Theology on tap? Former Catholic church in Baltimore becoming a brewery

Theology on tap? Former Catholic church in Baltimore becoming a brewery August 12, 2019
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From Baltimore magazine:

Something’s brewing (literally) inside St. Michael’s Church in Fells Point.

This fall, Ministry of Brewing will open to the public inside the 19th-century landmark, located on the northeast corner of Lombard and South Wolfe streets. The brewery aims to bring a classic rotation of beers and a unique gathering spot to the neighborhood.

General manager Jon Holley predicts the novel idea of a church brewery is unlike anything neighbors will likely expect, especially when they step inside the church and look up toward the vast barrel vault ceiling.

“When I came on board, I was like, ‘Oh, a church brewery—that’s cool,’” he says. “But then walking in here I think my jaw dropped. There’s nothing really like this anywhere. We just want to have a good atmosphere, good food, good beer, and good people.”

Built in 1857, the church was designed by Baltimore architect Louis Long in the style of early Romanesque Revival. It served the “significant waves of German Catholic immigrants that settled in East Baltimore during the mid-19th century and the Redemptorists who took charge of these German Catholics as part of their mission here in Baltimore,” according to National Register of Historic Places.

It became the oldest continuously operating Redemptorist Catholic church in Baltimore. After most recently serving Hispanic parishioners, St. Michael’s closed in 2011. It was abandoned until Ministry of Brewing partners—Jeff Hunt, Michael Powell, Ernst Valery and David Wendell—bought the building in 2017, with a deal closing in 2018.

The church first caught the eye of Valery, a real estate developer. As more partners became involved, a brewery felt like the right fit for the church’s next life. Hunt—who also opened MadTree Brewing in Cincinnati, Ohio—says that turning the building into a 250-seat brewery has been a “unique undertaking.”

Beer hall–style tables are made from wood reclaimed from the church, with the brewery’s logo burned into the center of each. Food will be available, and Holley says to expect pub fare such as baskets of flavored popcorn, burgers and flatbreads.

…Church breweries are not particularly new, but still rare. In 2017, the Associated Press reported that since 2011, at least 10 breweries opened inside old churches in the US, with four more slated to open the following year. One of the closest church breweries to Baltimore is the renowned The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which opened in 1996 inside what was formerly known as St. John the Baptist.

Read more. 

Of course, another interesting re-use of a church is St. Vibiana’s in Los Angeles — which saw the old cathedral of the city transformed into an event and catering venue known as Vibiana. 


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