Penn Brewery wasn’t even thinking about expanding into Downtown.
Pittsburgh’s original craft brewery, at the base of Troy Hill, has its roots in the North Side, where it’s been an institution since 1986.
But when Todd Palcic, owner of 1st Avenue Lofts, called in the spring to ask if the brewery would be interested in opening a taproom on the ground floor of his building at 420 1st Ave., Penn Brewery CEO Sandy Cindrich and Food and Beverage Director Gene Mangrum decided to take a look.
“It wasn’t something we were thinking about,” Cindrich said. “But we were really intrigued by the space itself and the location.”
So Penn Brewery signed a lease with Palcic — one year, with a two-year renewal option — and plans to open the new space in November or December. It will be the brewery’s first off-site taproom.
And it will be cozy: 30 seats inside (including 10 at the bar), with an additional eight to 10 spots on the sidewalk in warm months.
The menu will feature a scaled-back version of what Penn Brewery offers in Troy Hill, including salads, sandwiches, warm pretzels and sausage and cheese platters. The eight to 12 taps will include year-round offerings, seasonal beers and experimental small-batch brews, plus a cider from Arsenal Cider House in Lawrenceville. The bar will also serve spirits and wine, Mangrum said.
“We’ll take what we do well here and apply it over there,” Mangrum said. “We just want to carve out our own little piece [Downtown].”
The location offers Penn Brewery a chance to reach a new audience, such as the lunchtime business crowd and Downtown residents who might not venture to the North Side often, Cindrich said.
“The lofts, its proximity to hotels, and several large office spaces nearby — it’s an area that’s really starting to redevelop,” she said. “It sounded like a good opportunity.”
Penn Brewery specializes in German-style lagers but has recently added craft brewery staples such as India Pale Ale to the lineup. Its Penn IPA was recently ranked the 33rd best IPA in the country by the national beer publication Draft Magazine.