Old buildings, new breweries

From the obvious (Church Brew Works) to the more obscure (Grist House), here are 12 Pittsburgh breweries and what their buildings did before beer.

by Aadam Soorma
March 31, 2020

ABV is our weekly series that highlights a different beer from a local Pittsburgh brewery every week. Check out our past picks here.


Pittsburgh has a plethora of unique traits. One, in particular, has palpably stood out to this non-native: an affinity for old buildings.

Perhaps it stems from our roots as a rust belt city – one with manufacturing and grit at its core. The Steel City’s enthusiastic, vocal tribe of preservationists work hard to raise awareness of these architectural treasures that celebrate identity, timestamped by style and function.

Below is a list of Pittsburgh breweries that exist in repurposed buildings. We rounded up the obvious (Church Brew Works) and the more obscure (Grist House). But – that being said – surely there are others we’ve left out.

Drop us a note with your favorite (local) brewery and what their building used to be. We’re excited to continue adding to this list.

ABV, volume LXI

Church Brew Works

Neighborhood: Lawrenceville (near Polish Hill)

This Building Used to Be: A Church.

Fun Fact: Seemingly the most obvious and recognizable, Church Brew Works was, in fact, a church from 1902 to 1993. The grand, ornate structure was erected using the best craftsmanship of its time period. Be sure to check out the details, which include breathtaking stained glass windows, a bell tower and hand-painted beams on the high-vaulted ceilings.

Visitors are permitted to take photos of the brewing equipment that sits in plain sight, right up on the altar. Everyone remembers their first visit to the Church Brew Works.

Spring Hill Brewing

Neighborhood: Spring Hill

This Building Used to Be: The farmhouse building that is home to Spring Hill Brewing has had many purposes – most notably a social club that was founded in roughly 1900.

The Workingmen’s Beneficial Union (or WBU for short) was a community space for German immigrants and once housed a ballroom and a six-lane bowling alley too.

Fun Fact: Talk to the Spring Hill locals and they’ll tell you that City Councilwoman Darlene Harris (Northside) got married here. Also – we love to share the fun fact that Greg Kamerdze – the head brewer at Spring Hill Brewing – uses local honey (made on-site) to produce TeaBoy; a line of non-alcoholic, carbonated tea that is served on tap at the brewery. And it’s delicious.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BlLa5U2gdc7/

Eleventh Hour Brewing

Neighborhood: Lawrenceville

This Building Used to Be: A schoolhouse

Fun Fact: Walk into Eleventh Hour on Charlotte Street and you’ll immediately note the archived photo from when this was a schoolhouse. The photo – which sits directly above the couch near the western entrance to the taproom – showcases how starkly similar they have kept the exterior of the building.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BOKdYH6jhUe/

Grist House

Neighborhood: Millvale

This Building Used to Be: A butcher / meat packing facility

Fun Fact: Beer peeps are well aware that Grist House is in the process of expanding. To complement their Millvale digs, Grist House’s second Pittsburgh-area facility – located in Collier – is being built inside a former Nike Missile Command Center. The massive undertaking does not have a launch date (lol) quite yet, but you can follow Grist House’s social media for updates.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BsI6m-HhGcc/

Hitchhiker Brewing

Neighborhood: Sharpsburg

This Building Used to Be: A brewery. Literally, Hitchhiker resides inside a building that was once home to Fort Pitt Brewing Co. It’s a rad setup and definitely worth checking out.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BRJaeW-BUUN/

Fun Fact: By expanding to Sharpsburg (inside the former Fort Pitt Brewing), Hitchhiker increased their production capacity and footprint. But, that being said, you can still visit their OG spot. Hitchhiker’s taproom (in Mount Lebanon) is still open; if you order Hitchhiker beer online – this is where they are directing all pick ups for carry out.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-PXQlLD_wz/

Allegheny City Brewing

Neighborhood: East Allegheny (Northside)

This Building Used to Be: Since being built in the late 1800s – pre-annex when Allegheny City was separate from the City of Pittsburgh – the building has been a bakery, a pizza shop, a call center, a non-denominational church, a men’s rescue mission, a dive bar and a coffee shop.

Fun Fact: As indicated above, 507 Foreland Street has had many lives. The land plot (pre-building) was grazing land, owned by Mary Schenley – daughter of Pittsburgh frontiersman and businessman James O’Hara.

