiencies and more modern equipment made it practical to close many of the 21 breweries shortly after the incorporation without relinquishing capacities.
Prohibition, starting in 1920, forced many breweries, distillers and taverns to close, yet Pittsburgh Brewing Company survived. One of only 725 American breweries left when the movement was repealed in April 1933, PBC produced soft drinks, ice cream and 'near beer' and ran a cold storage business to endure those years. The brewery’s creative efforts kept alive a Pittsburgh tradition and foreshadowed future innovations that would again restore security in times of struggle.
In the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Brewing Company acquired the Queen City Brewing Company (1901–1976) of Cumberland, Maryland. The Queen City Brewing Company was also known as the Old German Brewing Company and included the Cumberland Brewing Company (1890–1958), which was purchased by the brewery in 1958. At its peak, the Queen City brewery produced over 250,000 barrels of beer a year in Cumberland. The company prospered during the 1950s and 1960s; however, labor disputes and declining sales caused the Queen City Brewing Company to close in December 1974, transferring its Old German, Old Export, Heritage House, Old Dutch, Brown Derby, Gamecock Ale, and American brands to the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. The Queen City brewery was demolished in April 1975, ending a combined 152 years of brewing in Cumberland, Maryland. In January, 1974, the Pittsburgh Brewing Company acquired the Augustiner, Mark V, Robin Hood and Gambrinus brand names from August Wagner Breweries, Inc., Columbus, Ohio.
By 1977, Pittsburgh Brewing Company was one of just 40 breweries left in the country. To rebound from difficult years, the brewery introduced a new light beer, Iron City Light—or IC Light. IC Light's aggressive marketing campaign targeted the young beer drinker. Both men and women enjoyed the new beer, which quickly captured 80 percent of the local light-beer market. IC Light’s popularity apparently also heightened the sales of regular Iron City beer, as it soon regained the position of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s favorite beer.
In 1986, Pittsburgh Brewing Company was acquired by (and merged with) Alan Bond's Bond Brewing Holdings Ltd. of Perth, Western Australia, and two years later he integrated Pittsburgh Brewing into the structure of its corporate sister, G. Heileman Brewing Company. They were again separated in 1991 when Bond, suffering financially, sold Heileman, and he gave up the Pittsburgh brewery the next year to western Pennsylvania entrepreneur Michael Carlow, who made it a subsidiary of his Pittsburgh Food & Beverage Company.
When Carlow was forced to relinquish control of the brewery because of PNC Bank's allegations of fraud  (allegations which subsequently led to Carlow's imprisonment for fraud), Pittsburgh native Joseph Piccirilli gained ownership of the brewery. The investment group Piccirilli represented, Keystone Brewing Company, closed the $29.4 million purchase September 12, 1995, at a hearing in U.S. bankruptcy court, showing a new commitment to Pittsburgh Brewing Company's products.
Piccirilli proved dedicated to moving the brewery into the 21st century. He prompted many new ideas, most notably the aluminum bottle. However, the company struggled with labor issues and a sharp decline in sales. (PBC had been hovering around the 1 million barrel production mark, even through rough financial times). After producing fewer than 400,000 barrels in 2005, and being late on a number of bills, Pittsburgh Brewing Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In 2007, the brewery was purchased and brought out of bankruptcy by Unified Growth Partners. They returned the brewery to its original name, "Iron City Brewing Company", and planned a rebound to full production.
In May 2009, Iron City Brewing signed a deal with the City Brewing Company to begin use the former Rolling Rock Latrobe Brewing Company's plant, with brewing started in June and bottling/kegging production resumed in July 2009.
Iron City Brewing Company's most popular products are: Iron City Beer (a macro-style pilsner), I.C Light, Augustiner and Augustiner Dark. PBC also produces: American, American Light, American Ice, Old German, Brigade and Brigade Light. In June 2011, I.C. Light Mango was launched. Another new beer, I. C. Light Berry, was distributed in July 2012.
Other brands include Drummond Bros. and Drewrys, which were acquired from the Evansville Brewing Company (Evansville, Indiana) in the late 1990s and today are largely shipped to midwestern markets such as Louisville, Kentucky, and southern Indiana. Iron City Brewing formerly held the rights for Wiedemann beer.
A Pittsburgh Steelers fan with a can of Iron City on his head
- First snap-top can, produced in conjunction with Alcoa, 1962.
- First twist-off resealable cap, 1963.
- First brewery to print scenes honoring local sports teams and individuals.
- First "draught" beer available in a can, Iron City Draft.
- First malt cooler, Hop-n-Gator (sued for trademark infringement by Gatorade and ceased production).
- First brewer to use the aluminum beer bottle on a large scale, produced in conjunction with Alcoa, 2005. According to Alcoa, the bottle has three times the aluminum of typical cans, giving it better insulation. The maker claims the bottle keeps beer cold up to 50 minutes longer. It is also lighter than glass, unbreakable, resealable, and is coated to prevent the aluminum from affecting the taste.
- Len Boselovic (June 11, 2009). "Iron City moving production to Latrobe". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on June 14, 2009.
- [permanent dead link] "Edward Frauenheim – a young German immigrant – formed Iron City Brewing Company in 1861, when Pittsburgh was establishing itself as an industrial superpower."[dead link]
- Amanda Paul, Tom Robertson, Joe Weaver, "Cumberland", Arcadia Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0-7385-1498-5, page 46.
- "Hoosier Beer History: 1977 Snapshot," "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-07.
- Smith, Lee (July 10, 1995). "The Wrecking Crew Michael Carlow And His Dad Started Out Demolishing Old Factories – Then Grew Rich Destroying Companies". CNN.
- Boselovic, Len (June 22, 2006). "Wisconsin brewer may buy Rolling Rock plant – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Baron, Jennifer. Iron City Brewing Company opens for business, invests $4.1M in modernization Archived October 7, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., Pop City, September 26, 2007. Accessed September 26, 2007.
- "Goodbye, Iron City: Latrobe's Gain Is Pittsburgh's Loss". The PittsburghChannel. June 11, 2009. Archived from the original on August 15, 2009.
- Todd, Deborah M. (July 30, 2009). "Latrobe Brewery reopens to bottle Iron City". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
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