Penn to Close

Penn Brewery set to close – contract out production until new location is found

The fate of the historic home of the Penn Brewery, Pittsburgh’s first and largest craft beer maker, appears sealed this week as the owners prepare to leave the 19th-century structure with its custom brewhouse and restaurant for new quarters somewhere in Pittsburgh.

The last batch of Penn beer was being brewed there this week, while beer production starts at a contract brewery in Wilkes-Barre. Most of the brewery staff has been told it will be laid off by year’s end. The restaurant is to close at the end of February when its lease expires.

But on Tuesday, founder Tom Pastorius, who is still a minority partner in the operation, vowed to find a new owner that would keep the brewery in place.

“I spent 22 years of my life in this building, and I’m sick at the thought of losing it,” said Mr. Pastorius. “I’m actively looking for a buyer for either the building, the brewery or both.”

Mr. Pastorius retired from full participation in brewery operations this year after selling majority interest to Birchmere Capital in 2003.

Penn’s new president and CEO, Len Caric, said yesterday he sympathized with Mr. Pastorius but is moving ahead to find a new location for both the restaurant and brewery.

He was confirming a Nov. 23 Post-Gazette story in which he said a 360 percent rent increase by landlords E&O Partners forced the company to abandon the building. E&O Partners owns the restaurant and brewery space as well as the adjacent Brewery Innovation Center office complex.

As Penn hunts in the city for a new location for the restaurant and brewery, the company has contracted to brew its beer at the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre.

Moving Penn Brewery won’t be easy. Once the beer that already has been brewed is bottled, Mr. Caric said his company would remove the tanks and equipment, some of which will have to be dismantled to be removed — to either be sold or stored until Penn builds another brewery.

Mr. Pastorius had steadily increased the amount of brewing and bottling equipment, including locally fabricated fermenters and storage tanks since installing a custom-made German brewery in 1990. He said it was a “multimillion dollar investment.