Pennsylvania Brewing Company
Pittsburgh, PA

Style: Pilsener
ABV: 4.0%
Penn Brewery, or more formally, Pennsylvania Brewing Company, was the first micro in the Keystone State, founded in 1986 on the historical site of a pre-pro Eberhardt & Ober Brewery. Its founders, Tom & Mary Pastorious, were instrumental in getting the brewpub laws changed in PA to allow operation of a restaurant on the site of their brewing operations.
Penn’s beers have gone through several incarnations, starting originally as a contract brew through Pittsburgh Brewing Company, but then brewed on site starting in about 1989 for nearly twenty years, before being contracted again to Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, PA (where my sample was brewed) in early 2009 as the brewery and restaurant closed. Several months ago, production was restarted again on site and the restaurant was reopened as the original owners reacquired the operation after having sold out nearly a decade ago.
From the beginning, they’ve prided themselves in brewing German Reinheitsgebot beer which served as German brewing law until 1992—that is to say, using only the traditional ingredients of water, malted grains, hops and yeast. Their Penn Pilsner has been considered their flagship brand from the beginning and it took home a Gold Medal in 2001 from the National Beverage Tasting Institute.
The first thing I noticed in pouring the beer was the bright, copper color, which is obviously a little darker than one might expect to see in a typical pilsner. It also loses its head rather quickly, even if the glass does manage to maintain its lacing. A true pilsner, it is said, should take seven minutes to pour, as the slowly evaporating head will not allow it to be poured more quickly.
The first taste is surprisingly sweet and it’s apparent the brewers are pursuing a more Bavarian-style pilsner (as opposed to the paler and crisper Bohemian versions or the drier Northern German varieties). With a hoppy Hallertau bite that’s rather more of a nibble, this brew could easily be considered a Vienna lager, rather than a true pils. Still, it’s a very nice, drinkable brew that would serve its consumer well over the course of an evening.
I’d be very interested to visit the ‘Burgh again in the near future and re-sample their new production. While this guy is a very nice and tasty brew, it would be tough to call a pilsner.