The year: 1971.
The scene: A Mount Washington alley.
The character: Will Hartlep, who dutifully cleaned up empty Iron City beer cans he assumes rowdy Pittsburgh teenagers littered in the alley in front of his garage.
“I’m picking them up to throw them away, and I happen to notice they each had a different picture on. The cans are pretty nice,” Hartlep remembers, thinking he’d use them to decorate the rafters in his garage. “The Iron City Brewery came out with a six-pack of cans, and they had six Pittsburgh scenes. They were very nice pen-and-ink sketches on the cans.”
They looked pretty good in his garage, so he decided to buy some more.
Fast-forward a few decades: He’s collected 10,000 cans — local cans, foreign cans, and plenty of breweriana, meaning other collectibles such as signs and advertisements.
Ten-thousand beer cans.
That was back in 2003, what Hartlep called the “zenith” of his collecting hobby. Since then, he’s decided to specialize in Pittsburgh cans and sell everything else.
He shares this love for beer can collecting with members of Olde Frothingslosh, the local chapter of the Brewery Collectibles Club of America.
This weekend, you can meet the enigmatic club — and buy (or just admire) some of their collectibles — at the annual Summer Blast Beer Collectibles Show, a public event.
If you go, expect to see what Hartlep calls “relatively new stuff” from two dozen local dealers and collectors.
“By relatively new, I mean 1950s up, but there is older stuff there,” he said. “The things that are pre-Prohibition — before 1920 — are very rare and command some very high prices.”
The pale stale ale
The club with the funny name numbers about 70 members — and they’re always looking for new members (it’s just $14 to join). Hartlep is past president of the group and a Brewery Collectibles Club of America hall of famer.
The club’s name — Olde Frothingslosh — came about by chance.
It was founded in 1972, a time when a beer called “Olde Frothingslosh” was the punchline to a joke.
In the 1950s and ’60s, Pittsburghers loved a comedy show by radio personality Rege Cordic. On his radio show, he often performed skits, including one about a fictional beer he dubbed “Olde Frothingslosh Pale Stale Ale” so light that the foam was on the bottom.