Auctions

Auction of Iron City 148 years on tap mementos, equipment will help pay expenses, debt

By October 23, 2009No Comments

Schneider Industries manages an equipment and memorabilia auction from 150 year old brewery.

Hundreds of machines and devices that were part of 148 years of beer production at the old Iron City Brewing plant in Lawrenceville will be auctioned today.

Smaller items that trace the company’s history, and memorabilia from Pittsburgh’s rich sports history that adorn the old brewhouse on Liberty Avenue, will go up for bid Saturday.

Visitors walked through the idled brewery Thursday, looking over items that auctioneers Schneider Industries of St. Louis will work to clear from the buildings. Some visitors came from small brewing companies, but most were people interested in old Iron City taps, framed ads, photos of Pittsburgh sports figures and other memorabilia, CEO Tim Hickman said.

“We see this as our opportunity to get some of the history of the brewery out to the community,” Hickman said. The company will keep some of the oldest items to display at a brew pub and restaurant that could open in one building.

How much the auctions will raise is unclear, Hickman said. The money will pay operating expenses and debt, he said.

“Value is in the eye of the purchaser,” said Dan Rosenthal, chief operating officer of Schneider Industries, noting some rare, old beer cans have sold for $200 to $300.

The Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority has said Iron City Brewing owes it $1 million and threatened to go to court to collect. Hickman has estimated that debt is $450,000 and said an agreement has not been reached.

Brewing operations moved to City Brewing Co.’s Latrobe brewery in June. Mechanical troubles with the canning line forced the company to shift that part of production in March to a New York brewer, then to City Brewing’s Lacrosse, Wis., plant. Canning will be done in Latrobe when equipment is installed. Iron City is keeping its headquarters in Lawrenceville.

Food or juice producers, in addition to small brewers, might find uses for much of the huge equipment, Hickman said. It includes a palletizer that loaded cases onto wooden pallets, a pasteurizer that heated and cooled canned beer, a can washer and even a riding floor sweeper.

Two visitors who strolled the grounds said they were from a Wisconsin brewer, looking for kegs and tanks. They declined to be identified for competitive reasons.

Fans of Iron City and local history can bid starting at 10 a.m. Saturday on relics from the company’s offices and storage rooms. One novelty beer tap is shaped like a baseball bat from the 1994 All-Star Game played at Three Rivers Stadium.

Other items: Small devices used in beer production such as a Ph meter to measure acidity, a picture of the Iron City band that comes with a songbook, pads for a boxing ring stamped “Iron City” and a photo of baseball greats Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb.

And there’s a framed order closing an establishment — it doesn’t say where — by order of the Prohibition Act.

There are dozens of cans, some from brands made at the plant and some that happened to be there when auctioneers rounded up items to sell. Among the names: Tech Beer Mustang, Dutch Club, Olde Frothingslosh and Hop’n Gator lemon-lime lager.

One item, labeled Lot 178, comes with a little sadness.

It’s a framed proclamation from Pittsburgh City Council, dated Sept. 12, 2000 — before the former Pittsburgh Brewing Co. went into bankruptcy and was sold to investors in 2007 who created the current company.

The document notes the brewer’s long role in Pittsburgh’s economy and thanks the company “for helping the city progress into the 21st century with pride and vigor.”

Auction of Iron City mementos, equipment will help pay expenses, debt
By Kim Leonard and Joe Napsha, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, October 23, 2009

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