Beer is Only The Beginning at Pittsburgh Brewing’s Newest Facility

A huge Pittsburgh Brewing Company production site is on tap for northern Allegheny County.
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As mostly small craft breweries pop up all over the region, the 161-year-old maker of Iron City and I.C. Light beers is opening what will become the largest brewery in Allegheny County.

Beer is expected to start flowing in mid-May at Pittsburgh Brewing Company’s newest facility, a 170,000-square-foot production space in East Deer. It is located in what was once the Pittsburgh Glass Works plant, and before that, the original PPG Paints warehouse. The brewery features 25 aging and fermentation tanks and an initial capacity to produce up to 200,000 barrels of beer — and that’s only just the beginning.

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Pittsburgh Brewing has crafted a long line of well-known beers — I.C. Light, I.C. Light Mango, Old German, American, American Light and, of course, Iron City — brewed in what the company calls “classic Pittsburgh style” since the Victorian era.

“Everybody has their thoughts on Iron City. That’s the original beer from 1861,” says Todd Zwicker, president of Pittsburgh Brewing Company. “Last year was its 160th anniversary. [Sales] grew 5.7%. I don’t know any other brands that are that old that are growing.”

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Once brewing is underway, Pittsburgh Brewing Company can begin to implement the additional phases of its grand vision — including eventually increasing barrel production to more than 500,000 and using an old boiler house on the site to make rye whiskey and bourbons.

“We by far aren’t the largest brewery in the country, obviously, but we’re sizable,” Zwicker adds. “This is very high-tech, and it’s going to be very efficient.”

Brandon Mayes, director of brewing and quality assurance, spent the last 16 years cutting his teeth in brewing science at the Long Trail and Otter Creek breweries in Vermont. He says the massive tanks will be brewing lagers for now, but the space offers room to grow into new products.

“Innovation should be something that is certainly in the front of our minds moving forward,” he says.

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Other long-term plans include a retail area, a restaurant and a museum, which Zwicker says will feature “thousands of Pittsburgh Brewing memorabilia items that have been collected over the years,” as well as other interactive exhibits.

With significant outdoor space and ample parking on the 40-acre site, the company also has the goal of capitalizing on its location along the Allegheny riverfront to make it a community hotspot.

But like most businesses in the disrupted pandemic era, Pittsburgh Brewing Company is reckoning with a familiar beast: supply chain shortages. Allocations of aluminum cans have presented challenges throughout the process.

“Glass is not a problem, at least not for us. Obviously draft beer is no problem. But bulk cans? It’s month-to-month,” Zwicker says. “There’s a lot of can plants that are coming online, but it might take a little bit of time to get caught up. We’ll get through it, but it’s a challenge.”

Since 2009, Pittsburgh Brewing Company has produced its beer in Latrobe, out of the old Rolling Rock plant owned by City Brewing. The local brewing behemoth made the decision to use the plant in the Creighton section of East Deer, just a stone’s throw from Route 28, in August 2020.

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As soon as the Creighton plant is up and ready, the company will transition all of its production to the site — less than 20 miles away from the Lawrenceville blockhouse that saw the advent of Pittsburgh Brewing Company in 1861.

It’s the history of the new site, too, that makes Pittsburgh Brewing Company’s return to Allegheny County so notable.

“This is where PPG started, a very iconic Pittsburgh company,” Zwicker says. “And now you have another iconic Pittsburgh company going into the same building, so that’s pretty cool.”


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Categories: Eat + Drink Features, From the Magazine