History of Penn Brewery


October 24, 2012, minor update on March 9, 2013

Note: This supersedes the document on
www.pubnetwork.com, which will be deleted. I have moved this document here to keep it with the other brewing history pages. There are significant corrections concerning the timeline in the 1800’s.

The History

The Penn Brewery in Pittsburgh, Pa. was founded by Tom & Mary Beth Pastorius. One small note: some publications spell Mary Beth’s name incorrectly as Marybeth. Tom is a direct descendent of Franz Daniel Pastorius (1651 – 1720), who was a founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania. Under the leadership of Pastorius, 13 families from Crefeld, Germany founded Germantown on June 20, 1683.

1848: Eberhardt & Ober Brewery opens in the Deutschtown area of what was then Allegheny City until 1907. Deutschtown is the land at the foot of Troy Hill and Spring Hill. The complex has caves dug into the hillside to keep the beer cool.

1850: Conrad Eberhardt builds a brewery on Vinial Street.

1870: Eberhardt & Ober (E&O) purchase the Conrad Eberhardt Brewery.

1883: E&O purchased Straub Brewery of the North Side.

For more information on E & O, see the Eberhardt & Ober page in this section.

1891 – 1911: Pittsburg was spelled without the h during this time.

1899: The Eagle Brewery of the Eberhardt & Ober Brewing Co. is merged into the Pittsburgh Brewing Company combine.

1907: The Guthrie-Watson Greater Pittsburgh Bill was passed by the State on February 24, 1903 to allow the city to annex territory surrounding the city. The courts upheld this act on November 18, 1907. On December 7, 1907 the City of Allegheny was annexed.

1920 – 1933: The brewery remained open during prohibition and was permitted to make

1952: Eberhardt & Ober Brewery closes. They were one of 21 regional breweries that merged to form Pittsburgh Brewing Company.

1961: According to a Pittsburgh History & Landmarks newsletter, a Boston collector acquired original ink on linen architectural and engineering drawings. They went missing in 1961 and sometimes after that the collector acquired them. He returned them to the brewery (after the brewery opened in 1989) but I do not know under what type of agreement. I also do know if they still exist.

In a talk with Linda Nyman (September 31, 2012) of the brewery it appears that they are no longer in the brewery.

March 1986: Pennsylvania Brewing Co. incorporates in Philadelphia, Pa. (assumed city).

From Penn’s website: The Beginning of Penn Pilsner and The Beginning of Craft Brewing in Pennsylvania. Tom Pastorius introduces Pennsylvania Pilsner to Philadelphia in June 1986. (A number of websites incorrectly date the Penn Brewery as 1987. This is false and misleading. It also shows a lack in research on their part.)

Pennsylvania's First Craft-Brewed Beer since prohibition. Tom Pastorius starts the Craft Brewing Renaissance in Pennsylvania by introducing Penn Pilsner at City Tavern, Philadelphia, in June 1986. (This supports the Philadelphia incorporation) Actually, in as much as the term craft-brewery is used today, the word microbrewery was the common distinction back then.

1986: Production (of Pennsylvania Pilsner) begins at Pittsburgh Brewing prior to the Allegheny Brewery opening. Historical note: Samuel Adams Boston Lager was first brewed at Pittsburgh Brewing in 1885.

1987: The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation reported in that the building and brewery began restoration in October.

1987: The building is placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 5
th.

April 1989: Brewing began in Pittsburgh at the Allegheny Brewery. (Pa. Liquor License application lists April 10, 1989). The copper kettles were made in Germany and assembled in Pittsburgh by German craftsmen brought over for the job. The beers made at this brewery are of the northern German style. Alex Demel was the start-up brewer. The brewery’s name is taken from the City of Allegheny, the former city prior to being annexed by Pittsburgh.

When the state first permitted brewery – restaurant (brewpubs) it was the first time a brewery could sell beer in an attached restaurant. The license permitted beer only. It would be a while before the state permitted the sale of wines and spirits.

1989: The brand, Pennsylvania Pilsner, was contracted out to Pittsburgh Brewing. Production was moved to Jones Brewery, Smithton, Pa. after a dispute with Pittsburgh Brewing.

1989: The same time Pennsylvania Pilsner was contracted out to Jones, the brand changed names from “Pennsylvania Pilsner” to “Penn Pilsner”.

September 12, 1989 (Tuesday): Restaurant opened for business as the Allegheny Brewery & Pub; Pennsylvania’s first brewpub since prohibition.

Penn-Stoudts Disputed Dates:
Pennsylvania Brewing formed in Philadelphia in 1986 as a microbrewery but without any brewing equipment. Stoudts opened in 1987 as a microbrewery only. Carol & Ed had to divorce so that no financial connection between brewery and restaurant could be established. The Pittsburgh brewing operations of Penn began September 12, 1989 and included the restaurant. Stoudts pub room did not open until the fall of 1996. Note: dates came from Penn and Stoudts published literature. (I had published material from Stoudts supporting this, now some is lost)

The Sam Adams brewpub in Philadelphia opened on November 29, 1989 to become Pa.’s second brewpub. It has since closed.

