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Pittsburgh Church Brew Works Brewery Inside An Old Church In Lawrenceville In The Great Wide Travel Blog Thirsty Thursdays

The Church Brew Works Brewery


This big beautiful church building in Pittsburgh has been suppressed and now sits empty. What’s the best thing to do with it? Turn it into a brewery!


CONTENTS



Where is Church Brew Works?

The Church Brew Works is located on the south end of the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is on the northeast side of the city. It’s only a 10-minute drive northeast from downtown, so it’s not far to go! The exact address is 3525 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15201.



How to Get to Church Brew Works

The Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s 86 and 87 bus lines stop right outside The Church Brew Works running from downtown to further east or north, respectively. Your stop will be at Liberty Ave & 36th Street, and you won’t have a problem finding the church. The 54 bus also shares this stop on its D route (more than one route for the same bus gets confusing if you ask me) from the north side of the Allegheny River to the south side of the Monongahela River in its roundabout way through Lawrenceville, but I suggest just using the public transit feature in Google Maps, especially if you’re planning on using the 54.


If you’re driving to The Church Brew Works, there’s plenty of street parking on Liberty Ave. The neighborhood feels very suburban for how close it is to downtown.


Brewery Vats On Church Altar In Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Church Brew Works Review In The Great Wide Thirsty Thursday Drink Travel Blog

Reservations at Church Brew Works

The Church Brew Works takes reservations online or by phone at 412-688-8200. However, we visited around 7pm on a Sunday evening and didn’t have to wait for a table, so reservations may not be necessary. According to Google though, us getting in immediately was a fluke, because it says that it can be up to an hour and 15 minute wait for a table on Saturday nights and up to a 45 minute wait on Sundays. So if you know when you want to go, make a reservation just in case. If you want to go spontaneously but don’t want to wait, call ahead for the wait time.


Church Brew Works Brewery Inside An Old Church With Stained Glass Windows In Pittsburgh Pennsylvania In The Great Wide Travel Blog Thirsty Thursdays

History of the Church that is now Church Brew Works

The church in The Church Brew Works used to be St. John the Baptist, serving the growing Irish and Scotch Catholics in Pittsburgh at the turn of the 18th century. The cornerstone of the building was laid on July 1, 1901, and the church opened in 1902.


After surviving a fire in 1915, two world wars, and the loss of most of the heavy industry in Lawrenceville in the 1950s, the numbers of churchgoers dwindled as many young men didn’t return from the war and the remaining workers left the area in search of new jobs. In 1993, the Bishop of Pittsburgh declared an Act of Suppression on the church, effectively making it unusable as a house of worship. The church was bought and renovated, and almost three years to the day it closed, reopened as The Church Brew Works brewery in 1996.


Now, just to be clear, monks have been brewing beer since the 5th century, so if this all feels sacrilegious to you, read up on the history of monks making beer before you send us an angry email.


Bar Made Of Old Church Pews At Church Brew Works Brewery And Restaurant Review Pittsburgh Pennsylvania In The Great Wide Travel Blog Thirsty Thursdays

Our Experience

Our local friends in Pittsburgh know we are avid craft beer drinkers and suggested we all go to The Church Brew Works for dinner. We’d been to a church-turned-bar before, Oran Mor in Glasgow, Scotland, and loved it, so we were interested to see how it would stack up.


The building itself is exactly what you want it to be when you’re told it’s a brewery inside an old church. Great care was taken in restoring the failing church back to its heyday: the plywood flooring was torn up and the original Douglas Fir floor was restored; the hanging sconces, put up when the church opened in 1902, were lovingly restored and hung in the main hall; the original pews were used for seating, and leftover oak planks from the pews were transformed into the bar; and the main beer vats stand where the altar resided, giving extra reverence to the fantastic art of brewing beer.


We opted to share a beer sampler between us and our 2 friends to be able to try all 9 of the beers they had on tap at the time, although they now have 11 on tap. The beer prices are not on the menu, nor are they online (a growing trend that we find highly annoying), but the 9 beer sampler cost us only $25, which is extremely reasonable. Their Pious Monk Dunkel (harkening to the long-standing tradition of Belgian monks brewing beer) has won 10 prestigious awards from various competitions in the last 14 years. Over the history of The Church Brew Works, 9 other beers have won 16 awards. It’s quite apparent they know what they’re doing with the beer.


