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Duquesne Beer to flow again in Western Pennsylvania

By Thomas Olson
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
 

Heads up: A local entrepreneur is resurrecting the "Prince of Pilsener."

Duquesne Beer -- brewed in the South Side from 1899 to 1972 -- will be produced again, starting next week, at the City Brewing plant in Latrobe. The brand, Pennsylvania's biggest seller in the 1950s, should be ready for sale in mid- to late July.

"My idea is to bring back a legend," said Mark Dudash, 51, of Upper St. Clair, a workers' compensation and employment attorney who spent the 1980s working at Pittsburgh Brewing Co. in Lawrenceville.

"I have the passion to do this. I have the materials, and I have the contacts," said Dudash. He won't say how much he's pouring into the venture but has no financial backers, "so I don't have to please investors."

Dudash signed with eight wholesalers to distribute Duquesne Beer throughout Western Pennsylvania -- south from Erie, and west from State College -- and across West Virginia.

His plan is to expand into Ohio, Virginia and the Carolinas "if it goes the way I think it will," he said.

"If he prices it right and aims it at people who remember the beer, he could make it," said Julie Johnson, editor of All About Beer magazine in Durham, N.C.

City Brewing produces Iron City and Stoney's beers at its Latrobe plant. It began brewing Iron City last June when Iron City Brewing Co., the successor to Pittsburgh Brewing, closed its Lawrenceville plant.

Brew master Mike Carota, who held that post at Pittsburgh Brewing, will produce a golden yellow pilsener with three hops for just a "gentle bite" and extra malt for a bright white head, said Dudash.

Zack Mazzoni, controller for the Latrobe plant, said the facility can brew Duquesne Beer without adding workers. The brewery employs about 110 people, including 35 in manufacturing and about 60 in bottling.

"We're happy to have it here. It's an old local brand," said Mazzoni.

"My grandfather had the Duquesne Beer franchise for State College about 50 years ago," said Chris Hickey, president of W.R. Hickey Beer Distributor, which will distribute the brand to the five counties around State College. "I'm looking forward to this."

"I'm very excited to have the opportunity to relaunch Duquesne Beer," said Frank Fuhrer, who will carry the product to 11 Western Pennsylvania counties. "It has a great name and brand recognition."

Dudash decided two years ago to revive Duquesne Beer, with the aid of his wife, Maria, an accountant. They incorporated Duquesne Bottling Co. in late 2008 to formally start the project and reregistered the brand's trademark, which had expired. He consulted old colleagues at Pittsburgh Brewing, where he was labor relations manager from 1981 to 1988.

Born in Beechview, Dudash said his motivation primarily was that foreign breweries in recent years bought out iconic American beers: InBev of Belgium bought Anheuser-Busch in 2008, Adolph Coors Co. merged into Molson Inc. of Montreal in 2004, and South African Breweries bought Miller Brewing Co. in 2002.

"Where's the American beer?" asked Dudash, who earned his bachelor's and law degrees from Duquesne University.

"I think young people are getting tired of the international beers, too," he said. "If you make a super-premium beer and price it right, I believe young people will give it a shot."

Dudash expects to hold down costs so retail distributors can price Duquesne Beer "several dollars" below most national brands. The brew will be sold in bottles and not cans, he said. Kegs could come later.

"This is a great project," said Frank Walton, the longtime operations vice president at Pittsburgh Brewing who is semi-retired in suburban Chicago. "But today's market is controlled by the big brewers. If he becomes too successful, they will put pressure on the distributors not to carry his product."

Additional Information:

Beers gone

Ten noteworthy Western Pennsylvania breweries came and went in the 20th century, not including micro and craft breweries:*

• Brackenridge Brewing Co. (Brackenridge), 1933-1940

• General Braddock Brewing Corp. (Braddock), 1898-1937

? Duquesne Brewing Co . (South Side), 1899-1972

• Fort Pitt Brewing Co. (Sharpsburg), 1906-1957

• Greensburg Brewing Co. (Greensburg), 1874-1942

• Hazelwood/Derby Brewing Co. (Hazelwood), 1905-1938

• Moose Brewing Co. (Roscoe), 1903-1950

• Tube City (McKeesport), 1903-1955

• Washington Brewing Co. (Washington), 1845-1940

• Yough Brewing Co. (Connellsville), 1888-1941

* Brewing halted during Prohibition from 1920 to 1933.

Source: 'American Breweries II,' by Dale P. Van Wieren

Additional Information:

Foam facts

Quick history of Duquesne Beer

• Duquesne Brewing Co. founded in South Side by furniture man Henry Miller and five partners in 1899.

• One of first American brewers to pasteurize bottled beer and use refrigerated railroad cars.

• Acquired plants in Carnegie and McKees Rocks, shuttered when Duquesne Brewing built $10 million, modern brewery in South Side in 1950.

• Sold in 1972 to C.L. Schmidt Brewing Co., which closed the flagship plant.

 

 
 


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