Mid-Atlantic Brewing News August/September 2004
Henry Ortlieb, In Memorian
Henry Ortlieb, fourth-generation brewer and owner of Ortlieb’s Brewery and Grille in Pottstown, Pa., died unexpectedly July 4 while deep-sea fishing off the Costa Rican coast. A heart attack was suspected.
Ortlieb, 56, was the great-grandson of Trupert Ortlieb, who in 1869 founded what would become a sizable regional brewery in the Northern Liberties section of Philadlephia. Ortlieb worked in the brewery from his chiledhood, attaining rank of vice president. He sold out ot his cousin Joe Ortlieb in 1975. Production ceased after the company was acquired by cross-town rival C. Schmidt & Sons in 19812.
Ortlieb, who held a diploma from the United States Brewers Academy in New York City, kept a toehold in the beer business working for Clement Mueller, a Miller distributor. As early as 1981, he once recalled, he began draming of opening a microbrewery. In 1997, this “frustrated brewmaster” – as Ortlieb called himself – founded Poor Henry’s, a restaurant and brewery in what was once the bottling house of his family’s sprawling plant.
That business failed in 2000. Undaunted, Ortlieb purchased and renamed the financially troubled Sunnybrook Brewpub in the Philadelphia suburbs.
The Pottstown Mercury quoted Bernadette McElroy, controller for the brewpub, as saying that the business would remain open.
Don “Joe Sixpack” Russell, in an obituary for the Philadelphia Daily News, quoted Ortlieb’s wife Susan as saying, “He was a ball of energy who was always full of ideas. Beer was in his blood. …Henry was always so tickled when people recognized the Ortlieb name. It meant a lot to him.”
Caption to photograph (By Rich Wagner). Henry Ortlieb on the brewing platform, escorts the Philadelphia Brewery Tour through Poor Henry’s.