When the guys who own the Penn Brewery announced last year that they were looking for a new home for the restaurant — and shipping off their brewing duties to the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre — my gut feeling was that we’d never see Penn brewed in Pittsburgh again.
I am very happy to say I was wrong.
The owners said on Saturday they had reached an agreement for a new lease for the old Eberhardt and Ober brewery building in Troy Hill that’s been Penn’s home for almost 20 years. The restaurant will stay, and they will re-open the brewery as soon as they are able.
That’s a huge turnaround from last year, when they said the property owners were seeking a 300 percent increase in rent. At that point, they announced a contract-brewing agreement with Lion and said they would shut down the restaurant early this year while they looked for a new location in Pittsburgh.
I’m not a horribly cynical person, but I was skeptical, to say the least. I predicted the restaurant would stay closed and — even worse — the brewery’s new owners would find that contract brewing was convenient and cheap, and Penn’s beers would never be brewed here again.
And that would have been a tragedy. I wrote in my column last fall that Penn was an honest-to-god pacesetter in the industry — one of the first craft brewers east of the Mississippi and one of just a handful in the entire country when it started up 23 years ago.
And with the exception of the first couple of years when its beers were brewed in Philadelphia, it’s all happened here, in that old brick building on Vinial Street. Tom Pastorius, the brewery’s founder, had a simple idea: re-creating the German styles he loved when he lived there. And he held true to that ideal until he retired last fall.
The PG talked to Tom when some of the changes were announced last year, and he sounded absolutely sick about the idea that his beer would be brewed elsewhere. I hope for his sake — and for ours — Pittsburgh’s first craft beers will be brewed back home again very soon.