Church Brew Works – Pittsburgh, PA

This brewery and restaurant is in an old Catholic church and everything from the booths made from pew benches to the pipe organ and the red-carpeted stairs feels familiar. I’m sure I would have never left if my childhood church had served great food and beer like they do at Church Brew Works. Something just feels really right when you walk in the front door and see brewing tanks on the altar. The atmosphere alone healed years of bitterness towards the church for this blogger. Here is my review of their 40-oz sampler.

Celestial Gold – I’m used to being disappointed in the lightest beer on the menu but this is awesome. It’s got obvious hops but they are barely there. It’s like an illusion. I love this tasty surprise. The hops are truly an aroma and the taste is all balanced malty goodness. I think this is a great session beer or gateway to get people into an American pale ale.

Pipe Organ Pale Ale – this is the perfect pale ale to follow the gold. Some caramel in this dry-hopped miracle. Not too potent which leaves the palate open for the 6 other beers to come. I paired this with the duck breast they had featured off the menu. It was amazing and tender. I love seeing that good food and beer so often go together now because I think beer in part got a bad wrap until the turn of this century when it was finally paired with something other than heavy German faire. This was a great place to go to balance my experience at Penn Brewery and going to both these places back-to-back expressed a welcome diversity in brewing. It’s nice to see two very different places following their individual principles inside a community big enough to support both businesses.

Pious Monk Dunkel – I know that for me at least, I associate the word Dunkel with wheat. That is not the correct thing for me to do and this very much not a wheat beer. This is one of their award-winning beers. It’s a good German style that I can appreciate but nothing that I’d call special. If you like a traditional beer than this one will not disappoint but if you’re adventurous and looking for one to skip – this is the one to pass on.

Red Nebyllek – this was the one I opted to try next. the autumn saison. Not bad but this seems more red to me than saison but not enough sour for either style in my opinion. Plus, no pepper. It’s got a lot of apple in it so there is some sour – just not the kind of sour I expect from a saison. It might be good to mix with something else like you would a cider but it’s not as sweet or syrupy as a lambic. Basically, this beer seems to be lacking something but I wonder if I would be saying that if they hadn’t called it a saison. Trouble is, I don’t know what other style accurately describes it, so saison it is. Saison light. So much apple. Almost cider. Not sure I caught the rose hips they talked about either. It’s worth a try just to help me come up with better words to describe it.

Midlands Mild – English ale – now we’re moving up the chain towards the Xmas and stout. Very toasty. They say it’s comparable to an ESB and I’d say that’s spot on. This is a winner in my book. Traditional but a style that not many do so points for that. Almost reminiscent of a brown with the nuttiness. I paired this with the pumpkin bread pudding. They use their malts as a base for the syrups used in their ice cream and other desserts.

Zwarte Piet’s Xmas – this is another one of their illusion tricks. It smells like more ginger than there probably is. This is everything you want in a Christmas beer from a flavor perspective including the thin mouthfeel. It’s almost watery though and not my favorite Cmas ale ever but points for the ginger and shout out to the Krampus myth in the naming of the brew.

Blast Furnace Stout – They call this an oatmeal stout and I disagree on their naming convention once again. Smoke is the predominant flavor. If they would have called it a smoked porter, I’d let them have it. I’m learning a lot about how brewers name things based on the fact they used a stout yeast for example but my criticism of this beer is merely from the fact that I think it’s mislabeled. If I ordered an oatmeal stout and got this, I’d send it back. But it’s a great smoked porter.

Thunderhop – saved for the last. I love this ipa. It is so floral as to be called girlie. This is the beer that brought me here. I wouldn’t have called it pine until they said that word in their description of it and now that I’m looking for it, I have to agree. Which makes this the perfect Christmas beer for me.


2 Responses to “Church Brew Works – Pittsburgh, PA”

  1. East End Brewing Company – Pittsburgh, PA « Hoppy Hoppy Joy Joy Says:

    […] my favorite Pittsburgh IPA before I tried Big Hop was Thunderhop from Church Brew Works (my review linked here) and my favorite since I’ve tried Big Hop is Fat Head’s Head Hunter. Now I need to figure out […]

  2. Rock Bottom – Pittsburgh, PA | Hoppy Hoppy Joy Joy Says:

    […] a really good interpretation of a German beer (I’m remembering Penn Brewery). People like Church Brew Works are experimenting but I suspect their best sellers are still the classic malt styles. What […]

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