Penn Brewery

Brewing Craft: The Rich History of the Penn Brewery in Pittsburgh

Penn Brewery, also known as the Pennsylvania Brewing Company, holds a special place in the rich brewing history of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While the modern-day brewery was established in 1986, its roots can be traced back to 1848 when the Eberhardt and Ober families, German immigrants, settled in the Deutschtown neighborhood. Today, Penn Brewery stands as one of the oldest craft breweries in the country and a testament to the enduring legacy of brewing in Pittsburgh.

The Eberhardt and Ober Era: Brewing Beginnings

Penn Brewery

The story of Penn Brewery begins with the Eberhardt and Ober families, who operated three separate breweries on the site where Penn Brewery stands today. These breweries underwent mergers, acquisitions, and restructurings throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. The buildings that remain today are a testament to the architectural heritage of the era, with unique features that have earned them a place on the National Register of Historic Places.

One of the most remarkable features of the Brewery complex is the labyrinth of stone caves and tunnels. These caves were constructed to chill, or “lager,” barrels of beer in an era before refrigeration became commonplace. Penn Brewery is one of the few remaining breweries in the United States that still possesses these lagering caves, serving as a living testament to the brewing practices of the past.

From E&O to Pittsburgh Brewing Company

The Eberhardt and Ober breweries continued to brew beer on the site, eventually merging with several other regional breweries to form the Pittsburgh Brewing Company in 1899. Under various labels such as E&O Pilsner and Dutch Club, beer production thrived until 1952, when it briefly ceased during the Prohibition era. The legacy of the Eberhardt and Ober breweries lived on through these labels, leaving an indelible mark on Pittsburgh’s brewing history.

The Birth of Penn Brewery: A Craft Revolution

Penn Brewery

In 1986, the modern-day Brewery was born. The flagship beer, Penn Pilsner, was initially contract manufactured at Pittsburgh Brewing and later at Jones Brewing Co. However, the demand for Penn Pilsner quickly grew, prompting the need for an independent brewing facility. In 1989, the doors of Penn Brewery opened at the historic E&O site, marking the beginning of a new era for craft brewing in Pittsburgh.

With the assistance of the North Side Civic Development Corporation, the historic buildings were meticulously restored to their former glory. The brewery and restaurant, known as Allegheny Brewery & Pub at the time, became the first “tied house” in Pennsylvania since the Prohibition era. This innovative concept combined a brewery and restaurant under one roof, offering patrons an authentic German beer hall experience.

Penn Brewery: A Piece of Beer History

Today, the Brewery stands not only as the oldest and largest brewery in Pittsburgh but also as a living piece of beer history. As one of the oldest craft breweries in the country, Penn Brewery has played a vital role in shaping the local beer scene and preserving the brewing traditions of the past. The commitment to quality and adherence to German brewing practices have garnered the brewery a loyal following and numerous accolades.

In 2003, Birchmere Capital LP acquired a controlling stake in Penn Brewery, ensuring its continued success and growth. Tragically, founder Tom Pastorius passed away in 2012, leaving behind a legacy of craft beer excellence. However, his vision and dedication to brewing authentic German-style beers live on through Penn Brewery.

A Promising Future: Penn Brewery under New Ownership

In August 2022, Penn Brewery entered a new chapter in its storied history with its sale to local businessman Stefan Nitsch. Under Nitsch’s leadership, Penn Brewery continues to thrive, with Christopher Rudolph serving as the head brewer. The brewery remains committed to producing high-quality craft beers and introducing new small-batch brews each month, ensuring that the Brewery remains at the forefront of the craft beer movement.

As the Brewery looks towards the future, it remains a beloved institution in Pittsburgh and a symbol of the city’s rich brewing heritage. With its historic buildings, dedication to quality, and innovative spirit, Penn Brewery will continue to delight beer enthusiasts and serve as a testament to the enduring tradition of craft brewing.

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