Penn Brewery resumes beer production


Tom Pastorius, owner and president of Penn Brewery, stands next to a brewing vats. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

Yesterday morning, Tom Pastorius put the “brew” back in Penn Brewery.

Pastorius, founder and president of the brewery and restaurant, and the new group of investors that saved Penn Brewery from indefinite closure, started brewing the first new batch of Penn Pilsner on-site in almost a year.

“We’re Pittsburgh’s brewery,” Pastorius said. “We have big shoes to fill. There’s a lot of tradition here.”

The first batch will be ready in about a month, and as soon as it is, the restaurant’s doors will open once more.

The brewery will begin three brews this week, two of Penn Pilsner and one of a new American-style pale ale. Pastorius said those interested in the new beer should check the Penn Brewery website for updates on a possible “sneak preview” event.

“We do plan to make some other new beers, we haven’t decided what,” Pastorius said.

Next week, they will brew four batches, including more Penn Pilsner and one other beer. By the third week of brewing, they should be doing six brews per week.

One brew is approximately 3,000 liters of beer, Pastorius said, and it takes two brews to fill one 6,000-liter tank. Six thousand liters of beer is about 1,800 gallons and will fill 100 15.5 gallon, half-barrel kegs.

“We’re going to make a lot more beer than we ever did before,” he added.

With the resumption of brewing, the Penn Brewery is the only production brewery in the city. Iron City moved operations out of Pittsburgh earlier this year.

“The Northside is now the beer capital of Pittsburgh,” exulted Mark Fatla, the Northside Leadership Conference’s executive director.

Currently, the Leadership Conference is negotiating with the current building owner, E&O Partners, to purchase the building. Fatla said the deal involves a blend of cash and tax credits, but did not want to release numbers.

“We’re exchanging paperwork, but we do not have a deal,” Fatla said. “It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, it could be never.”

Some of the brewery’s recent troubles have resulted because of their relationship with E&O. Both Fatla and Megan Stearman of the URA confirmed that E&O did not maintain the building properly.

The URA approved a $300,000 loan to Pastorius and his investment group in the fall. It also owns a 20 percent share in the building but has no voting rights.

Mark Masterson, executive director of the Northside Community Development Fund, said he is willing to bankroll the purchase of the building, but the Fund is not involved in negotiations.

“It’s good to have Pastorius back. I can’t wait to have a beer,” Masterson said.

In the meantime, Pastorius signed a lease with E&O in order to get operations up and running. That lease will transfer to the Leadership Conference when — and if — they purchase the building.

Pastorius bought the brewery back from Birchmere Associates a few months after Birchmere closed the restaurant in August. Birchmere had moved brewing operations to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in early 2009, and sold off the beer-bottling and keg-filling equipment.

Pastorius said he found the necessary keg cleaning and filling equipment in Germany for a good price and ordered it with part of a $300,000 loan from the Northside Community Development Fund.

Although he has not yet purchased bottling equipment, he hopes to have it installed by March and begin bottling at the end of that month.

“We want to be the hometown beer,” Pastorius said. "It’s not Iron City anymore. It’s Penn Pilsner."

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