“The history of this brewery actually goes back [about] 150 years,” Linda Nyman, co-owner and marketing director at Penn Brewery, begins.
The Northside brewery has seen many transformations since its founding in Deutschtown in 1848. Deutschtown was the neighborhood in Allegheny City named for its large population of German immigrants.
And where there were mid-19th
century German immigrants, there was beer.
The block where Penn Brewery is located once hosted eight or nine breweries, with Ober Brothers and Eberhardt and Ober breweries calling the site of modern Penn Brewery home. Eberhardt and Ober were connected through marriage, according to Nyman.
In 1899, Eberhardt and Ober merged with about 20 other regional breweries. The group became known as the Pittsburgh Brewing Company — Iron City Beer’s predecessor. Beer production continued until 1952 (save a hiatus during prohibition), under such labels as E&O Pilsner and Dutch Club.
After 1952 the brewery was vacant, hosted a grocery for a short period of time and then fell into disrepair, Nyman says.
In 1989, Tom Pastorius brought Penn Brewery to its modern glory, though Nyman notes the brew house was not yet called by its modern moniker. The restaurant was known as Allegheny Brewery & Pub until 1994.
“We were the first tied house [in Pennsylvania] … since prohibition,” Nyman says of the building being a restaurant coupled with a brewery.
Today, several historic holdovers can still be found at Penn Brewery. Eberhardt and Ober opened three breweries on the site where Penn exists today, and three of the original E&O brewery buildings remain. These buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and boast many fascinating architectural features, according to www.pennbrew.com
The cobblestone beer garden was once an entrance way for horse drawn beer deliveries, the old administrative building disconnected from Penn Brewery hosts original architecture in its tiling and stairs, and perhaps the most notable historic feature is the “labyrinth” of stone caves and tunnels that was constructed to chill, or ‘lager,’ barrels of beer in the days before refrigeration.
Nyman says these “lagering caves” are built into the hillside and are not open to the public, though they hope to have a few inspected for modern use in the future. She adds that the caves were discovered during masonry renovation, complete with old, rotting beer barrels.
Aches and pains associated with Penn Brewery’s age most recently made news
when a beehive was discovered in the beerhouse’s second floor offices.
When a final layer of walling came down during renovation last month, the brewery was abuzz. A five-foot beehive hosting 50,000 to 60,000 bees was uncovered. Luckily, the master beekeeper who removed the bees was only stung twice when evacuating them to a new home.
Penn Brewery has been a part of the community — brewing local beer for 166 years. This is reflected in their offerings.
Their website states: “Our varied menu pays tribute to the many European nationalities whose immigrants built Pittsburgh and its colorful cultural heritage.”
This post is part of a “Throwback Thursday” series highlighting Pittsburgh’s revitalized historic buildings.
Source: Linda Nyman, Penn Brewery