Church Brew Works Beer Sampler Flight In Pittsburgh Breweries Review By In The Great Wide Drink Travel Blog Thirsty Thursdays

My personal favorite was a Rauchbier; a smoked malt beer originally from a certain region of Germany. This was the first time we’d ever had a Rauchbier and it was absolutely incredible. It opened my mind to new possibilities of what a beer could be. Phoebe’s favorite was the seasonal Jack Skellington Imperial Stout, brewed with pumpkin and fall spices. Unfortunately, the Rauchbier isn’t on the menu anymore, and of course the Jack Skellington is highly seasonal for autumn. You can find their current beer selection on Untappd.


Beers are available mostly by the pint (although some are in a pilsner or goblet) or the sampler flight, but we wouldn’t have known to ask for a sampler if our server hadn’t suggested it. Again, this should be listed as an option on the menu! We love doing beer samplers when we’re somewhere new, especially if we know we can’t go back for a while because we’re just visiting the area. Thank goodness our server took good care of us. We are firm believers that you should drink what a place is known for while you're there, but they also have a full bar if beer isn't an option for you.


If you want to take some beer home, most of the beers are available in growlers or four-or-six-pack cans. Their famous Pious Monk Dunkel is also available in a 5 liter mini-keg if you have somewhere to put it.


Church Brew Works Braided Pretzel Appetizer Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Travel Blog In The Great Wide Thirsty Thursdays

The food at Church Brew Works isn’t just your regular brewery/pub-style food. It’s more like an upscale restaurant with a pub-style twist. Appetizers include a braided pretzel and pierogies (a Central and Eastern European dumpling), which Phoebe had never had before and rather enjoyed. The entrees consist of seafood, such as Shrimp and Grits, Crab Cakes, and Grilled Salmon, but if seafood isn’t your thing, they have a Pork Porterhouse, Barbecue Ribs, and a Jubilee Hilltop Ranch Meatloaf, as well as a number of chicken dishes and salads. They also do a special Oktoberfest menu for a limited time! Main dishes will set you back $18 - $30.


If that’s too rich for your blood, do not fear, they have a variety of delicious sandwiches (which is what we went with) like a Kobe Beef Cheesesteak, a Pulled Pork Sandwich, and a BBQ Chicken Slaw Melt that are a more reasonable $13 - $15. Whatever you do, save room for the Malted Bread Pudding; it’s the highlight of their dessert menu.


Church Brew Works Oktoberfest Menu Affordable Dinner Sandwiches In Pittsburgh Brewery Review By In The Great Wide Thirsty Thursday Travel Blog

Our Verdict

It may seem weird, but drinking in a church is a long-standing tradition. The Church Brew Works has won a ton of awards for their beer, and their food is good too! If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, make sure to stop here and pay respects to the brewery gods.


In The Great Wide Couple Travel Bloggers Adam And Phoebe At Church Brew Works In Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Brewery

Quick Reference Guide

What

Where

3525 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15201 in the Lawrenceville neighborhood

How to Get There

PRT’s 86 and 87 bus lines stop right outside the brewery on Liberty Ave, with a stop at 36th Street.

There’s plenty of street parking on Liberty Ave if you’re driving.

Time Commitment

1 hour to eat and drink, or however long you feel like staying to sample more beers - Our 3 course meal here took about an hour and a half

Cost

We paid $25 to sample the 9 beers they had on tap (beer prices are not on the menu or online)

Main dishes are $18 - $30, sandwiches are $13 - $15

Reservation Info

We didn’t need a reservation, but Google says that was a fluke. If you know when you’re going, we recommend making a reservation online or by calling them at 412-688-8200.

Our Verdict

We LOVE visiting local breweries everywhere we go, and we especially love bars in former churches, so this was right up our alley!

The fact that the beer was delicious and the food was fantastic helped us cement our need to find more churches-turned-breweries.


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In The Great Wide Travel Blog Writer Adam

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