OWhen Bill Cowher resigned as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007, he passed the proverbial torch to Mike Tomlin by leaving him an Iron City Beer. To this day, this 12-ounce can sits in the team’s locker room refrigerator.
After hearing about the iconic beer’s role in the grill’s rite of passage, Pittsburgh Brewery Chairman Todd Zwicker decided to pay tribute to Cowher by putting his mug — smiling, not scowling — on the company’s flagship offering.
It will be one of the last libations to come out of PBC’s new 170,000 square foot production facility in Creighton, where workers are preparing 14,000 30-packs for distribution. In early October, football fans will be able to purchase the commemorative beers for their tailgate parties at Acrisure Stadium.
For more than a decade, the company produced its beer in Latrobe. In 2019, Cliff Forrest, founder of Rosebud Mining Co. in Kittanning, purchased a closed PPG plant, which was built in 1883, so he could bring the iconic brands closer to the ‘Burgh.
Beer has been flowing like Pittsburgh’s three rivers at the 40-acre site since May, making it one of the largest breweries on the East Coast.
Over the next few years, the company will add a museum, gift shop, restaurant, marina and Iron City Distilling, which will produce between 500 and 800 barrels of rye and bourbon whiskey annually. The operation will be led by Chief Distiller Matt Strickland, author, educator and respected name in the field who most recently led production duties at Distillery Côte des Saints in Quebec, Canada.
The sprawling Creighton facility features German-made brewing equipment, including 25 500-barrel tanks, which has increased PBC’s capacity from 120,000 to 200,000 barrels of beer per year, with the potential to produce 500 000 barrels per year.
Brewmaster Mike Carota has overseen beer production since 1975.
Despite pandemic-related supply chain issues — aluminum and cardboard are still hard to come by — business is booming. PCB focuses on efficiency, with a state-of-the-art automated packaging line that can fill 400 containers per minute. The company is already planning to add more employees to its 36-member crew and build a new warehouse to hold all that beer, which, in addition to Iron City, includes IC Light, IC Light Mango, Old German, American and Block House.
Some staff choose to cycle around the huge building.
The 9-acre Lawrenceville complex where Iron City began in 1861 will also eventually get a facelift, but there’s no timeline for that project yet.
“It certainly hurt sales when we left Lawrenceville, but now that we have this big, beautiful facility, we’re together again. It’s a very large-scale brewery compared to what people have used to seeing on the craft beer scene,” says Zwicker.
He hopes Steeler Nation is thirsty.