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History of Duquesne Beer

One of Pittsburgh's most successful brands started at the tail end of the 19th century.

Think of beer, and perhaps Wisconsin’s largest city comes to mind. But a hundred years ago, Pennsylvania’s second-largest city was a contender.

“Pittsburgh was head-to-head with the Milwaukee breweries,” says Mark Dudash, president of Duquesne Bottling Co., based in Upper St. Clair. “Over the years, everything has dwindled down to where it’s all gone. So it’s really a Pittsburgh pride thing to bring it back.”

He’s referring to his so-far successful effort to resurrect the brand name of what once was the eighth-largest brewery in the United States. Mark likes to bring historical perspective to his products, so let’s take a look at the history of the beer:

  • 1899 – A group of entrepreneurs led by Henry Miller – a former furniture salesman, not the author – incorporates Duquesne Brewing Co. in April. By September, a six-story brewery at 21st and Mary streets on Pittsburgh's South Side is completed, employing 300 people. The brewery features several technologically advanced innovations for the time, including mechanical refrigeration, pasteurization, steam heat and the first electric truck used by a brewer in the nation.
  • 1900 – The company starts marketing beer in July, producing it by the barrel.
  • 1901 – Duquesne becomes one of the first breweries to pasteurize bottled beer, the original Duquesne Lager and Silver Top, a new premium lager. Silver Top soon is outselling bottled beers from local and out-of-state competitors, quickly transforming Duquesne into a large regional brewer.
  • 1905 – Duquesne Brewing merges with 16 widely scattered breweries in the region to form the Independent Brewing Co. of Pittsburgh. A year later, Fort Pitt Brewing Co. is formed, and along with Pittsburgh Brewing and Independent Brewing, the three groups control nearly the entire local beer market.
  • 1920 – With the start of Prohibition, Independent Brewing tries to stay afloat by selling off assets and producing varieties of “near beer,” a malt tonic with one-half percent alcohol. Such measures are not successful, and the company closes.
  • 1933 – Following the repeal of Prohibition, Duquesne Brewing Co. is revived under its original charter, using the South Side location as its parent brewery with satellite plants in Carnegie and Stowe Township. With a 325,000-barrel-per-year capacity, Duquesne becomes the largest of Pittsburgh's eight breweries.
  • 1933 – The company introduces Duquesne Pilsener, and the first appearance of the signature Duquesne “Duke” starts appearing in the company’s advertising a few years later. The "Duke" is used for the revival of Duquesne Pilsener in 2010 and on Duquesne LT, introduced in July 2012.
  • 1940 – Duquesne is brewing 690,000 barrels per year, making it the largest brewery in Pennsylvania and the eighth-largest in America.
  • Post-World War II – Advances in transportation and refrigeration technology allowed large national brewers to cut into the profits of local brewers.
  • 1965 – Pittsburgh Brewing Co.'s attempt to buy Duquesne Brewing is blocked by the U.S. Justice department, which cites anti-trust concerns.
  • 1972 – Duquesne Brewing Co. closes, putting 425 people out of work.

Editor's Note: - amanda

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