Pittsburgh Beer: It’s Not Just Iron City Anymore

Pittsburgh Steel MillsFor forever and a day, Pittsburgh has been known as a blue-collar town with a strong work ethic. Our city’s foundation was built upon the rigorous work performed in the steel mills decades ago and some remnants of that heritage still exist today. But overall, while maintaining elements of that iron-clad, nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic from days past, Pittsburgh has evolved and transformed into a cultural hotbed, complete with art, theater, education, and medical advancements now recognized the world over as industry standards.

Included in the long list of advancements Pittsburgh has undergone is the evolution of our favorite adult beverage, beer. And, with no discredit intended for the other tremendous ideals that make today’s Pittsburgh the city we know and love, this is a beer-centric blog. So let’s talk about beer, shall we?

On Wednesday, September 3rd, an article appeared on the website Thrillist that paired your favorite NFL team with a craft beer born in its particular town. A subject in and of itself just another one of those Internet lists with an objective of providing a small amount of education in a mostly mindless arena while capturing the popularity of football at its height being that a fresh season kicks off in a few hours, I had to check it out simply because I carry a strong affection for both football and craft beer (and I’m just a sucker for lists, damn it!). Plus, with so much in regards to advancement with craft beer in our town, which one of my favorite beers would stand tall next to our beloved Steelers? I could barely sit still in my chair!

As I read through each team, I learned about a wide scope of brews, some I’ve had and some I haven’t. Author Lee Breslouer tagged pro football squads with double IPAs, holiday ales, nut brown ales, and many, many others.

But as I scrolled my way to the Steelers, the beer geek in me died a little inside. Like so, so, SO many other tired lists of Pittsburgh beer, or Pittsburgh anything for that matter, the Steelers got paired with…wait for it…you know it’s coming……you guessed it…Iron City.

A town now featuring over 20 craft breweries…got paired with Iron City. Here’s Breslouer’s explanation:

Steelers and Iron CityOK, I’m sure there’s accuracy to the point that you can find cans of “Ahrn” City with Steelers players from the 70s on eBay. I’ll also bet you can find pogs with images of ALF posing with the late, great Myron Cope if you look hard enough (I’ll bid on this if anyone finds it). The point is, the beer that defined a city’s drinking generation over 40 years ago simply isn’t what Pittsburgh’s beer scene is about today.

And no, this is absolutely not a knock on Pittsburgh Brewing Company for what they’ve produced and their plans for resurgence. This is about proving that Pittsburgh’s craft beer scene and the brewers who’ve made it extraordinary don’t need to live in the shadows of something whose popularity peaked decades ago.

You hear a lot of die-hard Steelers fans cling to the 70s in defense of the Steelers and, undoubtedly, that’s never going to change. But what has changed is that our city has become younger, has become hipper, has become more diverse, and has become a place that attracts younger folk to its fold…and keeps them here. These changes have led to an uprising in regards to entertainment, food, and drink the likes of which will leave no one without something to do on any given night.

When it comes to beer, so many people have worked like mad men and women to raise awareness around craft beer and amplify the scene to show the NOW generation of Pittsburgher they have options other than the light beers of the world. Have we reached the levels of some of the greatest beers cities in the world, such as Philadelphia where Breslouer’s favorite team resides? Of course not, but there’s not an ounce of doubt in my mind to make me believe those part of Pittsburgh’s craft beer revolution won’t work their asses off in an attempt to get there. With so many strong beer options available, seeing the Steelers paired with another, as a gentlemen I was conversing with on Twitter after sharing this article put it, “one of those Pittsburgh stereotypes we can’t seem to kick” is downright frustrating.

Pittsburgh is brimming over with new startup craft breweries, as well as some who’ve been here for years. East End Brewing has been around over a decade and I think I speak for all craft beer fans when I say I’d rather kick back with a Big Hop than an Iron City when the Steelers kick off.

Full Pint Brewing in North Versailles has been around for nearly five years and their lineup has grown from three at time of inception to 13 solid choices…available in six states! 

The temperature for the Steelers home opener on Sunday is most likely going to break 80 degrees, so who’s going to turn down a Ginga Wheat from Roundabout Brewery? 

Helltown, All Saints, Church Brew Works, ShuBrew, Hitchhiker, Brew Gentlemen, Grist House, Milkman, Penn Brewery Draai Laag…the list goes on and on and on and I apologize to those I didn’t mention. All brewing craft, all creating a culture that BURIES light beer.

The biggest point is this: Pittsburgh is a town, evolutions and revolutions not withstanding, made up of people who take great pride in what they do. And the brewers who make Pittsburgh craft beer great deserve the recognition for transforming the landscape and making bigger, better, and brighter than it ever was!

This blog may not be seen on a worldwide scale like Thrillist, but the least I can do is speak from the heart and say that each and every one of you who produces great craft beer in Pittsburgh deserves a nod over a tired Iron City product. Our skyline is no longer riddled with clouds of soot, and our beer scene is no longer limited to just one good ol’ watery option. Pittsburgh beer is far and away better than it was in the 70s, and it’s time people composing lists of beers take notice of what this city and its brewers are doing.

Here’s a link to the rest of the Thrillist article, should you choose to read it.




Jason Cercone

Good Times and Good Blog Features Are Better When They're Shared!

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