Iron City Beer
Created | Updated Jan 28, 2002
Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania, USA probably is not the first place that comes to mind when you're talking about brewing. Yet the Pittsburgh Brewing Company has produced some very fine beers for the past 145 years.
The company's history can be traced back to 1855 when Edward Frauenheim and Leopold Vilsack first met. Their discussions eventually led to the founding of the Frauenheim and Vilsack Brewery in 1861. The new brewery was erected at Liberty Avenue and 34th Street - the present site of Pittsburgh Brewing Company1.
Brewing was a popular industry in Pittsburgh's early years, and dozens of small neighbourhood breweries competed for the favour of the Steel City's thirsty blue-collar labourers. During this time Frauenheim and Vilsack changed their brewery's name to Iron City Brewing. In 1899, Iron City and 20 other local brewing companies merged to become the Pittsburgh Brewing Company. The merger made Pittsburgh Brewing the largest brewery in Pennsylvania and the third largest in the country.
During the dark days of Prohibition - when some misguided politicians banned the consumption of alcohol throughout the USA - many breweries, distilleries and taverns went out of business. Pittsburgh Brewing survived by producing ice cream, soft drinks, and 'near beer' until prohibition was repealed in April 1933.
After Prohibition, national brands of beer like Miller and Budweiser began to gobble up smaller breweries, but again Pittsburgh Brewing Company managed to survive, in part because everyone in the region loved the stuff and also because the company stayed on the cutting edge with a number of industry 'firsts'.
In 1962 the company introduced the world's first snap-top can, established in conjunction with Alcoa. One year later, they introduced the first twist-off resealable cap. Iron City was also the first 'draft' beer to be packaged in cans. Pittsburgh Brewing was also the first brewery to produce cans with printed scenes honouring the achievements of local professional and college sport teams and individuals, including the Penguins, Pirates and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. Other firsts included the introduction of the first light beer2.
By 1977, Pittsburgh Brewing was just one of the 40 breweries left in the United States and was looking to rebound from some difficult years. The rebound began with the introduction of a new light beer - IC Light.
The innovations continued through the 1980s as Pittsburgh Brewing Company partnered with Boston Beer Company in 1984. The company's brewmaster in conjunction with Jim Koch developed the recipe for the first 700 barrels of the award-winning Samuel Adams Boston Lager to be brewed at the Pittsburgh facility. Over 90 percent of the medals earned under the Samuel Adams name were produced at the Pittsburgh brewery.
As the beer business turned international in the early l990s, Pittsburgh Brewing lead the competition by exporting over a million cases of beer to Russia and other former Soviet states, as well as other eastern block countries. The company's American, American Light and American NA brands have also become very popular in the Far East, South America and the Caribbean. The American brands are sold in over 40 different countries around the world.
But if you're in Pittsburgh, you can go into any tavern and ask for an Arn City in the local dialect and be assured of getting a good brew.