In my 40/40 travels I have drank beers in buildings that were formerly used as barrel making factories, nylon manufacturing, a bakery, a barn, a morgue, among other various and sundry uses. In Pittsburgh, we went to church to get some spirits, specifically The Church Brew Works.
The church building as place of worship closed down several years ago due to a significant drop in attendance and parishioners.
Another building nearby now stands abandoned, once a place that was bustling with life, too. The old Iron City Brewery (who now brew at the old Rolling Rock Brewery in Latrobe):
Here is the sign at the front of the the Church Brew Works building, a sign that shows that life is back:
Yet, try as I might to be positive about The Church Brew Works, I cannot be. Here is why:
In what would be a persistent theme all evening, the bartender stand-offishly inquired as to whether we “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” when my brother and I sat down at the bar and did not respond quickly in English (in two seconds or less) to his asking us what we planned on drinking. To say that the bartender acted abrasively all night is probably as good a description as any. I could be harsher but won’t go there. He thought he was being clever and funny no doubt. Spending an evening with a bartender who seemed to be auditioning for a waiter’s job at Ed Debevic’s was decidedly not fun. Imagine visiting a church were the priest or pastor is unnecessarily insulting. Same deal.
I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who was tentatively trying to take steps away from the Babylonian Big Breweries like Bud, Miller, or Coors, who has stayed with the tried and not so true options as to not appear stupid and uniformed to others who are decidedly more up on the new religion of craft beers, and who does know not know the jargon, the rituals, the styles of beers, etc. Encountering someone like this bartender might be a turn-off and cause a desire to not go to a microbrewery again any time soon, especially the Church Brew Works. Again, same deal with a church visitor. It is wise to be welcoming and it is even your duty.
I generally tell the bartender at microbrewery establishments who I am am and what the 40/40 Pennsylvania Microbrew Tour is all about. I don’t want to act in a secretive fashion and have found telling them the details often opens up the staff, brewmaster, and owners, to sharing with me more about who they are, about their mission to make better beer, and history. In this guy’s case, he didn’t create a rapport to even start a dialogue. Instead, we were on the defensive all night.
Bartender-dude, we are all on the same team trying to get Pennsylvania microbreweries to win. Your boorish behavior does not help. I wish I could be more positive and end on an up note. I really tried to separate the unpleasant flavor this bartender left in my mouth from the beers and the grand building and just cannot. So, I will let it be and leave it at that. PTOOOOEY!!!