Fort Pitt Beer
The British are said to have brought brewing to Pittsburgh as early as 1758 when they established a brewery at Fort Pitt. There are several citings in historical reports to support this, but perhaps the most interesting appeared in the Fort Pitt and letters from the frontier which describes an order on June 4, 1763 that “each man was to have one pint of beer issued to him to-morrow at noon by the Sergeant major.”
The actual Fort PItt Brewery was incorporated in 1906 in Sharpsburg PA, opening for business in early 1908. Their product was primarily distributed throughout Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.
Prior to Prohibition, the brewery thrived on saloon sales, but when steel cans were introduced, they found a significant increase. The brewery advertised in bars, supermarkets, liquor stores, billboards, radio and TV. They even printed the admission cards to the 1935 US Open Golf Championship, which of course included the Fort Pitt logo! When Prohibition came along, they survived by selling a variety of non alcoholic beverages in 27 states from the east coast to the west.
In 1935, Fort Pitt set a record by brewing 114,000 barrels of beer, which put the brewery in a position to dominate the local beer market. Unfortunately, the company’s president died suddenly, and without his vision and connections, sales significantly declined to a record low just two years later. By 1940, the brewery had once again turned things around and increased annual capacity to 450,000 barrels. In 1949, despite tremendous competition from national brands, Fort Pitt was number one in Pittsburgh and across the state of Pennsylvania.
A 1952 strike among brewery workers in Pennsylvania’s three largest breweries was the beginning of the end when national brands were again introduced to the market. When things started up again, Fort Pitt wanted to take advantage of the demand for its product. With a warehouse full of old, spoiled beer they cut corners and brought the bad beer to market while its competitors had disposed of their old brews and started fresh. The once loyal local following switched for good to the popular, easy to source national beers, and when Fort PItt’s second president died in 1957, the end was clear and the brewery closed up shop.
In 2009 Mark Dudash, a Pittsburgh area native and attorney and owner of Duquesne Brewing Company obtained ownership of the Fort Pitt name. He introduced Fort Pitt Ale in 2014, crafted in the spirit of the brewery established in Fort Pitt in the 1700s.