Crescent Beer returns as part of Irwin's anniversary celebration

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Mike Pochan has a thing for Western Pennsylvania history and always is on the hunt for items to add to his small collection of regional artifacts.

The Irwin businessman was intrigued the first time he spotted an empty Crescent Beer bottle among the memorabilia adorning the walls of the Colonial Grille and Tap Room on Main Street some 10 years ago.

“I didn't even know that Irwin had a brewery at one time,” said Pochan, who is helping coordinate events to celebrate the borough's 150th anniversary. “So I started looking on eBay and eventually picked up a Crescent Beer bottle that was pretty unique because it still had a paper label on it.”

The Crescent Brewing Co. of Irwin operated from 1903 until 1919, when the National Prohibition Act outlawed the production of alcohol, according to historical records. The brewery never resumed operations after Prohibition ended 1933.

After obtaining the Crescent bottle, Pochan scanned the label onto a computer and painstakingly restored the tattered image with plans to produce some T-shirts.

“I never got around to doing the shirts, but when we started planning two years ago for the 150th anniversary, we put the word out that we were looking for historic photographs,” Pochan said.

Irwin will mark its sesquicentennial with a slate of activities between Aug. 2 and 9.

After organizers received some photos of the old brewery located at Pennsylvania Avenue and Main Street, talk turned to the prospects of resurrecting the home-town brew, Pochan said.

Gary Santimyer, who owns the Colonial Grille, was approached to set the process up because he already was selling craft beers produced by Full Pint Brewing in North Versailles.

“I had already been kicking around the idea of doing something with the Crescent beer name, but really never pursued it,” Santimyer said. “So when some of the (150th-anniversary) committee members asked me to contact Full Pint, I was glad to help out.”

Barrett Goddard, a brewer at Full Pint, said there is no way to know what the original beer tasted like. “Assuming we had a (unopened) bottle of the beer, which we don't, it would have degraded after all these years, so it would be unpalatable,” he said. “We could mimic the color, but it would be difficult to determine how it's supposed to taste.”

The new Crescent Beer created by Full Pint — an amber ale — made its debut at a July 7 “birthday party” for the borough at the Norwin Public Library that included a program titled “The Strange and Interesting History of Irwin.”

The beer is available at the Full Pint brewery, 1963 Lincoln Highway, and at the Colonial Grille and Tap Room in Irwin.

To add a little flash to the beer's rollout, anniversary organizers solicited the help of North Huntingdon native and professional model Billie Jo Powers.

“One of the committee members came up with the idea of having a model for the marketing material like they use for St. Pauli Girl beer,” Pochan said.

Photographer Carl Stillitano captured shots in mid-June while Powers was home visiting family.

“The idea of resurrecting Crescent Beer for the 150th anniversary started out as something we thought might be fun to try, but we really didn't know whether we could pull it off,” Pochan said. “So it's pretty exciting that with the help of some professionals, we've been able to achieve what we set out to do.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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