SEWICKLEY -- It's not a stretch to say that Pittsburgh's burgeoning craft beer industry can look to Tom Pastorius as the man who led the way.
Pastorius, the Sewickley resident who founded the Pennsylvania Brewing Co. on Pittsburgh's North Side in 1986, died Thursday. He was 67.
Pastorius was a native of Pittsburgh who fell in love with German lagers while he lived there after earning a master's degree at Penn State. He returned to Pittsburgh and, with his wife Mary Beth, founded the Penn Brewery in 1986 and were soon producing Penn Pilsner, Penn Dark and other German styles; they opened a restaurant and brewpub in the same spot, on Vinial Street, in 1989.
Hopewell Township resident Dick Ober has more than a passing interest in the business Pastorius founded in 1989 -- his great-great grandfather George Ober founded one of Allegheny County's original breweries, in the same property where Pastorius founded Penn more than 30 years ago. Ober, who has collected his own personal history of brewing in the region, said Pastorius was always aware of Penn's connection with the city's brewing past -- and always accommodating to those who wanted a look at where it started.
"He couldn't have been a more generous guy," Ober said, recalling a visit by relatives whose families had brewed in the Eberhardt and Ober building that Penn occupies and in a second spot in the city's Bloomfield neighborhood. "Tom took an hour and a half and walked us through the brewery. He was happy to show us around."
Ober said Penn's legacy -- it wasn't just the first craft brewery in Pittsburgh, but it was one of the first east of the Mississippi River -- is unquestionable.
"They were pioneers, especially on this side of the country," Ober said. "And Tom did it by making excellent beer."