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Full Pint Brewery makes splash in Pittsburgh beer scene

Jason Cato
| Thursday, July 15, 2010

A region once overflowing with locally made beers is getting a glimpse of its past with a new brewery.

Full Pint Brewing Co. on the border of North Versailles and North Huntingdon released its first 64 kegs in May after a prolonged zoning issue delayed its launch.

The brewery has about 60 accounts in Allegheny County, with more spread throughout Western Pennsylvania and as far east as State College. Bottled beer will be available within weeks.

"There's so many people in Pittsburgh who don't even know we exist," said brewer and business partner Sean Hallisey, 30, of Swissvale. "We don't have mass marketing. It's just a matter of getting on more taps the more people know about us."

Hallisey's partners include Barrett Goddard, Andrew Maxwell, Sean McIntyre and Mark Kegg. All but Kegg were brewers at John Harvard's Brew House, the Wilkins brewpub that closed in 2008. Combined, they have more than 50 years of brewing experience.

Kegg "retired" in December 2008 from day-to-day work at LifeLine sleep centers, of which he is co-owner. Interested in brewing, he completed an eight-month apprenticeship at the Rivertowne Pour House in Monroeville, where Goddard and Maxwell are brewers.

"I just needed something to do," said Kegg, 45, of Irwin. And, yes, the connection between his surname and new career has not been lost on his family.

The brewery's three mainstays for now are Chinookie Imperial Pale Ale; White Lightning, a Belgian-style ale; and All-In, an amber ale. Double Triple Imperial is the first seasonal brew, and a "big, hoppy beer" that defies categorization is in the works, Hallisey said.

Full Pint also brews two of Rivertowne's lines, Old Wylie's IPA and Babbbbling Blonde.

The brewery has the capacity to produce 11,000 barrels a year. In comparison, Penn Brewery, a North Side brewpub, has the capacity to produce 30,000 barrels annually, while East End Brewing Co., a microbrewery in Homewood, can produce 3,000 barrels a year. Last year, it produced 1,500 barrels.

"We would love to hit 5,000 (barrels) this year," Hallisey said.

Hallisey and his partners plan to repay within two years a group of investors who fronted $400,000 in start-up costs.

"We're not taking any money out of the business," he said. "We're not getting paid. We all have other jobs."

Bygone breweries

British Army brewery, Fort Pitt, 1765-80*

Point Brewery, Fort Pitt, 1795-1860**

Wainwright Brewery, Lawrenceville, 1818-1920

M. Winter Bros. Brewing, South Side, 1833-99

Eagle/Eberhardt & Ober Brewing, North Side, 1849-99

Allegheny Brewery, North Side, 1853-1909

Northside/Hippely & Son, North Side, 1859-99

Iron City/Pittsburgh Brewing Co., Lawrenceville, 1861-2009***

Willow Grove/American Brewing, North Side, 1866-1905

Ormsby Ale Brewery, South Side, 1872-83

John Seiferth & Brothers, South Side, 1895-1899

General Braddock Brewing, Braddock, 1898-1937

Duquesne Brewing Co., South Side, 1899-1972

Atlas Brewing Co., South Side, 1901-03

Tube City Brewing Co., McKeesport, 1903-55

Hazelwood/Derby Brewing Co., Hazelwood, 1905-38

Fort Pitt Brewing Co., Sharpsburg, 1906-57

Brackenridge Brewing Co., Brackenridge, 1933-40

* First brewery west of Allegheny Mountains

** Pittsburgh's first commercial brewery

*** Moved to Latrobe

Sources:, Pennsylvania Brewery Historians, "American Breweries II"

Additional Information:

Where'd they all go?

Pittsburgh landed its first brewery before its first steel mill.

Dozens of breweries operated in and around Pittsburgh in the 1800s, with some changing hands and names time and again.

The 1895 Pittsburgh Business Directory reported 'some 30 breweries here,' with M. Winter Brothers, Iron City and Eberhardt & Ober among the largest. All three became part of the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. four years later.

Today, there are no large commercial breweries in the city.

Penn Brewery, in the former E&O Brewery on Vinial Street on the North Side, is a microbrewery. Iron City Brewing Co. • previously Pittsburgh Brewing -- last year abandoned its operations in Lawrenceville for Latrobe.

Three things doomed breweries in Western Pennsylvania, said Rich Wagner, a Philadelphia-based brewery historian. First, dozens of breweries consolidated to form the Pittsburgh Brewing (1899) and the Independent Brewing Co. of Pittsburgh (1904). That was followed by an economic downturn, then prohibition in 1920.

A few local breweries reopened after prohibition, but most did not. Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors then came to dominate the U.S. market, Wagner said.

The craft beer market was resurrected in the 1990s, Wagner said. Homebrewing took off, and brewpubs began to open.

Only a handful of businesses in and around Pittsburgh still brew beer. Those include brewpubs such as Penn Brewery; Church Brew Works, Lawrenceville; Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh, South Side; Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, Homestead; and the Rivertowne Pour House, Monroeville, which also brews for Rivertowne locations in Verona, North Huntingdon and the North Shore.

Mark Dudash, an Upper St. Clair entrepreneur and attorney, has revived Duquesne Beer, which is being brewed in Latrobe.

New commercial breweries sans restaurants still open from time to time but they are rare, Wagner said.

East End Brewing Co., a Homewood microbrewery that rolled its first beers in 2004, and the recently opened Full Pint Brewery on the border of North Versailles and North Huntingdon, are the only two local breweries that don't have a restaurant.

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