Bar Buddies: The Church Brew Works

I love churches. The history, the architecture, the stained glass, the ambiance. What can I say, I’m a bit obsessed. So when I found out there was a microbrewery in a former Catholic Church, it was only a matter of time before I ended up grabbing a drink at The Church Brew Works.

The location: Situated between Polish Hill and Lawrenceville, Church Brew Works is a bit of a hike from campus. The 54 from Craig St. and Winthrop St. is your best bet, or a combination of the 61B and 87 or 71 and 86. Once you’re finally there, there’s plenty to do. The church is on Liberty Ave., so the restaurants and bars of Penn Ave. are a short walk away.

The drinks: I don’t like beer, so a microbrewery was a bit of a weird move for me. But it paid off big time. We tried two of their seasonal draft beers: Count Dankula and Oats McOats. Count Dankula is a bright red color that earns its name. Oats McOats is a beer for beer haters like me. It has a smooth, hoppy taste that means business but isn’t too bitter. They also have a couple more seasonal offerings, including a spiced Christmas Ale and a Jack Skellington Imp Pumpkin Stout if you’re not ready to let go of the Halloween spirit and jump on the Christmas bandwagon just yet.

The bar also has food offerings and a restaurant section on one side of the aisle if you’re feeling a bit more upscale. However, the food prices are steep, more in a parent’s budget than a college student’s.

The vibe: The vibe very much depends on how you feel about having a bar in a church, because it most definitely is a church. The Church Brew Works team isn’t shy about the somewhat sacrilegious nature of their endeavor. Core draft brews include Celestial Gold and Pious Monk Dunkel, and the first thing you see when you walk in are massive steel and copper tanks for beer brewing on the high altar.

However, there is no denying that the space is gorgeous, and it was abandoned for three years and in disrepair before the Church Brew Works owners restored it in 1996. Now, the beautiful architecture is being maintained and the history of the parish is being remembered, so something good came of the conversion.

The Church Brew Works is hardly a rowdy nightclub full of hedonistic sin (luckily there are plenty of other places for that in Pittsburgh). The crowd is older, and the vibe is quiet and relaxed. It’s the kind of place where you grab a quality beer with a friend or two.

Lit or Nah: I am going to go with Nah. It doesn’t have the energy to be a place to start or end a night out, and it’s too far and too gimmicky to be a comfortable, neighborhood bar for a weeknight drink with a friend. It’s worth a visit at least once for the good beer and the experience, but I’d say once is enough unless you’re a beer fanatic.