Name: Church Brew Works
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
What you need to know: Located in a restored Roman Catholic church in Pittsburgh, Church Brew Works opened in 1996. The brewery kept a lot of the church’s interior, utilizing the pews as seating and also for the top of their bar, and maintaining a lot of the church’s visual elements (the stained-glass windows, the altar, and some of the iconography) while incorporating the brewhouse within the structure. Churchworks has gained a reputation for quality beer in many different styles, capped off with the 2012 GABF gold medal for Large Brewpub of the year. They have maintained that reputation by continuing to produce beers that are balanced and delicious.
Beer/Food Pairing #1: Pious Monk (Dunkel / 5.5% ABV) paired with Beef Tataki with Furikake and Seaweed Salad
Notes/Thoughts: Pious Monk is a three-time GABF medal winner, most recently a silver medal in 2012 for European-style Dunkel. This dark beer has a manageable ABV, but still has plenty of malty flavor, with some hop flavor present as well. I think the beef could overpower the beer in the pairing, but regardless, the beer should be worth trying on its own.
Beer/Food Pairing #2: Thunderhop (IPA / 6% ABV) paired with Chicken Satay with Pineapple and Peanuts
Notes/Thoughts: This is Church’s flagship IPA. It is an American IPA brewed with Galaxy, Palisades, and Mandarina Bavaria hops, which give the beer tropical aromas and flavors. There is enough malt to give the beer balance, but it’s light in color and has a reasonably low ABV, so the hop flavors are the main player. The pairing makes plenty of sense, offering some similarities and some contrasts for the beer to play off of when sampled together.
Overall Impressions: Church Brew Works is one of several breweries bringing award winning and balanced beers to SAVOR this year featuring lower ABVs and plenty of flavor. One could try both beers without messing up the palate for the next planned sample. There’s only one dunkel on the beer list, and it’s one of the very best in the country, so even if I’m less convinced on the food pairing, I would definitely recommend trying it. The IPA is also well thought of, and will present a nice contrast to the newer IPA styles that will be more prevalent.