Penn Brewery – Pittsburgh, PA

I’m spending a lot of time in Pittsburgh for a project and I have a local friend who is being generous with her time and taking me to all the local breweries. She started me out at Penn Brewery which is considered the oldest brew pub in Pennsylvania. It’s a traditional German restaurant and their craft beers will delight anyone who prefers the malty styles of our beer-drinking ancestors as opposed to the hopped up varieties we typically see with most American craft brewers. The more time I spend in Pittsburgh, the more I’m led to believe that malt is the preference for consumers in the tri-state area, so while it seemed an anomaly to me, it seems typical for this region to focus on recipes brought to the US by our nation’s ancestors. Any beer is good beer, so I take what I can get. Here’s my review of the sampler at Penn Brewery.

Penn Gold – not too thin in the mouth. Smooth. Balanced. A typical lager in the Munich style. I paired this with the most amazing beer cheese I’ve ever tasted. I licked the plastic cup clean and highly suggest that you do the same when you visit this place.

Penn Pilsner – a Vienna Style lager. I really like this one. Great balance. Lots of depth and still only 5%. Good flavor and represents the style to perfection. I was impressed enough with this one that I took a bottle of it home with me. In Pittsburgh, they have a lot of restaurants that allow you to make your own 6-pack. I wasn’t able to do that at the brewery but found a great place on The Strip called The Beerhive.

Kaiser Pils – lager yeast. Crisp with a bit of sour which I expect and love. I haven’t had German style beer in so long that it’s nice to see a craft brewer recreating them so accurately. I love my hops but this Vienna should not be missed. I paired this with their potato pancakes and Schweinbraten (pork roast). The pork roast was a huge portion and a bit dry for me but that allowed me to focus on the potato pancakes served with both applesauce and sour cream.

Penn Dark – like the Penn Gold but dark. Very non-descript. Not a bad beer and certainly a good gateway beer to convince someone that dark color doesn’t have to mean bitter.

Allegheny Pale Ale – Named after one of the rivers that run through town, this is their West-coast offering. I came back to this one after the nut brown and boch. This is a solid pale ale using Columbus & Chinook hops. Paired with their pumpkin pierogies dessert. Delicious.

Nut Brown Ale – one of their seasonals – a bit thin. The nut is an aftertaste at best. If you’re trying to decide which of their seven beers to have tonight, don’t feel bad about skipping this one. I’m guessing the nut used was hazelnut. Too subtle in my opinion. I tried this on its own a couple weeks later and was able to pick up the spice that must account for the seasonal nature of the brew. At the time of this tasting, my palate may have been confused by the pumpkin pie spice from the dessert. It’s still not a favorite of mine but I am willing to admit that it’s a decent Christmas seasonal.

Boch – done right. Do not skip this one. Toasted malts come through as the predominant flavor. This is so perfect it’s hard to explain why. Great beer. This boch is why I don’t understand why people swear by Shiner (from Texas). It could be because it’s on tap but Shiner is too carbonated for me. On tap, this beer was ‘flat’ enough to let the flavors shine through.

Penn Brewery does malts right. With so many people trying to out hop one another, it’s refreshing to see this level of commitment to German-style beers. Never forget where you come from and all that.


One Response to “Penn Brewery – Pittsburgh, PA”

  1. Rock Bottom – Pittsburgh, PA | Hoppy Hoppy Joy Joy Says:

    […] and seem satisfied to drink a really good interpretation of a German beer (I’m remembering Penn Brewery). People like Church Brew Works are experimenting but I suspect their best sellers are still the […]

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