Stoney's beer to be brewed in former Rolling Rock plant

Joe Napsha
| Friday, Sept. 11, 2009

The production of Stoney's and Stoney's Light beer is returning to a Westmoreland County brewery, but it will be in the former Rolling Rock brewery in Latrobe, not the old Jones Brewing Co. in Smithton, CEO Sandy Podlucky said Thursday.

"We're looking to increase production and sales. The sales are steady. There's an allegiance to that beer," said Podlucky, who took over Jones Brewing following the death of her husband, Gabriel M. Podlucky, in January 2006.

Bottling of the two Stoney's brands is scheduled to begin Tuesday at City Brewing Co.'s brewery, where Rolling Rock was brewed until July 2006. She declined to reveal terms of the contract, in which City Brewing charges the brand owner a fee for every case produced.

Stoney's had been brewed in the Iron City Brewing Co. brewery in Lawrenceville since January 2002, when Gabriel Podlucky closed the Smithton brewery to reduce costs. Jones Brewing was forced to find another brewery after Iron City shut its antiquated brewery in Lawrenceville in July.

The move to the more modern Latrobe facility with an annual capacity of about 1 million barrels will allow production to flow without interruptions, Podlucky said. There were problems with old machinery and breakdowns at Iron City's plant, in addition to a June flood that shut down production.

Stoney's produced about 15,000 barrels last year, and Podlucky is hoping to increase that to about 20,000 barrels through additional advertising and marketing campaigns. By comparison, Jones Brewing produced close to 50,000 barrels a year in 2002, she said.

Stoney's target market remains Southwestern Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio, where it has about 20 master distributors and hundreds of beer distributors pushing its products in bottles, cans and kegs, Podlucky said.

One potential problem in moving production to City Brewing's Latrobe plant is that its canning line remains under construction and is not expected to be operational until this fall. Podlucky said there remains a supply of canned beer that she hopes will suffice until City Brewing's canning line is complete.

Jones Brewing will continue to use the Lion Brewery Co. brewery in Wilkes-Barre, which has been producing its 16-ounce returnable bottles the past three years. Podlucky declined to say if she will move that production to Latrobe.

Depending upon sales, Podlucky said Jones Brewing could revive some dormant brands, such as Fort Pitt and Esquire.

"We'll see what the future holds," Podlucky said.

City Brewing business development director Ryan Nelson confirmed the addition of Stoney's to its contract brewing operations in Latrobe, but declined to say whether the addition of Stoney's production will result in an increase in employment at the Latrobe plant. Nelson declined to confirm reports from employees that City Brewing is producing a beer for Pabst Brewing Co.

The Latrobe brewery has been brewing Iron City products since June, when CEO Timothy Hickman announced the Lawrenceville brewery would close because it would cost too much to modernize.

As for the future of Jones Brewing's Smithton plant, Podlucky said the 26-acre property with brew house, bottling shop, gift shop and administrative offices remains for sale for about $500,000.

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