Southwestern Pennsylvania was once a region defined by its neighborhood breweries, and loyalty to a specific beer was often defined by where you lived. The Victor Brewing Company was no different, and was founded by Frank Maddas in 1907 with a capital of $400,000. Maddas also went on to start up Republic in 1909 and Greensburg in 1916 to serve both of those local markets.
Victor’s brewing options were terminated by prohibition in January 1920, and Maddas rebranded the company as the Jeannette Beverage Company, where it was allowed to manufacture de-alcoholized beer. Upon the repeal of prohibition in 1933, Victor was reestablished and soon grew to a production capacity of 100,000 barrels of beer per year under the Old Shay and Steinhouse labels.
But Maddas’ operations during prohibition was not all that legit. In July 1940, Maddas was ordered by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to pay the federal government nearly $600,000, 50% of “fraud penalties and interest on an estimated $2 million on income that stemmed from the sale of alcohol during early prohibition. Maddas had sold “high powered” beer for $35 per barrel and only $12 for de-alcoholized beer, with Maddas pocketing the difference.
Victor Brewing Company was placed into receivership and was declared bankrupt on January 31, 1941. Fort Pitt Brewing offered to acquire the Jeannette plant for $333,000 and the sale was authorized on February 17.
Maddas was then named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit to collect $1.2 million in back income taxes in 1953, namely stemming from taxes that were owed during his sale of illegal beer during prohibition. As a result, his residence, a 13-room, three-story brick house with a three-car garage, was auctioned. He was allowed to remain in the house until his death on September 17, 1955.
Fort Pitt shuttered the Victor operations on October 25 and relocated 60 employees to its Sharpsburg plant. In 1958, Fort Pitt’s parent company opted to exit the brewing business and focus on jukeboxes. The brewery complex was sold to Papercraft Corporation in June 1957 who manufactured artificial trees, gift wrap and ribbons.
In June 1966, new equipment costing $100,000 was installed and an additional 200 employees were hired. Additionally, land was purchased in O’Hara Township for a 780,000 square-foot plant that was completed in early 1967, and about 75% of its equipment and inventory from its Jeannette plant was relocated to the new facility. The Jeannette plant was shuttered in the mid-1970s.