It was New Year’s Day 2011, and we were in Pittsburgh for the 2011 NHL Winter Classic – Capitals v. Penguins, scheduled to be played outdoors at Heinz Field at 1:00 p.m. Weather was a major concern, however, as rain and mild temperatures were in the forecast, threatening the hockey game. Would the game go on as scheduled?
No, the game was postponed until 8:00 p.m. We had a lot of time to kill, so we went to a church…to drink beer!
Church Brew Works is in a converted Catholic Church, and it is one of the most fascinating brewpubs I’ve ever visited. According to the History page on their website, St. John the Baptist Church was built in the early 1900s and disbanded by the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1993. It reopened as a brewpub in 1996 after an extensive renovation and restoration. It now features pews for bar seating, original stained glass windows, and a confessional with Church Brew Works merchandise. The brewing tanks on the altar are the coolest part of this unique brewpub.
We arrived as soon as they opened for lunch and the place was soon packed with Caps fans gearing up for the game. I ordered the sampler, which came with eight house-made beers:
- Celestial Gold (4.1%)
- Pipe Organ Pale Ale (4.3%)
- Pious Monk Dunkel (4.3%)
- Blast Furnace Stout (4.8%), their rotating Stout was a Milk Stout.
- Sleigh Wrecker (7.0%), a strong, delicious Winter Warmer
- Steam Hammer (5.0%), a Steam Beer
- Millennium Trippel (9.0%), a strong sweet-tasting brew
- Imperial Irish Red (9.0%), a strong Red Ale
The beers were well-built and I appreciated the variety of session beers on the menu. The food was great too – we had a to-die-for pizza called Cinco Fromaggio, which came with mozzarella, jack, provolone, feta and parmesan cheese, with olive oil, garlic, basil, and pine nuts.
On a rainy day, this was a great place to spend the afternoon, and the atmosphere created by the legion of Caps followers made it a memorable experience. I bought a pint glass to commemorate the visit.
Game time! After leaving the brewpub, we went back to the hotel and then took a ferry across the river to the stadium for the NHL Winter Classic. What a spectacle – hockey outdoors under the lights in front of 68,000 fans! The Caps beat the Penguins 3-1 in what felt like the Super Bowl of Hockey, and the victory capped off a weekend that we’ll never forget.
Pictures from the game and the brewpub:
Awesome, Mike. Glad you got to go to that game!
it was a fun weekend!