Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pittsburgh Fare : Church Brew Works

The Church Brew Works
3525 Liberty Ave
Pittsburgh PA 15201
Phone: 412.688.8200

I will not attempt to review everything I've ever consumed at the Church Brew Works: Karl and I are actually considered regulars there (i.e., the bartenders know us by name). Since Karl lives about a block away, several times a week, we will go there to share a pitcher of the beer brewed on site. And yes, this is a brewery and restaurant set up in a church. The atmosphere this creates is truly unique. Add the fact that the food and beer are generally a cut above what you'd expect from a bar and restaurant and you've got a winning combination!

When you walk in through the imposing double doors, the bar is on the left and the two dining sections are divided by an aisle (that used to divide the two rows of pews). This division is utilized to divide the two "sections" of the restaurant. The area near the bar boasts a "Pub Menu" and the other side is the "Dinner Menu." If you want the famous pizza, you have to sit on the bar side (although, I'm sure the servers would make an exception if you requested it). Karl and I have eaten dinner at the CBW, and unless you're out for a special occasion, on a student budget, I do not recommend it (it's pretty pricey!).

But I don't want to talk about that. Last night, Karl and I finally managed to get our hands on some of that pizza. The last time we ordered it, we were told we would have to wait an hour (it was a busy night!). Gene, our favorite bartender at the CBW, informed us that they can only fit a maximum of 5 pizzas in their wood-fired brick oven at one time, so it tends to get backed up on weekends. So, we decided to wait for another time.

Last night, we ordered the Garden Plum Tomato Pizza ($13), with plum tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, and just the right amount of mozzarella cheese. The key to any pizza is the crust. The toppings are hard to ruin (although, it has been done), but if the crust is bad, the whole pizza suffers. The Church Brew Works makes a great pizza. Because it is baked in a hardwood-fired brick oven, the crust is the perfect texture: lightly crisped on the outside, and tender on the inside. Pizza crust should never be tough and chewy. The pizzas are also a nice, generous size (I think cut into 8 or 10 large slices). They are certainly large enough to feed up to 4 people, but Karl and I managed to put the whole thing away by ourselves (I blame it on the beer! I always get hungrier when I drink beer).

Because you can't go to the CBW without ordering beer (and really, pizza and beer is a classic combination!), Karl and I indulged in a pitcher of the Millennium Trippel ($15, 9% ABV). I don't tend to be the biggest fan of Belgian-style beers, but this Trippel is one of my favorite beers that the CBW brewmaster has created. I'm not kidding when I say it tastes just like banana cream pie! Even if you don't get the smooth, creamy texture that makes it taste pie-like to me, you will not be able to deny the banana flavor. One of the reasons this Belgian-style beer is more palatable to me is that the sweetness is balanced by a subtle acidity balanced with the creamy texture. I felt that this beer paired surprisingly well with the pizza for that reason as well.

CBW pizza gets an A+ in my book! I think next time, I want to try the intriguing "Pittsburgh Pierogie Pizza, topped with potato puree, sautéed onions, garlic, and cheddar cheese ($13.50). But if you want your pizza in a timely fashion, don't go on a busy night (e.g., Friday or Saturday!).