When the building went up in the late 1800s, it began to cycle through its many uses. One of the most memorable – in the 1950s and 1960s, the building was home to a polka bar. During the brewery’s construction in 2015, an elderly Northside resident would ride his scooter over to tell stories about how they “used to dance so hard, they thought they were going to fall through the floor.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTcTOHRF_yR/

Couch Brewery

Neighborhood: Larimer – Highland Park

This Building Used to Be: A crossfit gym

Fun Fact: The guys at Couch Brewery have taken what used to be a crossfit gym and outfitted their taproom with a disco ball, bingo board and several ACTUAL couches. The comfy, retro vibe brewery sits kinda between East Liberty, Highland Park and Larimer, but is unmistakably easy to spot if you’re driving along Washington Blvd.

Abjuration Brewing

Neighborhood: McKees Rocks

This Building Used to Be: Well, actually – it STILL IS a theater. Literally, The Parkway Theater is a one-screen movie theater that exists inside the same building as Abjuration Brewing.

Fun Fact: Abjuration Brewing’s brewery – and its accompanying taproom – also share space with a small bar that is separate from Abjuration. This may sound confusing, but we promise it’s not hard to navigate. Abjuration curates fun, lively evenings with live music (particularly jazz night). City Fresh Pasta recently opened a small kiosk inside the taproom, in case you’re looking to grab a bite with your beer.

Cinderlands Warehouse

Neighborhood: Strip District

This Building Used to Be: Spaghetti Warehouse (restaurant)

Fun Fact: Head to the second floor of Cinderlands Warehouse and walk toward the restroom corridor. Adorned on the walls are a tribute to…you guessed it. The building’s former identity: Spaghetti Warehouse.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BrIYT6ZBnYR/

War Streets Brewery

Neighborhood: Allegheny-West (Northside)

This Building Used to Be: An old pharmacy building, the Kinder Building – built in 1900 and served as a pharmacy until the late 1960s. More recently, before it became War Streets Brewery, the building was home to Benjamin’s Western Avenue Burger Bar.

Fun Fact: War Streets Brewery is housed in the same building as Bier’s Pub, a Northside gem for beers and burgers. The owner, Jake Bier, brews all of the War Streets Brewery beers in the basement of the building, operates Bier’s Pub on the 1st floor, and has a delightful taproom on the 2nd floor along with a small, outdoor patio. He even keeps several guest beers on draft from OTHER local breweries, which adds a lovely, collaborative touch to his Northside pub.

Pro Tip: Bier’s Pub serves up a stellar weekend brunch.

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1904997016416896&id=1634497993466801&__xts__[0]=68.ARCbplcfuCUtiQiBlI2i4Facpd2tLhSEWxnu9H03iuraub2kwQhqkiogRUgjx67ptoUj0mCyOgbgbY-GeisVuI5ihLKfailDeBddlAuovKRjO7iMrc6JBRVKgsbFAo4F5Xna5GZOvmt5ASPVJ3JjG985ZLa4GoDw7nCoVCGJYADhCRdhEkGKD8Jea8iHYy123jheAzyTqeWyH846dT6VO3qswBVy9sVLxMdxSHtJ485yIv_sOn0TZv6HPWnY7MqaeWJty3yiwkhNuaoSKiY4SmAc2IQUrPKaLdNFn-NphBWMTMho4muEFGmpo5h4N8G6iLSgRfSIPYNRBEzuOcK91uxIZhAa&__tn__=-R

Mindful Brewing

Neighborhood: Castle Shannon

This Building Used to Be: An old community grocery store

Fun Fact: Alongside their selection of in-house beers, Mindful was one of the first Pittsburgh-area breweries to fully embrace the craft seltzer movement. You can browse their complete selection, which includes flavored craft seltzers, draft cocktails, draft wines and a full-service restaurant.

https://www.facebook.com/mindfulbrewing/photos/a.828975090545390/1068972419878988/?type=1&theater

East End Brewing

Neighborhood: Larimer

This Building Used to Be: A former telecommunications building

Fun Fact: Per Scott Smith – founder of East End Brewing – their Larimer brewpub exists in a former telecommunications company building, that came with no less than TWO “massage rooms.” Additionally, there’s a secret door in a bookcase, that leads to a separate set of stairs.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BuwiDz-HiKB/

 

Header Image: Abjuration Brewing in McKees Rocks – photo by Cory Morton

In 2012, Aadam moved to Pittsburgh. He's currently parked (sans chair) in Lawrenceville and plans to stay a while. On the weekends, you'll find him driving a small green bus (Porter Tours) as he leads tours at local breweries. Got a fun story idea? DMs are open: @asoorma.

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