Long before craft brewing was a national trend, the folks behind the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, PA had a fantastic vision. They built a craft brewery inside a fully restored Roman Catholic Church. The Church Brew Works isn’t some gimmick though, over the years they’ve become a Pittsburgh staple while achieving the holy trinity of restaurants: Fantastic food, great drinks in a unique and beautiful location. Plus, they brew beer on an altar!
The history of the Church Brew Works, is pretty fascinating. The church, formerly St. John the Baptist Church, was built and opened by the Roman Catholic Church in 1902. Unfortunately, after a significant loss of parishioners the church was closed and deconsecrated by the archdiocese in 1993.
Over the course of the next few years the Church was purchased, and fully restored. Then in 1996, it opened it’s doors as the Church Brew Works. The restoration of the building is absolutely incredible. Everything that could be saved, was. Even the original pews are still in use as seating for the dining tables and their excess wood was used to build the bar. Even if you don’t like beer or food (what are you dead? :-) ) it’s worth a visit just to see the building.
While the restoration is incredible, the crowning achievement at the Church Brew Works is by far the beer. The bar features 4 core brews (3 of which dominated in the 2012 Great American Beer Festival ) and a steady stream of seasonal beers that are on constant rotation.
If you are a fan of classic styles their Pious Dunkel is a great example of what this dark and malty brew should be. With a pleasant aroma and mild body, it goes down easy with lots of flavor. I also found the Celestial Gold and IPA to be very well constructed even though they aren’t in my normal range of beers.
My favorite, of course, is the fact that the team at Church Brew Works feature a constantly rotating stout on draft. When we visited it was their Coconut Stout, which really impressed me. The beer was medium bodied, with some really nice cocoa notes and just a hint of coconut poking through. It was an easy drinking stout that I could have enjoyed all evening. We tried several flights of their other specialty beers, and couldn’t find one that wasn’t above average. Don’t just take our word for it though, even the folks over at Beer Advocate rate the Church as outstanding.
You can’t have a great location and great beer without backing it up with great food. Thankfully, the Church Brew Works was happy to oblige in this category as well. They’ve put together a menu that features the kinds of foods that you’d be happy to pair with your favorite pint. Apparently if you take classic pub fair and blend it with fine dining this is what you get.
The Church Brew Works menu features ingredients like boar and bison alongside bar staples like corn dogs and pierogis. Their Cheesesteak stepped it up a notch by using kobe beef to give it a delicate and tender flavor. The stand out though was their Pierogi Pizza. Prepared in a wood fired pizza oven, this bad boy was topped with mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese, and onion. If you really want it to taste like a pierogi though, make sure to order a side of sour cream for dipping. It’s the perfect pairing to soak up all the suds.
The Church Brew Works could have turned into a gimmick or a tourist trap. However, the combination of quality food, comfortable atmosphere, and fantastic beer make The Church Brew Works a must visit. The fact that the building itself is such an incredible attraction only adds to experience instead of taking away from it.
Details for the Church Brew Works
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