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Penn Brewery founder to tap retirement


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tom Pastorius, who helped pioneer the national craft beer industry by introducing Penn Pilsner in 1986 and founding what would become Penn Brewery on the North Side three years later, has announced that he will retire. “All good things must come to an end,” said Mr. Pastorius, 63, of Sewickley. He plans to hang up his lederhosen in September.


Tom Pastorius lifts a cold one at Penn Brewery in 2002.

Tom Pastorius lifts a cold one at Penn Brewery in 2002.

He has continued working as Pennsylvania Brewing Co.’s chief executive officer after selling a majority interest to Birchmere Capital in 2003. But part of that deal was that he step down after five years. 

When the Pittsburgh native and his wife, Mary Beth, started the company in the former Eberhardt & Ober Brewery, the restaurant was called the Allegheny Brewery and Pub and was the first “tied house” — brewery-owned pub — in the state since Prohibition.

Having served in the Army and lived for several years in Germany, Mr. Pastorius did everything the German way, importing not just the copper kettles but also a brewmaster and making Penn Pilsner like a favorite German beer. Penn Brewery became known for its German food and music, while its brews became well-known across the state and beyond.

In 1990, Penn won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival, the first of a dozen medals it would win there, in addition to honors from the World Beer Cup, the United States Beer Tasting Championships and other contests.

But looking back, Mr. Pastorius says, “I think what makes me feel best is we’ve been something special in Pittsburgh, and we’ve made a lot of people happy.”

He’s not sure if he’ll hang on to his stock and his seat on the board, but he does plan to keep a hand in the beer business, perhaps working to raise the membership and profile of the Pennsylvania Brewers Guild. “Look at what the wineries have done,” he said, citing their collaborative marketing and lobbying efforts.

He’ll officially say goodbye at the annual Penn Brewery anniversary party on Sept. 12.

Meanwhile, he’ll be in attendance at the June 7 Pennsylvania Microbrewers Fest, the craft beer blowout he started in 1995.

For more information, including how to buy tickets ($37 for one of three sessions — noon, 3:30 p.m. and 8 pm.), visit

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