One of Pennsylvania’s true destinations, the beloved Penn Brewery and Restaurant in the Deutschtown section of Pittsburgh’s North Side, is on the verge of closing its 19th century doors due to failed rent negotiations with its landlord, E & O Partners.
The Penn Brewery, Pennsylvania’s first and largest “craft” brewer, was founded in 1986 by “Mr. Beer,” Tom Pastorius. In 1990 Pastorius spent millions of dollars installing a custom-made German-style brewery — complete with locally made fermenters and storage tanks — in the former Eberhardt and Ober Brewery Building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Pastorius’ award-winning beers and accompanying restaurant featuring traditional German dishes turned the architectural jewel into a Pittsburgh icon.
But Pastorius now has to close the brewery and restaurant due to a 360% rent increase by the historic building’s owners, E & O Partners, who have been unwilling to negotiate. In an interview with reporters Bob Batz and Bob Hoover from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pastorius said, “E & O decided to increase the square footage that the company’s responsible for. It more than doubled the space from 13,000 square feet to 28,000 by including the outdoor beer garden and loading dock. It also tacked on a bunch of other operating expenses for the entire building on the company’s rent.”
The Penn Brewery is searching for a new location. In the meantime, the large and heavy brewing equipment must be dismantled and stored – not an easy task – and most of its 50 employees laid off, very difficult news in an area that has closed three additional brewing companies in 2008: John Harvard’s Brew House, Hereford and Hops and the Johnstown Brewing Company (website dismantled).
The last batch of Penn beer was made this week but Penn Brewery has contracted with the Lion Hill Brewery in Wilkes-Barre to continue making its beers with the same recipes and ingredients. At issue may be maintaining Penn’s hallmark quality in a different and larger facility — Penn won gold and bronze medals at the 2008 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, for its Kaiser Pils and Oktoberfest.
For more reading on brewing and microbrewing in Pennsylvania and America, check out Pennsylvania’s Breweries and The American Brewery: From Colonial Evolution to Microbrew Revolution .
— Written & Posted by Kathleen Connally