Pittsburgh Brewing woes

The Post-Gazette reports today on the troubles at Pittsburgh Brewing:

The proposed saviors of bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing, who last month were given an additional 45 days to complete their takeover of the troubled Lawrenceville brewer, are confident they’ll meet the latest deadline extension.

However, the investor group headed by Connecticut businessman John N. Milne has yet to obtain a brewery license from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board or meet the bonding requirements of the U.S. Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau, the federal agency that collects excise taxes on beer.

… … …

Several distributors said brewery officials recently told them operations would be shut down for several weeks, either because of cash shortages or paperwork problems transferring the state brewing license from Mr. Piccirilli’s ownership group to Iron City Brewing, Mr. Milne’s group.

… … …

A spokeswoman for the PLCB said the agency is waiting to receive additional information it asked for from Mr. Milne’s group. The proposed owners applied for the brewery license July 13, more than a month after Judge McCullough approved their reorganization plan.

So, they aren’t shipping their beer and they bouncing utility checks again, which is what got them in trouble in the first place. The people who were supposed to be the saviors of the brewery can’t even do basic paperwork in a timely manner. I noticed the other day that the billboard on Liberty Avenue at the end of the 16th Street Bridge, which has been an Iron City billboard for as long I can remember, now advertises Rolling Rock, an Anheuser-Busch product.

Not mentioned in this story is the danger that the collapse of Pittsburgh Brewing would represent for people who like more esoteric beers. The Tony Savatt company, Pittsburgh Brewing’s largest distributor, is strongly tied to PBC’s fate. They are also the Pittsburgh distributor for many Belgian beers, including Kasteel, Piraat, and Delirium Tremens. They bring you Spaten products, Sapporo, and Dinkelacker.

That isn’t all. Vecenie’s Distributing also relies heavily on Iron City products, although they are in a little less deep than Savatt. Still, if Pittsburgh Brewing pulls Vecenie down with them, we will not seeing Victory, Troeg’s, Bell’s, Erie, Lancaster, Stoudt’s, Weyerbacher or Dogfish Head, among others.

Eventually other distributors will pick up most of these brands, but will not sell them as forcefully, because they have other brands in competition. Nor will they have any inclination to keep prices down as the distribution of beer in Allegheny County becomes more oligarchic: without Pittsburgh Brewing as a base for smaller distributors, and Rolling Rock already swallowed up by Budweiser, in ten years we might see only two wholesale beer distributors operating in an atmosphere of de facto price fixing.

I don’t want to see I. C. Light off the shelves, but Pittsburgh Brewing’s incredible history of incompetent management may have much deeper implications.

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