The History of the Point Brewery

August 16, 2012

Brewing came to Pittsburgh with a Union Jack. Seven years after the British Army started construction of Fort Pitt they built a brewery. No evidence has been found if they built a sports pub or just had tailgate parties every Sunday. The party lasted for another seven years when they packed-up and left for good. Twenty-three years would go by until a Scotsman from New Jersey came to town to help put down the whiskey rebellion but also saw opportunity. George Shiras wrote to his father and asked him to buy the un-used brewery and here is where it begins.

British Army Brewery (1765)
Believed to be built in 1765 at Fort Pitt. Although there is no evidence of the brewery was built at the site of Fort Duquesne, it cannot be discounted either. Shiras is credited in buying the Point Brewery in 1795 and as there were no others it has to be taken that they (Peter & Robert) bought the British Army Brewery.

The brewery was illustrated in William Masson’s 1805
Plan of Pittsburgh, published in Fort Pitt by Charles William Dahlinger, being placed on the site of the burned Fort Duquesne. The map meticulously detailed Fort Pitt and it seems clear that the map was intended to show the fort and any ancillary buildings.

British Withdraw
The British abandoned the fort in 1772. The stones, bricks, irons, etc. were sold for £50 New York currency. In 1772 Alexander Ross buys the land of the fort and sells the Blockhouse to Alexander McKee

Fort Pitt Partial Demolition & Sale (1791)
Part of Fort Pitt was demolished in 1791/1792 and the material was used to build homes and other structures in the town. The 1830 map showed both the brewery at the site of Fort Duquesne as well as the Shiras brewery on Pitt Street.

Conflicting Information: Some sources have stated that Peter Shiras bought Ft. Pitt from the Federal Government whereas one source indicated that he only purchased the bricks. Another site said that the fort was auctioned off.

The fort was taken over by the militia from Virginal in 1774 but reclaimed by the Continental government. The fort was finally sold and documents show that Peter Shiras became owner of the fort in 1795. Peter owned the in 1802 when he sold the fort to O’Hara.

Fort Pitt under Shiras (1795)
Peter Shiras took ownership of the fort and brewery but he or other family members were known to have been brewers at this time. It is possible that

Discrepancy: Notice was given to area residents of an auction of all salvageable remains of the fort on August 3, 1797 after the U.S. Army decommissioned the site.

O’Hara, Reed & Coppinger Brewery (1803)
The partnership of James O’Hara and John Reed began beer brewing in February of 1803. This was after they acquired the Point Brewery from Peter Shiras in 1802.
Pittsburgh as noted in a sketch of its early life by Charles William Dahlinger

Fleming, in
The History of Pittsburgh & Environs, page 470 has an entry of Joseph Coppinger opening a brewery in 1803. This could be in partial reference to he and O’Hara partnering to buy the Point Brewery. Coppinger was the brewer in the partnership and had several disagreements with O’Hara. Coppinger’s time in Pittsburgh was short. As we see below, Shiras is brought back as brewer.

Point Brewery (1805 Location)
Penn Street at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers at the site of Fort Duquesne.
Credited by Dahlinger as O’Hara’s brewery
Illustrated in William Masson’s 1805
Plan of Pittsburgh, published in Fort Pitt by Charles William Dahlinger. With reference to original lot numbers in the plan of Pittsburgh, the brewery took parts of lots 2,3, 4 and 5. The location of the brewery was given as 20 or 30 feet north of Penn and about 700 feet west of Marbury Street (Third Street). The brewery sat on the site of a bastion. Marbury Street was between lots 17 & 18. This location would not be that of the Shiras Brewery on Pitt Street, which was several hundred yards east.

Point Brewery Advertisement (1806)
The Pittsburgh Gazette carried an ad by George Shiras (for J. O’Hara) for the Pittsburgh Point Brewery. The date of the Post was May 5, 1807, but the date for the ad was November 3, 1806. The ad was to inform the pubic that the brewery was in operation and that its Porter ($6/barrel) was fit for the Natchez and New Orleans market. The Best Strong Beer was for export or home consumption for $6 and the middling quality was for families at $3.50/barrel. The family beer was available by the barrel or half barrel anywhere in he Borough. “Orders from the Town or Country, directed to the subscriber, will be carefully attended to.”

O’Hara – Shiras Partnership
Shiras sells the brewery to O’Hara and Coppinger in 1802 but Coppinger leaves and Shiras is back at his old brewery. In Pittsburgh: The Story of a City, 1750 – 1865 by Leland Dewitt Baldwin, he, Baldwin states that O’Hara built the Point Brewery in 1803, which flourished under the management of George Shiras. Although Shiras managed the operations he still could have been a partner. History is not very clear on this.

Shiras Point Brewery (1826)
Shiras built a new brick brewery at the point in 1826 with a capacity of 5000 barrels of beer and porter per year. George died in 1840

Brewery at Fort Duquesne (1830)
The confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers at the site of Fort Duquesne
It was shown on the1830 and 1835
Map of Pittsburgh and its Environs, but had no reference to be associated with the Point Brewery or the British Army Brewery. However, when reading Dahlinger’s description (below) of the Point Brewery being on lots 2 through 5, one can state that this was the Point Brewery, albeit in a slightly different location from Mason’s map. The land adjacent to the brewery was largely undeveloped. By 1872 there was no indication of a brewery here.

Brewery Alley
Brewery Alley, named for its association with the Point Brewery, was east of the rear line of the brewery and led to it. The alley was only 9 feet wide and ran parallel with Penn Street and about 98 feet north of Penn. Eight feet north of the alley was the Redoubt, known today as the Blockhouse.

Malt House
Penn Street near Point Alley
Shown on the Hopkins 1882 Atlas, Plate 1. The 1871 atlas does not describe the property and the owner’s name is un-readable. The
Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 24, 1911, mentioned a substantial brick building that was used as a malt house. A brick wall supported two of the ramparts where officers played ball. This supports the claim that the Point Brewery had a malt house from the former officer’s quarters. Pugh places the malt house on Wood’s Plan of Pittsburgh at lots 3, 4 & 5. These are the lots also identified with O’Hara. This house was destroyed by fire in 1813.

Same Name – New Location

Demolition of the Brewery at the Confluence
At some time the brewery at the actual point was torn down to make way for a park. The Shiras brewery operated on Liberty Street at Pitt Street. It was also known as the Point Brewery.

The brewery eventually was torn down and Shiras had another brewery on Liberty Street. I need to find date when this happened and will update.

1815 list George & William Shiras for Point Brewery without occupation or address.

Point Brewery – Shiras (1830)
Shiras had a brewery on Pitt Street between Penn and Duquesne Way as shown on the1830 and 1835 Map of Pittsburgh and its Environs.

Point Brewery – George W. Smith (1848)
The George W. Smith, Point Brewery was listed in Thurston’s 1857 Directory of Pittsburgh being located at Pitt Street and north of Duquesne Way. Page 313 indicated that the brewery was there from 1848 to around 1860. Smith was a malster and hop merchant and made celebrated Kennett and East India Pale Ales in wood and glass. Beer in the wood means that it is stored, transported and served in wood casks. In the glass means that it is bottled beer. Smith carried an ad for his brewery in the directory.

The End
Pitt Street in the early 1800’s became Fifth Avenue by mid-century although slightly offset from its present position. In Hopkins1872 Atlas, Plate 22, the location of the Shiras Brewery was now the Globe Plow Works and a lumberyard. George Shiras retired from business in 1840. George Shiras died in 1840.