PITTSBURGH — In the post World War II era, seemingly every big city/region had “its own beer” along with its own baseball team. My colleague Vince Guerrieri touched on this last year in an article Budweiser – King of Beers, and Baseball*. The local brewery tended to sponsor the local team — Detroit had Stroh’s and the Tigers, Brooklyn had Schaeffer and the Dodgers, the Twin Cities had Hamm’s and the Twins and Baltimore had National Bohemian and the Orioles.
In Pittsburgh, from what I can gather Iron City Beer, then brewed in Pittsburgh, sponsored the Pirates and Steelers. When we were kids, a friend of mine had some Iron City commemorative cans from the championship runs in the 1970s which was strange because neither he nor his family were from Pittsburgh. So, I knew of Iron City from an early age. Despite going to Penn State, I don’t think I ever came across Iron City on tap or anywhere else. Other Pennsylvania beers like Rolling Rock and Yuengling were readily available. having actually had Iron City, both on tap at the old Pennsylvania Pourhouse on Capital Hill and now out of a can in Pittsburgh, it is easy to understand why.
Iron City Beer is pretty bad. As in it tastes skunked out of a can or on draft. One friend, with some experience in construction, suggests that it leaves a similar taste as after a day out by a site with lots of steel grinding going on. When I told two Pittsburghers natives that I had an “Arn” this past weekend they both exclaimed “WHY?!”. Then I joked that maybe the Western Pennsylvania population loss that is only now stabilizing was people trying to get away from that beer. They both laughed. Iron City really has nothing going for it for it other than nostalgia. Even that isn’t the same anymore, Iron City is no longer brewed in the city of Pittsburgh and is now brewed in Latrobe in the old Rolling Rock brewery under contract.
In fairness to the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. they have recently created a tasty beer called Iron City Amber. I had that in the Blue Knob ski lodge a few winters ago. I’d have that again without reservation. As for the regular stuff, if you really want to try it, go ahead but the conclusion I drew from it is that sometimes nostalgia is nostalgia because it wasn’t good enough to stick around.
*I never really got around to writing about that article — D.C. never really had a beer of its own and I was going to wonder aloud whether that correlated with the Washington Senators departure. Given that in most cases the beer and/or the team is gone (or is somewhere else) I don’t think it would have mattered one way or another for D.C. baseball or beer. Thankfully, a local brewing renaissance is underway in BeltwayLand and elsewhere.