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The Beer Circle » Breweries, Church Brew Works, The » The Church Brew Works – Pittsburgh, PA

The Church Brew Works – Pittsburgh, PA

Recently, a family wedding took me to Pittsburgh, PA. I can’t say enough about how much I love this city. Gorgeous, relatively inexpensive, friendly people, the list goes on and on.  Last May, a number of my Penn State friends and I (including fellow contributor Russ Beck) toured a number of breweries in the Pittsburgh area, and even got interviewed on KDKA Pittsburgh within minutes of arriving in the city at Penn Brewery. Our other stops included East End Brewing Company, The Church Brew Works, and, ultimately, a crushing 10-1 Pirates victory over the Detroit Tigers.  In my opinion, both Penn Brewery and East End Brewing Company outclassed The Church Brew Works as far as quality of beer offerings go, but I’ve yet to encounter a brewery that can challenge the uniqueness of atmosphere that Church Brew Works offers. As such, I’ve begun to recommend this as a stop to anyone even remotely interested in beer that’s visiting the Pittsburgh area.

Exterior of The Church Brew Works

Exterior of The Church Brew Works

The Church Brew Works is located within an old Catholic church in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  According to their website, it was opened out of St. John the Baptist Church, suppressed and deconsecrated by the Diocese of Pittsburgh in August 1993, to be reopened by The Church Brew Works in 1996. Some find the thought of opening a brewery in a former place of worship almost sacrilegious, but given its deconsecreation and general removal of religious icons (coupled with a certain perceived Catholic penchant for imbibing), I don’t find the idea particularly objectionable.

Interior of The Church Brew Works

Interior of The Church Brew Works

So, when my travels brought me back to Pittsburgh, I recommended to the family members with me that we make another visit.  Over the summer, I had tried the Coconut Stout, along with Russ who most expertly reviewed it here, but I opted for something different this time. With limited time on my hands this trip, I was able to try only the Thunderhop IPA, served from a bottle.  Despite the majesty of the juxtaposition of stained glass and giant fermenting tanks surrounding me, I found myself satisfied, but a bit underwhelmed by this IPA.

View #1 of Bar/Serving Tanks

View #1 of Bar Area

A name like “Thunderhop” conjures up mental imagery of a very aggressively-hopped, giant IPA.  Alas, this is not the case. A traditional American IPA, clocking in at 6% ABV, I expected this one to at least be competitive with the likes of Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA (my quintessential go-to IPA).  Unfortunately, what I found was pretty decent initial taste – but very light character and middling to nearly-absent finish.  This one isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination – I’d just hoped for a bit more.

View #2 of Bar/Serving Tanks

View #2 of Bar Area

In my opinion, introducing someone to the world of craft beer and breweries usually isn’t about finding them the best knock-your-socks-off IPA or bourbon stout around.  Often times, it can be as much about the aesthetic and overall feel of an outing as the actual beer itself.  I’d easily recommend bringing an initiate to The Church Brew Works to show them the uniqueness that this community has to offer, and to support an enterprising, independent brewery, and definitely stop by if you’re in town. But don’t go hundreds of miles out of your way to hit this one up specifically for the beer, at least based on my limited experience.  That being said, next time I’m in the area, I’d happily swing by again.

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Written by Garrett Miller

Garrett brings a somewhat different perspective on beer to the table. While always thrilled to try any new, exotic brew that finds itself his way, Garrett finds that he's often quite satisfied with reliable, common craft choices. As such, Garrett is a fan of trying and reviewing these (admittedly less expensive) beers, and using them to introduce the exciting, flavorful world of craft beer to those not-yet-acquainted. Garrett’s favorite styles are IPAs and bourbon stouts, but won’t turn his nose up at anything. Find Garrett Miller on Google Plus

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