Obituary: Thomas Pastorius made craft beer popular here with Penn Brewery

Sept. 22, 1944 - Sept. 6, 2012


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Thomas Pastorius spent more than a decade in Germany -- once during a stint in the Army in the late 1960s, then in the 1970s as a businessman.

And when he returned to Pittsburgh to settle down and raise a family, he brought with him a love of German beer.

Mr. Pastorius' wife, Mary Beth, said he was always aware of his German heritage and had connections with three generations of the family in Germany that owns the Pastorius ancestral home.

"He just embraced the country and the people and the culture -- and that certainly included the beer," she said.

Mr. Pastorius, known as "Mr. Beer," used a combination of hard work, industriousness and a "true entrepreneurial spirit" to found the Pennsylvania Brewing Co. on the North Side in the late 1980s. He would always tell his wife that they weren't selling beer; they were selling fun.

"That was the greatest reward for him, that he made so many people happy," Mrs. Pastorius said.

Mr. Pastorius, of Sewickley, died Thursday of prostate cancer. He was 67.

Mrs. Pastorius said when they walked into the former Eberhardt & Ober brewery buildings on the North Side in the late 1980s with the intention of turning it into Penn Brewery, Mr. Pastorius instantly envisioned how the brewery, restaurant and outdoor beer garden would be laid out.

And then he got to work: His maternal grandfather was a plumber, which Mrs. Pastorius said gave him the knowledge he needed to assemble a brewery from scratch. He also built all of the tables and benches in the restaurant.

"He was Mr. Hands-On," his wife said. "He was a visionary, but he also made it happen."

After he returned from his service in the Army, he sold a yellow Porsche he had bought overseas and used that money and the GI Bill to get master's degree in business administration from Penn State University.

Penn Brewery was the first craft brewer in Pennsylvania, and Mr. Pastorius loved to mentor young brewers, his wife said, which is why he created the Pennsylvania Microbrewers Festival in 1994.

"Tom always enjoyed sitting down and drinking a beer with anybody," she said.

Scott Smith, owner and founder of the East End Brewing Co., said Mr. Pastorius was "a presence in the Pittsburgh craft beer community," where "everybody really plays nice, and we don't really see each other as competition, although on paper we are," he said. "It's just a different mindset."

He said Mr. Pastorius was craft-brewing beer "way before anybody else, certainly in the Pittsburgh area, was really thinking about beer in those terms."

Mrs. Pastorius said her husband wanted to "build a completely authentic German brewery in Pittsburgh and to make beer that was exactly what he had enjoyed in Germany."

"The best beer is beer made closest to home, or where you are," Mrs. Pastorius recalled her husband saying.

Penn Brewery and its signature beer -- Penn Pilsner -- are "truly and uniquely Pittsburgh" and "an important aspect of the character of the city," Mrs. Pastorius said.

Mr. Pastorius' management of Penn Brewery ended in 2010, and he subsequently sold his remaining shares.

In addition to his love of beer, Mr. Pastorius loved gardening and vacationing with his family in Stone Harbor, N.J., where he spent summers as a boy. Mrs. Pastorius said she and her two sons recently took Mr. Pastorius to Stone Harbor, and they returned to Pittsburgh just 11 days before he died.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Pastorius is survived by his sons, Thomas Jr. of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Franz Daniel, of Munich, Germany; and his brother, James G. Pastorius of Butler.

Viewings will be held from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at Copeland Funeral Home, 702 Beaver St., Sewickley. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Presbyterian Church of Sewickley.

The family requests memorial contributions be made to the Music Fund of the Presbyterian Church of Sewickley, 414 Grant St., Sewickley, PA 15143, or to The Pastorius Home Association, P.O. Box 66, Germansville, PA 18053.

obituaries - neigh_north

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. First Published September 10, 2012 4:30 AM


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