Late 1988-89: Production ceases at Pittsburgh Brewing. Brewing and bottling (of Penn Pilsner) moved to Jones Brewery in Smithton, Pa. about 1989. (Stoney’s beer, Shirley Jones, actress family)

Brewery historian Rich Wagner has this date as 1988. Both dates were prior to the installation of a bottling line in Pittsburgh. I can’t re-verify my 1989 date but Rich is probably correct on his. Any Stoney’s guys know?
See: (
http://pabreweryhistorians.tripod.com/whatsbrw.htm)

May 31, 1990 (Thursday): Michael Jackson (the Beer Hunter) visits the Allegheny Brewery & Pub as well as the Jones Brewery in Smithton, Pa. This was Mr. Jackson’s first of two visits to Pittsburgh, the other being August 12, 2003 (Tuesday) to visit the Church Brew Works. Mr. Jackson died on August 30, 2007 (Thursday). Mr. Jackson also visited the Jones Brewery in the 1990 visit, as Penn Pilsner was being produced and bottled there at the time. (Greg Walz, president of TRASH was Mr. Jackson’s escort for the 1990 visit, as he needed transportation. Mr. Jackson’s secretary contacted Greg directly for this. Brewer Bryan Pearson of the Church Brew Works brought Mr. Jackson in doe the 2003 visit)

1990: Penn takes their first gold medal at the GABF for the Münchener Helles 4.0%ABV. Concerned that people did not know what a Helles was, Tom later changed the name to Penn Gold.

August 1991: Beer was $1.75, per a Pittsburgh History & Landmarks newsletter.

1992: Name changed to Penn Brewery. Unknown day or month but it did coincide with the opening of the Ratskeller.

June 30, 1992 (Tuesday): Ratskeller opens after new stairs are installed. The stairs from the main floor to the basement were not in place when the restaurant first opened. A second aging cellar was opened having nine new lagering tanks.

The LCB has December 2, 1993 for the Ratskeller opening.

1995: First Pennsylvania Microbrewers Fest at the brewery.

1996: A 110 year-old wall collapsed on Thursday, April 4, 1996. It toppled a power pole and cut power to the area for a while. Two 30 foot silos were damaged; the spent grain silo slightly but the malt silo was damaged beyond repair. It was the hot topic at Friday’s happy hour.

Church Brew Works was first brewpub in the state to receive a liquor license on December 6, 1996. I have a letter sent to me by Sean Casey confirming that. It is unknown to me when Penn received one.

1997: Penn Weizen (Wheat) beer won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival out of 83 entries.

July 1998: Tom came back from a trip to Germany and brought back a different hop for use in his Kaiser Pils. He also brought German Wine bearing his name.

June 2000: Crew Lager debuts. I remember Tom telling me this was made for the rowing club on Herr’s Island but I have forgotten the fine details.

2001: Production ceases at Jones Brewery. Unknown date when they stopped brewing for Penn, but they went bankrupt in 2001. Bottle production moves to Fredrick, Md.

2003: Tom sold all but a minority holding to Birchmere Capital. He was scheduled to stay with the brewery for 5 years. In a press release, Birchmere Capital, L.P. announced its investment in the brewery. Jack Isherwood is the Managing Principal of Birchmere.

May 25, 2004: The grain silos above the parking garage came down this day (Tuesday) as they were unsafe.

2006: Some beers are contracted out to Frederick Brewing Co., Md. because demand was too great for the capacity of the brewery.

2006 June or July: They were the first brewpub in Pittsburgh to go non-smoking within the building.

September 12, 2008 (Friday): Tom leaves the building after a farewell speech during the anniversary party at the brewery.

November 28, 2008 (Friday): the brewery is scheduled to close and move to lesser quarters. Brewing is to cease and move to the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre where the beers are currently brewed and bottled.

December 2008: Last batch of beer brewed in early December. Fermentation and packaging continue until January 2, 2009.

January 2, 2009 (Friday): Birchmere ceases on-site brewing operations and lays-off the brewing staff.

February 2009: The restaurant was scheduled to close but a new lease kept it open.

March 2009: The brewery brings in re-designed bottle labels from Smith Brothers Agency.

August 18, 2009 (Tuesday): the restaurant closes after 20 years. Jack Isherwood confirmed to the Pittsburgh Post that the restaurant could close indefinitely.
(This date is the publication date on a Post article, by Bob Batz, in which Jack Isherwood confirmed that the restaurant "is closed indefinitely while future options are being evaluated". Wikipedia has this date as the 19th, which would have come from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. They published the 18th in another article.)

