Trouble A-Brewin’

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.

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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.

Tom Pastorius, Image © The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tom Pastorius, Image © The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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).

penn_oktoberfest_web3The 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

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Hurling a Harpoon at the recession

Harpoon Brewery, one of the many great Massachusetts beer makers, are expanding their brewing capacity by about 20% this week as they install two new fermenting tanks.  According to the Boston Globe, these are some ridiculously big tanks!

The Harpoon Brewery plans to install two new 500-barrel unitank fermenters at its South Boston facility tomorrow, weather permitting.

The tanks, which stand 38 feet high and weigh 28,000 pounds, are the largest tanks to be installed in the brewery’s history, twice the size of the largest tank at Harpoon now, the company said in a press release.

So why am I reporting this to you?  Because it can only be seen as good news.  During this sharp economic downturn, you would think breweries like Harpoon, not a major producer but certainly not a small one either, would be feeling the pain.  But instead they are expanding. 

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And for anyone who may not have tried Harpoon’s beers, they make a really solid product.  Like many of New England’s breweries, they produce great and consistent ales.  And what makes a better cure for an economic downturn than buying delicious American ale?  Now, there is even more on the way.  It’s a win-win all around.

by Dave McBride

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Published in: on December 11, 2008 at 11:55 am  Comments (1)  
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Finding our way to the Trinity

This week’s installment to the American Public House Review takes us on a journey through Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay and up the Providence River to the state’s capitol city.  We follow Chris Poh from bay to river to city streets, and at the end of the trail lies what most of us hope to find after a long excursion over land and sea…good beer.

Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, RI

Trinity Brewhouse in Providence, RI

In his article entitled “Beyond the Pale”, Chris gives us a little taste of Rhode Island’s brewing past and then introduces us to its delicious brewing present and future found at the Trinity Brewhouse on Fountain Street in Providence.  Rhode Island may be a small state, but it never fails to impress every time I make it there.

Maine brewpub Gritty McDuff’s delights

This week, I reported on the American Public House Review from one of the best brewpubs I have ever been in, Gritty McDuff’s in Portland, Maine.  It sits in the historic Old Port section of this seaside city and is practically a landmark in itself.  It is also the perfect place in town to sip some terrific, fresh beer and really get a feel for what this part of New England is all about.

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While writing the article, I had the pleasure of interviewing author James L. Nelson who wrought the book George Washington’s Secret Navy.
It is a gripping account of Washington’s foray into the world of the fighting sail, and even tells the tale of how Portland itself played an instrumental role in galvanizing the thirteen colonies behind the concept and cause of independence.  Take a look at the article, An Historic Pint in the Old Port, to learn more.

Portland's Harbor

Portland's harbor

Last year while I was on vacation in Maine, I passed the time by reading one of Mr. Nelson’s other great books.  This one, called Benedict Arnold’s Navy, is also a must read for any history buff.  It tells the tale of how Benedict Arnold, and officer in the Continental Army, literally built a navy out of the trees of New York and used his makeshift flotilla and his command of landlubbers to drive the British back into Canada and bought the colonies a few more months so that the cause of independence could go on. 


Benedict Arnold's Navy by James L. Nelson

Benedict Arnolds Navy by James L. Nelson

 

In the book this complex man, who is now known to us as a traitor, comes to life.  But here, years before he famously turned coat, we get to see why he was so popular among Americans and why his treason was so painful for so many who were loyal to him.  Here is what Mr. Nelson has to say about Benedict Arnold’s Navy:

I have always been fascinated by the Battle of Valcour Island. There is nothing really like it in history, a battle in which both sides had to build their fleet right on the spot before they could fight, and do so in a virtual wilderness with none of the usual resources they could count on. Adding to the story is the fact that the hero, from the American perspective, is Benedict Arnold, the man who would go on to be one of the most despised in our history. Researching this book, it became even more incredible to me, and even more tragic, that Arnold did what he ultimately did. I can never be excused, but at least I, and I hope my readers, can come to better understanding of why the once national hero made such a terrible choice.

Benedict Arnold’s Navy is the first book-length treatment to look exclusively at the build-up to the battle, the fight on Lake Champlain, and the amazing fallout from that fight on a wilderness lake.

So when you’re done with George Washington’s Secret Navy, give Benedict Arnold’s Navy a try.  Even a non-history enthusiast will find these stories compelling.

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Posted by: David McBride

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