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Friday, November 29, 2019


RETRO FILES.  Pittsburgh, summer 1938.
The Iron City Brewery (also known as the Pittsburgh Brewing Company) was started in 1861, located on 17th Street in Pittsburgh, by Edward Frauenheim, a young German immigrant. It was one of the first American breweries to produce a lager. The company soon began brewing Iron City Beer, which would become the enduring flagship creation of the Iron City Brewing Company.

By 1866, the business had outgrown it's building on 17th Street and moved into a four-story brick building at the corner of Liberty Avenue and 34th Street. Three years later, Iron City Brewery built an additional three-story building on the site.

The Pittsburgh Brewing Company, circa 1867.
The Iron City Brewery's fame spread quickly throughout the country's brewing industry. The Pittsburgh facility was one of the most complete and extensive breweries in the United States. It was one of the largest brewers west of the Atlantic Coast area.

In 1899, the Iron City Brewery merged with twelve other local breweries, along with nine others outside the county, to form the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. The headquarters and main operation of the newly formed brewers trust remained in Lawrenceville.

The Pittsburgh Brewing Company, located in Lawrenceville, in 1919.
Prohibition, starting in 1920, forced many breweries, distillers and taverns to close, yet the Pittsburgh Brewing Company survived. Before prohibition was repealed in 1933, The Pittsburgh brewer produced soft drinks, ice cream and "near beer," and also ran a cold storage business to endure those years.

By 1977, Pittsburgh Brewing Company was one of just forty breweries left in the country. In a move to restore stability during difficult financial times, the brewery introduced a new light beer, branded as Iron City Light, or IC Light. The new product quickly captured 80 percent of the local light-beer market, and helped increase the sales of regular Iron City beer, which soon regained the position of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s favorite beer.

The 21st century saw the Pittsburgh brewer again fall in hard economic times. In 2005, a sharp decline in sales forced the Pittsburgh Brewing Company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 2007, the brewery was purchased and renamed to it's original name of "Iron City Brewing Company."

In May 2009, due to the aging Lawrenceville facility, Iron City Brewing signed a deal with the City Brewing Company to begin producing beer at their former Latrobe Brewing Company plant. Brewing started in June and bottling/kegging production resumed in July, 2009. The abandoned Lawrenceville building was named a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark in 2010.

The company's ties to Pittsburgh still exist, as the Iron City website still lists "a four-story brick building on the corner of Liberty Avenue and 34th Street" as the brewery's location.

After 149 years in Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh's iconic Iron City Beer is now produced in Latrobe. Despite the move, Iron City Beer will always be associated with the city of Pittsburgh. There are certain trademark items that people seem to relate to the city. There's the Steelers, and there's Heinz ketchup, and there's Iron City Beer. You can travel most anywhere in the country and walk around wearing an Iron City t-shirt. The odds are strong that you will be identified as a Pittsburgher.

As with most breweries, there are many specialty collector cans made to promote local sports. Iron City was one of the first to link their brews with the local sports franchises. For years they have created new collector cans to promote their product. There's also the Pittsburgh Brewery's specialty brew, Olde Frothingslosh, an ale that looks as good as it tastes. Yes folks, Iron City Beer is a Pittsburgh tradition like no other, and for those of legal drinking age, it's not a bad tasting brew.

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