November 23, 2009 (Monday) corrected on October 24, 2012
Tom returns with additional investors who included:
Sandy Cindrich, who served as Business Manager (now CEO)
Corey Little, Chief Technology Officer
Linda Nyman, Director of Marketing
Gary Cindrich and Stuart Nyman have never been partners in the Brewery

Note: I received a corrected list (above) from Linda Nyman on October 23, 2012. The list I had made (below) came from various newspaper stories. Thanks Linda.

Gary Cindrich, partner and CEO
Sandy Cindrich, partner and acting CEO
Corey Little, partner and Technical Director
Linda Nyman, partner and Marketing Director
Stuart Nyman, partner unknown capacity
Tom was president and CEO
The titles came from third party sources and may be inaccurate.

December 8, 2009 (Tuesday): brewing resumed at 10:20 AM. A first for the brewery they brew an American style pale ale. Up until now the beers have been traditional German beers.

December 30, 2009 (Wednesday): at 4:00 PM, the first beer tasting.

December 30, 2009 (Wednesday): preview opening of the restaurant opened for a "sneak peak" Hundreds of people showed up for the 4 PM sample give-a-way.

February 2010: new keg line is installed.

February 17, 2010 (Wednesday): first kegs released to wholesalers.

March 2010: growler hours begin every Friday for walk-ins.

May 2010: A new bottling line was installed.

May 5, 2010 (Wednesday): Restaurant reopens

November 16, 2010 (Tuesday): It was first reported on
http://pghpubs.blogspot.com/2010/11/penn-brewery.html that Tom is no longer with the brewery. It is later reveled in local newspapers that Tom & Mary Beth filed a lawsuit against the other owners.

April 2011: The brewery announced in a press release and in their newsletter that it (the Penn) is celebrating 25 years. The business was incorporated in 1986, making it 25 years old and the brewing opened in 1989 making it 22 years old.

April 16, 2012: Workers break through one of the sealed caves but do not find beer lagering from the 1800’s or Hoffa. This was during the cleaning and restoration work to the existing stonewalls in the yard and leading to the parking garage.

September 6, 2012 (Thursday): Thomas Vaughn Pastorius passed away this day at the age of 67. It was 22 years, 11 months and 25 days since he opened the brewery.

October 23, 2012 (Tuesday): The building on the other side of the loading dock area was raised to make way for the construction of a new refrigerated storage facility

Fun Facts

Tom and Mary Beth became friends with British actress Wendy Richard whilst on holiday in Europe. Ms. Richards played on the television series Are You Being Served and East Enders.

Tom played the bagpipes for the Baldwin Highlanders band.

Unknown Dates

Penn receives a liquor license to sell wine and spirits. Although Pa.’s first brewpub they are not the first to get a liquor license for wines and spirits. That went to the Church Brew Works on December 6, 1996 per letter to me from Sean Casey.

New grain silos installed in rear of building on hillside.
These were prior to the 1996 collapse.

The Brewers

Alex Demel, from Germany, was founding brewer.
He returned to Europe to start other breweries.

Ivan (1990-August 2001) but left in 1997 after Peter came on board. Sorry Ivan, but I don’t know if I ever knew your last name.

Peter Boettcher started in 1997 but was let go in late August 2001. He is a Bavarian State Certified Technical brewmaster who studied at the Weinhenstephan Institute and Doemens Technical College. Both are located in Munich. He has worked for several European breweries since his graduation in 1992. He is the Master Brewer.
Peter worked at the Winona Brewery (December 2008) along with Mark Zimmerman from Bub’s Brewery.

Paul Shanta was the Brewer as of 1997. Departure date and status are unknown.

Matt Cole worked here before going to Great Lakes, Rocky River, and Fat Heads – Cleveland. He left here for Baltimore before going to Ohio. He only worked in sales at Penn. Matt also worked in England and I believe Dusseldorf.

Brewers at end of 2009 brewing operations:

Nick Rosich until December 2008 (Nick went to the Rust Belt Brewery, Youngstown). He returned on reopening

Andy Rich, November 1998 – present

Sean until December 2008 (Sean went to the Hofbrauhaus, South Side)

Andy and Rick returned when the brewery reopened.

The Property & The Brewery

E & O Partners bought the building (Allegheny Co. Lot & Block 24-K-369) on August 12, 1987 for $257,000.
DLB Management Inc., (David J. Malone, president) became a general partner of E&O Partners during the 2009 buy-back.

The North Side Leadership Conference Inc., (Mark Fatla, executive director) bought the building on July 7, 2010 for $1,179,000, an increase of $922,000.

Birchmere Capital never owned the property and only bought the Pennsylvania Brewing Co. as a company alone with the equipment. At no time did the Pensylvania Brewery own property at this location.

End

I have been coming to Penn Brewery since the day they opened and I met Tom before the opening. The above is a collection taken from my personal notes and my writings as editor of the Three Rivers Alliance of Serious Home Brewers’ newsletter for over 11 years. Allow me to thank Tim Russell and Ralph Colaizzi for input into this document.
Updates and corrections will follow.