Beer: An Oktoberfest toast to Tom Pastorius


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It's time for Oktoberfests, a favorite time of the year of Tom Pastorius, who held his first Oktoberfest celebration at his Penn Brewery on the North Side just a couple of weeks after opening it in 1989.

It was the state's first brewpub, after he got the law changed to allow a "tied house" where beer could be both brewed and sold in a restaurant.

Mr. Pastorius died Sept. 6, after a battle with prostate cancer, at age 67. He was a true craft beer pioneer, not just locally but also nationally.

As Philadelphia-area beer writer Jack Curtin noted on his blog post about "Pennsylvania's first microbrewer," "His impact on craft beer in these parts is hard to overstate." Mr. Pastorius' Pennsylvania Microbrewers Fest, which started in 1995, with Stoudts' Microbrew Festival that started in 1991, "established the primary tradition by which early craft brewers were able to share their beers with the public and strengthened the cooperative we're-all-in-this-together spirit which is still at the heart of the industry."

Recently, Mr. Pastorius no longer was involved in Pennsylvania Brewing Co., a good bit of which he'd literally built with his hands inside the former Eberhardt & Ober brewery at the base of Troy Hill. Oktoberfest there became a big and loud tradition that paused in 2009 when the brewpub was closed for nine months. Mr. Pastorius, who'd sold all but a small share in the business in 2003, bought it back with some other investors in Nov. 2009, and the Penn Oktoberfest bier again flowed in 2010. But after a falling out late that year, Mr. Pastorius stepped down as president and CEO, and later said he'd sold his remaining interest in the place.

It's extra sad for me that Mr. Pastorius was estranged from the brewpub he so loved -- one that, as my colleague Bob Hoover points out, was more complicated than many that came after it, because "he made beer the hard way, the German way."

I plan to drink a Penn Oktoberfest brewed in that copper kettle in his honor there this weekend, when Penn holds its annual Oktoberfest celebration. It runs Friday through Sunday and again next weekend. Hours are 5 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays (and you have to be at least 21 after 8 p.m.), and 4 to 10 p.m. Sundays (when all ages are welcome). Full details are at pennbrew.com.

The Oktoberfest -- brewer Andy Rich says they made extra this year -- and eight other Penn beers will be on tap, and there will be German food in the fest tent (including Chef Greg Schrett's new Oktoberfest charcuterie platter of 7 pounds of meats and 2 pounds of sauerkraut), specials in the restaurant, and live music.

There just won't be Tom Pastorius, and many will miss him.

But, as his onetime employee Suzy Carben posted in his obituary's online guest book, "Oktoberfest in Heaven will really be great this year."

Other Oktoberfests include:

• Rock Bottom's "Rocktoberfest" runs from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight at the Homestead restaurant and brewery, which will be serving its Rocktoberfest beer with food specials (rockbottom.com/pittsburgh).

• Already in progress is the long Oktoberfest at the Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville, where you can drink a jumbo mug of its Oktoberfest in the outdoor hop garden. Or have a Hoptoberfest, Fresh Hop Harvest Ale or Berliner Weisse with the Germanic food specials. The celebration continues through Oct. 7, and there's oompah music from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Fridays (churchbrew.com).

• On the South Side, Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh celebrates Oktoberfest with beer imported from Munich and all the accoutrements Friday and Saturday as well as next Friday through Sunday, Sept. 28 to 30 (hofbrauhauspittsburgh.com).

• The first Sewickley Oktoberfest will be held on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5 and 6, in the town's Division Street parking lot. The event is sponsored by Village Green Partners and the Sharp Edge Bistro there (http://sewickleyoktoberfest.com).

• There are other Oktoberfests around the region. From noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, Barley's and Hop's holds its fifth Oktoberfest (featuring Sam Adams beer) in big tents in the parking lot of the South Park Shops in Bethel Park (barleyandhops.com).

Even Giant Eagle is getting into the spirit of the season, offering programs on Oktoberfest Bests -- "Oktoberfest's best eats without having to travel all the way to Germany!" -- at all the Market District stores over the next week (marketdistrict.com).

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is doing its Rocktoberfest Oct. 12 to 14, with a brew fest featuring 15 breweries ($20) and lots of music and more (nemacolin.com).

libations

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930. First Published September 20, 2012 4:00 AM


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