Often overlooked and mostly forgotten in Philadelphia over the past few years, Pennsylvania Brewing Company was one of the originals. The original actually. Founded in 1996, Penn Brewing Co. was the first true micro-brewery in the state of Pennsylvania (Stoudt’s was a brewpub). An inspiration for many breweries to come, the brewery, despite its up and downs, has stood the test of time and still resides in Pittsburgh, PA. Sadly, it’s founder, a true pioneer of craft beer, has left us. Tom Pastorius died at the all-too-young age of 67, this past September.
Despite the lack of recognition of late, his influence cannot be questioned. “His impact on craft beer in these parts is hard to overstate,” says Jack Curtin. “The embracing of German style lager beers by both Penn and Stoudt’s helped set a standard for those brews that remains unmatched elsewhere in the country.” Philadelphia, despite its love for IPAs and over-the-top big beers, is home to some of the greatest lagers in the country. It’s a true claim to fame that the area doesn’t pride themselves on nearly enough. Without the early efforts of people like Tom Pastorius, the doors to producing great craft beer in Pennsylvania might not have opened as quickly and smoothly as they did.
German culture was something Tom took great pride in and rightfully became the focus of his brewery. Spending many years in Germany and staying connected with multiple generations of his family; his beers became a shining example of this passion. As his wife, Mary Beth Pastorius puts it, “He just embraced the country and the people and the culture–and that certainly included the beer.,”
Penn Brewery was a hands-on project for Tom, as he assembled the entire brewery himself and event built all the tables and benches residing inside the pub by hand. Selling off prized possessions to invest in obtaining a business degree was just a sign that Tom was always set on doing things the right way in hopes of bringing out his visions in their entirety. He wanted his brewery to be as authentic as possible and recreated everything he loved about Germany.
Penn Pilsner became a flagship beer and to this day, is still one of the essential lager style beers coming out of Pennsylvania. Along with their Gold, Dark, and Weizen, Penn Brewery has won countless medals and accolades from GABF and World Beer Cup, among others.
Truly one of the most important breweries to come out of our state, a worthy pint of lager should be raised by all to commemorate this great man of craft beer. Without people like Tom Pastorius to pave the way, you always have to question where our incredible beer scene would be today.