Iron City and the City of Champions

imagesAdmittedly, there are more important matters to fret about this morning. For one: My upper leg muscles are still knotted like a pretzel and three weeks of physcial therapy has basically resulted in a loss of my afternoon nap but not any diminished pain while running. So it goes.

But the news out of Pittsburgh today is troubling nonetheless. The makers of Iron City beer — the iconic lager that symbolizes the City of Champions as much as the Steel Curtain of the Steelers circa 1970 — are abandoning the city and moving to Latrobe, home of Arnold Palmer and once the home of Rolling Rock. WTF.

Here’s from a Wall Street Journal article online by Kris Maher:

PITTSBURGH — The Steel City is losing its Iron City.

On Monday [June22], the last batch of Iron City beer will be brewed at the nine-acre, red-brick brewery complex outside downtown Pittsburgh that was founded in 1861. Production will move 40 miles away to the Latrobe, Pa., brewery that once made another recently displaced regional favorite, Rolling Rock beer, now brewed in Newark, N.J.

The beer-making musical chairs reflects attempts by Iron City’s new owners to survive competition from global beverage companies and newer craft-beer makers. They risk alienating fans in the area, as well as local officials and workers, who provided incentives and concessions to help the company emerge from bankruptcy.

Oh, mama. Next thing you know GM will be going belly up. Wait, I digress.

I lost my beer-drinking virginity to Iron City, sitting on a park bench on Pittsburgh’s North Side with high school chum Stanley Gurski, circa 1960. So this is personal.

And I share the view of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial pundits who opined last week: “IC slight — the historic beer maker’s exit leaves a bitter taste.”

Iron City Brewing and Lawrenceville have been together since the Industrial Revolution. As the Civil War raged, followed by two world wars, Iron City beer became synonymous with Pittsburgh. Consequently, generations of workers invested their hearts in making Iron City a brand known throughout the world.

Brewery President Timothy Hickman insists he wants to keep the brand alive but that it requires moving production 40 miles down the road to Latrobe. It might as well be 400 miles as far as the workers of union Local 144B are concerned. They’ll be losing their jobs, despite taking a 15 percent pay cut in 2007 to help the company emerge from bankruptcy.


It’s always sad when an iconic business pulls up stakes in a place that’s been home for many years. The Iron City brand has been an ambassador for Pittsburgh around the world. Who doesn’t think of Pittsburgh when throwing back an Iron or an IC Light?

OK. Detroit is no longer the center of the auto world. Akron hasn’t made passenger tires for decades. Now Iron City beer is no longer brewed in Pittsburgh. Might as well go quaff a couple before heading to physical therapy this afternoon. And salute the good old days when you could sit on a park bench on a perfect summer night, sucking Iron City from a quart bottle hidden in a paper bag. Woot.

4 responses to “Iron City and the City of Champions

  1. Allison Tomei

    Well, the good news is that they are still in the greater Pittsburgh area– what would be devastating is if they moved to Ohio! Next thing you know Primanti’s will become a national chain like Subway. Woot.

  2. Allison,

    Good point about Latrobe. But let’s pray the Iron City marketing gurus don’t start opining — “made with clear mountain water.” Ugh.

  3. burghthoughts

    “on a park bench……circa 1960”. I am assuming that was riverview park, and 1960 would have made you just slightly underage. Tsk-Tsk-Tsk.
    Good thing JJ doesn’t have a computer anymore!

  4. I haven’t had a drop of Rolling Rock since they were bought by Anheuser Bush, but will continue to drink Iron City… They are still an independent, even thought TECHNICALLY they won’t be brewing within the city limits… If they HAD to move out of the city, I can’t think of a better place than old Latrobe…

    Some great t-shirts featuring the IRON CITY BEER logo, with a large inscription stating IRON CITY FOOTBALL; REAL TEAM, REAL FANS, REAL FOOTBALL. Got me a nice hoodie..

    and another one, aptly titled THE DRINKIN’ TOWN WITH A FOOTBALL PROBLEM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s