New Penn Brewery owner will keep the classic brews, expand the small batches

Aug. 10—Ownership of Penn Brewery has changed hands, but the new owner vows to continue its tradition of producing classic lagers and German beer styles in the 16th-century Bavarian tradition, along with experimental, small-batch brews.

A Monday post on the brewery’s Facebook page said, “Penn Brewery’s owners — Sandy Cindrich, Corey Little, and Linda Nyman — are pleased to announce the sale of the company to Stefan Nitsch, Pittsburgh-based businessman and owner of Arkham Realty.”

The sale was finalized July 29. After 13 years running the brewery, Cindrich, Little and Linda Nyman plan to retire.

Nitsch, 41, of Bellevue, has a long association with the Troy Hill brewery that almost made it seem like it was his destiny to own it.

He moved to Pittsburgh at age 10 after growing up in Austria and Switzerland. Shortly after the move, his father took him to Penn Brewery for an Oktoberfest.

“I remember there was some guy from a radio station there who wanted me to come on air and read a German poem, and I was too nervous and afraid to do it. That’s the main memory I have of that,” he said.

Before going into real estate, he owned a landscaping company and became a brewery regular.

“At the end of the day, I would stop there and have a couple pilsners and fill my growler and be on my way,” he said.

About five years ago, Arkham Realty moved into offices on the third floor of the brewery building and would conduct closings in the brewery’s restaurant.

“We were always down there for one reason or another and we got to know everybody,” Nitsch said. “It was nice — there was an elevator that took me to beer.”

Within a year of being there, he started joking with the owners that he would be interested in buying if they ever wanted to sell.

“Five years later, the owners were in a position where they did want to sell and retire,” he said. “They knew by then who I was. I’d built a great rapport with everybody there, and they knew it would be in good hands.

“I’m interested in the product, the legacy and the history.”

Local and independent

“In an era when so many small and mid-sized breweries are being bought up by large corporate entities, it was critical that as a ‘quintessentially Pittsburgh’ institution, Penn Brewery, remain locally based and independently owned,” Cindrich said on Facebook.

Penn Brewery is Pittsburgh’s largest and oldest brewery and is considered one of the pioneers of the American craft brewing industry.

Nitsch said he plans to retain Penn Brewery’s focus on its year-round German-style beers, including the Kaiser Pils.

“That Kaiser Pils beer is sort of what made me fall in love with them, because it’s really the most authentic tasting beer that I’ve ever had in the States, as far as a pilsner goes,” he said. “It tastes exactly like something you would get in Austria or Germany.

“My beer tastes started out with the lagers and the pilsners, but I’m probably more of an IPA guy now, but that Kaiser Pils is just unbelievable, and that coming from a native Austrian says a lot,” he said.

Nitsch also wants to do more to promote the small-batch brews.

“I think a lot of the small batches aren’t getting the attention and recognition that they deserve,” he said. “If we were to do a pop-up at a festival, we would have one of our regular staples like the Kaiser Pils. The second tap would then be a small batch we would have going on at that time, to let people know that we do more than just the classic German styles.”

He plans to simplify the food menu to focus more on German-style dishes. The building also will get some updates, including new paint, renovation of the entryway and added seating.

As for the staff, he said, “Everyone is staying on, but just like everyone else, we’re looking for bartenders and servers.”

Penn Brewery also has a space in Concourse A at the Pittsburgh International Airport, which currently serves its classic beers. Nitsch intends to add small-batch beverages to the menu and to increase its offerings of branded merchandise.

“There are a lot of exciting things coming up,” Nitsch said. “We’ll be doing a lot more events, like release parties around the more experimental beers, maybe every two to three months, almost like a mini-Oktoberfest.”

Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley by email at or via Twitter .

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