Pittsburgh-area beer advocate brews Fort Pitt comeback


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Mark Dudash, the Upper St. Clair attorney who reintroduced Duquesne Beer four years ago, is resurrecting another blast-from-the-past Pittsburgh beer.

Fort Pitt is it.

Mr. Dudash said the first batch of 500 barrels of the reformulated Fort Pitt will hit the market next month in cans. The updated version of what was once Pittsburgh’s top-selling beer will be an English ale made with the same kind of hops British soldiers used when they brewed beer at the Colonial-era frontier outpost.

“I want to stay true to those historical roots,” said Mr. Dudash, who once was a labor attorney for Pittsburgh Brewing, the former maker of Iron City.

The beer will be made at the former Rolling Rock brewery in Latrobe, now owned by City Brewing of La Crosse, Wis. Duquesne is also brewed there.

Mr. Dudash said Fort Pitt should be available for the Memorial Day weekend.

The venture reflects his fascination with the Pittsburgh region’s history and its beers.

“I’m a Pittsburgh guy,” he said. Fort Pitt “was a legendary beer. Fort Pitt was it.”

Fort Pitt’s former advertising slogan highlighted the beer’s No. 1 position in the Pittsburgh market from the 1930s until the early 1950s. Founded in Sharpsburg in 1906, the brewery later built a second plant in Jeannette.

Its demise began with a 1952 strike by the region’s brewery workers, which gave national brands an opportunity to capture a share of the local market, according to Robert A. Musson, a physician who has written histories of Fort Pitt and other breweries. Fort Pitt production dropped 40 percent that year, Dr. Musson wrote.

Fort Pitt sold its beer division to Gunther Brewing of Baltimore in 1957. According to Dr. Musson, the Fort Pitt brand moved in 1965 to Jones Brewing, the Smithton brewery that markets Stoney’s. Mr. Dudash said he picked up the trademark when Jones let it lapse.

The new Fort Pitt will have a brown head and caramel color, unlike Duquesne, which is a lighter-colored pilsener.

“It’s a very good session beer like Duquesne. I believe there’s still a market for beers like that,” he said.

Fort Pitt will be sold in the Pittsburgh region through Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale on the South Side. While Pittsburgh is the main market, Mr. Dudash said he also has agreements with City Beverage of Altoona and Erie Beer Company in Erie to distribute the beer in those markets.

“This beer is meant for Western Pennsylvania. The name, the look, everything about the beer cries Western Pennsylvania,” he said. “You’ve got to make your hay in your home market.”

Mr. Dudash declined to disclose how much Duquesne is brewed each year, saying only, “I’m pretty blessed. I’m not complaining.”

But he joked that unless he gets some funding from accomplished investor Warren Buffett, he cannot commit to printing tickets for the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club with the Fort Pitt logo on them, something Dr. Musson says the brewery’s original owners did when Oakmont hosted the golf tournament in 1935.


Len Boselovic: 412-263-1941 or lboselovic@post-gazette.com

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