Duquesne beer rolls off line, onto Facebook

Joe Napsha
| Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Duquesne beer should be hitting neighborhood distributors and taverns early next week, the owner of the relaunched brand said Monday as he watched the first of thousands of bottles being filled at City Brewing Co. in Latrobe.

"This is really great. This is such an adrenaline high," said Mark Dudash, an Upper St. Clair attorney and president of Duquesne Bottling Co.

The first batch of about 500 barrels of his Duquesne beer started fermenting last month in City Brewing's tanks. About 80 percent of the beer was packaged yesterday in cases of 24 loose bottles -- with labels featuring the Prince of Pilsner logo -- while the remaining 20 percent was packaged in cases of four six-packs to be sold in bottle shops, Dudash said.

Using higher-priced ingredients -- such as the hops -- paid off in producing a premium beer, as far as Dudash was concerned.

"I've tasted it. We've hit a home run. It tastes clean and has no aftertaste. The flavor of the hops is real light," said Dudash, 51, who used to work for Pittsburgh Brewing Co., producer of Iron City beer.

The beer should be picked up in the next few days by master distributors and be available for sale on Monday, if not sooner, Dudash said. Most of the initial run already has been sold to five master distributors in Pittsburgh, Erie, Altoona and State College, said Maria Dudash, an accountant and Mark's wife.

Duquesne beer's master distributor in the Pittsburgh area, Frank Fuhrer III, CEO of Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale Co. on the South Side, could not be reached.

Dudash and his wife have worked for about two years to revive Duquesne beer, which has not been produced in the region since 1972. C.L. Schmidt Brewing Co. bought Duquesne and closed its historic South Side brewery, then brewed it in Cleveland in the early 1980s.

He declined to say how much money he has spent on making his dream a reality, but said he has not taken on investors. With a successful first run, Dudash said he is hoping to get a small business loan to ramp up production and distribution.

Dudash said he is looking to sell Duquesne in markets beyond Western Pennsylvania. He has set his sights on Morgantown, W.Va., eastern Ohio stretching to Cleveland, Columbus and Akron, and has received interest from a wholesaler in Allentown, with sales that would stretch to Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.

"If they see that we're the next 'hot' beer," the distributors will order more, Dudash said. "I do like the underdog role. The odds of this working is one in a million."

He anticipates using revenue from the sales of this first batch to brew another batch of beer in early August.

Dudash is taking a nontraditional path to marketing his beer, forgoing advertising on radio, television, newspapers or billboards. He and his wife have contacted distributors and taverns to promote it.

"It's my dream. I lived in Pittsburgh all my life. Do I need someone out of New York and Los Angeles to tell me what to do• They would have me market it with girls in bikinis and thongs," said Dudash, who said agencies from Pittsburgh and elsewhere wanted to conduct a campaign.

Instead, Duquesne Bottling has created a Facebook page with the Prince of Pilsner on it. Dudash said he can appeal to older adults who recall the heyday of Duquesne beer and younger adults who prefer their grandfather's beer to their dad's.

Duquesne Bottling is following in the marketing footsteps of craft beer makers, said Peter V. Reid, editor of Modern Brewing Age, a trade publication.

"The craft beers don't have the money (for marketing), and the millennial generation has proven they really gravitate to craft beers and different beers," Reid said. "Typically, the 21-to-28-year-olds get a lot of their information through the social web," Reid said.

"The 21-to-38-year-olds are using Facebook. Facebook is a bigger megaphone for reaching those people," Reid said.

Opting for a social network campaign to market the beer is "a great idea," said Paige Beal, an assistant business professor at Point Park University and a veteran of 25 years in media marketing.

"It makes so much more sense. You get a younger demo(graphic)," and one that can access the Facebook page with mobile devices, Beal said.

Research has shown that average Facebook users have 120 friends and if they like a product, it could be worth $136,000 in advertising because of the number of people who can share their preferences through Facebook, Beal said.

Additional Information:

Duquesne by the numbers:

• Barrels produced: 500

• Water used in production: more than 10,000 gallons

• Number of 24-bottle cases packaged: 6,750

• Number of workers who brewed, bottled, packaged and stored the beer: 30

• Owner's suggested price per case: $16.99

Source: Duquesne Bottling Co. and City Brewing Co., Latrobe

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