800 Vinial Street
Visited on October 8, 2007
I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the Penn Brewery. I was on my way home from visiting a friend in Washington D.C. and perhaps had built the place up too much in my head. I love German food and German beer.
When I got there, the building and everything is really cool and I dig the German style seating, but the place was dead. I guess it was kind of late and at the tail end of some big festival or party. But there wasn’t any partying, no music playing, no vociferous crowds, and not a lot of beer.
I think they only had two or three of their styles left on tap. But looking back, those beers were exceptional representations of their styles and the food was awesome as well.
The Penn Brewery is based on German dining halls that feature long, wooden tables designed to seat you and 10 of your closest friends. The upstairs and downstairs are both designed for partying and consuming large quantities of German fare. The decorations are all of German and/or Penn Brewery origins, and are tastefully done since they don’t overburden the senses. I could, however, be persuaded to have a little more bar room and/or small grouping options.
German food… need I say more? Yes? OK, well fine then. The schnitzel was huge and well done, as was the rye bread accompanying every dish. The side dishes weren’t anything exceptional. And try as I might, I kept comparing the food to Hofbrau House, which may not be fare, but hey, to be the best you have to beat the best, right? And this does not beat the best…
The beer was very good, and again, very authentically German tasting. I could drink it every day, but it was nothing I would tell a friend they absolutely had to try. Nor was it something I felt compelled to bring home a growler or a 6-pack of. Also, they only had three types of beer available when I went, so a type besides the Heffeweizen or the Dunkle Lager might be outstanding, but I didn’t get to try them. (And honestly, how does a place like that run out of their own beer???)
The place is designed for large parties and I came alone since I was driving home from Washington DC at the time and just wanted a brewpub to stop at. I came in around 8:30 pm on a Monday night, and even though they claim to be open until 11:00, the place was dead. They seemed to be closing up shop already. The basement was the only place seating, the waitress was inattentive, and it took forever to get my souvenir mug.