After 12 years of contract brewing in Latrobe, Pittsburgh Brewing Co. is back to brewing its popular beers (such as Iron City, IC Light and IC Mango) independently in-house at the historic Pittsburgh Plate and Glass (PPG) Plant located in Allegheny County’s Creighton, Pa. The facility will produce 150,000 barrels per year immediately and ultimately be capable of producing 750,000 barrels per year.
From brewhouse to cold area and bottling, the company went with GEA design and technology. Installation began in August 2021 and was completed one year later.
“Doing all the brewing ourselves from now on is a big step. The learning curve is huge,” says Todd Zwicker, President of Pittsburgh Brewing. “We relied on GEA, and today we are proud of our iconic brewery – a project that we managed to complete on time thanks to GEA, despite the pandemic and supply chain situation. We want to be a beacon project for our region with the participation of the local community.”
High-tech behind brick walls
Pittsburgh Brewing’s new brewery is housed in an old glass factory. The 42-acre property provides enough space for the brewhouse, the huge tank farm with 100 BBL brewing tanks and 500 BBL fermentation and bright beer tanks, the filling and packaging plants, and additional retail space.
The new brewery is set to start operation in August 2022, fully equipped with GEA machines and components: These include the GEA COMPACT-STAR craft brewhouse with five vessels, the GEA MILLSTAR wet grist mill, a GEA WORTSTAR for wort aeration, a yeast propagation unit, the GEA Plug & Win craft centrifuge and other equipment for cleaning and pasteurization, blending, carbonation and bottling.
Planning for constant capacity
To ensure a reasonable expansion of its portfolio and annual output, GEA also prepared capacity planning for Pittsburgh Brewing that avoids supply peaks and forms the basis for lower water consumption in production.
“The most efficient breweries are those that achieve and maintain a constant production level with a high brew frequency at an early stage,” explains Andreas Holleber, the head of GEA’s brewing business. “The higher the number of brews and the shorter the brew cycle, the lower the investment and operating costs. We help the customer avoid oversizing the equipment.”
The new plant is designed for modular growth. Phase 1 provides for 150,000 hectoliters (about 94,350 bl.) of annual output, which will grow to up to 500,000 hectoliters (about 314,500 bl.) in phase 3. This will make Pittsburgh Brewing one of the largest breweries in Pennsylvania.
It was particularly important for the brewing company to design the plant to be as versatile as possible, both to change the product range quickly according to consumer requirements and to make the best possible use of capacities. The GEA DICON inline blender is one of the workhorses in the production area, which can also be used to produce soft drinks, for example.
Pittsburgh Brewing also opted for a multifunctional filling unit: The combined rinser-filler-capper block GEA Visitron ALL-IN-ONE allows for maximum flexibility and reliability in the production of small and medium volumes. With its very small footprint, it rinses, fills, seals and seams cans and glass bottles using 64 filling heads. Brewers can switch between different bottle and can formats in as little as 20 to 30 minutes.
Pale lager beers need to be filtered to achieve a longer shelf life and the desired clear, lustrous appearance. As a sustainable alternative to common diatomaceous earth filtration and cross-flow filtration with polymer membranes, Pittsburgh Brewing has invested in the GEA clearamic BeerFiltration solution.
The plant works based on the cross-flow principle and is equipped with pressure-resistant, inert and extremely durable ceramic membranes proven in yeast recovery and fruit juice filtration. GEA was the first to adapt this waste-free process for beer filtration. This technology allows brewers to transform the complex and originally cost-intensive filtration step in the cold area into a cost-effective and environmentally friendly process.
Pittsburgh Brewing has big plans for its new production site on the Allegheny River. Not only will the company increase core production from the current 100,000 hectoliters of beer per year, but former brands will be revived and new ones created. The capacities can also be used by other breweries.
“We want to add weight to our brands, but focus on our local core sales region,” Zwicker explains. Pittsburgh Brewing currently delivers 90 percent of its production volume to West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.