Post-Gazette Blogs

Keeping cool at Penn


Even walking just the few blocks from the bus stop to 800 Vinial St. on a sticky afternoon was enough a little sweaty … and more than a little thirsty.

And that’s OK. Inside that address — that’s the home of Penn Brewery — are more than a dozen ways to keep cool on a humid summer afternoon.

Since it was founded 29 years ago by the late Tom Pastorius, Penn has stood for one thing — German beers. The brewery has made its living brewing German styles, mostly the bright, clean — and don’t forget cold — lagers that country’s brewers are famous for.

Let’s make sure something is clear — our ubiquitous pale American lagers technically are related to what goes on at Penn, in that the giants brew alcoholic beverages that are of the same broad style, but that’s about where the similarities end. Those beers strive to be inoffensive. These beers? They strive to be crisp and a bit spicy (Penn’s Kaiser Pils), balanced with hints of dark bread (Penn Dark dunkel) or rich and roasted dancing with caramel sweetness and a little extra booze (Penn’s St. Nikolas Bock). Even the non-lager in the brewery’s year-round lineup — the sunshine-colored (and flavored) Penn Weizen — is a perfect representation of the southern German style.

Lagers are fermented at colder temperatures, because that’s the best way to keep lager yeast strains happy. And they have to sit in that cold for at least a month — as opposed to ales that can be ready to drink in a few days — while they settle. Maybe it’s that extra time in the cold, but summer has always seemed like the right time for me to track down Penn’s German beers. Go find a bottle of Penn’s Kaiser Pils and you’ll see what I mean.

Post-Gazette coverage of Penn Brewery: