Church Brew, Pittsburgh, PA
“And on the eighth day… man created beer,” declares Church Brew's webpage. Church Brew is in fact a brewery built in a former Roman Catholic Church. But don’t let the stained glass windows or pews make you feel guilty as you drink – the church was deconsecrated in 1993. Now the brewery makes its own beers like the Pious Monk Dunkel: a 2012 Silver Medal Winner at the Great America Beer Festival, this lager is a mellow version of the dark-style brewed in Munich 150 years ago. Or you can try the Pipe Organ Pale, an ale made sweet with caramel malts. If the good beer makes you feel chatty just remember this isn’t the place to make confession, but you can book private brunches and banquets.
Mission Brewery, San Diego, CA
Formerly the Wonder Bread Bakery, Mission Brewery is now considered one of the top craft breweries in San Diego County with over 30 National and international awards, including a 2012 gold medal from the San Diego International Beer Festival. The bakery was built in 1894 but by 1913 it was re-established as a brewery – at least, until it went out of business during the first year of Prohibition. These days the brewery is back on its feet serving 10 brews plus seasonal flavors in a tasting room that oversees the facility. You can take a weekend tour and five tasters for $10 and meet Malleus, the Brewery Cat.
Concordia Brewery at the Kennedy School. Portland, OR
This is a brewery you have to see to believe. Almost as strange as drinking beer in a former church is drinking beer in a former elementary school. The Kennedy School was closed in 1975, and the complex is now made up of a hotel, movie theater, concert venue, and Concordia Brewery, which is located in the former little girl’s room. Concordia has brewed over 3,000 kegs to date, which you can purchase from their Oregon or Washington locations. The brewery celebrates itself with artwork featuring the history of beer-making as well as displays of mischievous school girls with glasses and Peter Pan collars. You can wander through the school hallways as you sample the King’s Landing IPA or the signature Concordia Pale Ale.
Pinups and Pints, Dayton, OH
Portland has a vegan strip club, Pittsburgh had a drive-through strip club, but Pinups and Pints is not only “Dayton’s Newest Gentleman’s Club and Micro-Brewery” – it’s actually the first combination microbrewery/strip club in America. The owner, Scott Conrad, realized it would be easier to get a brewer’s license than a liquor license, so now there is a 15-gallon brewing system behind the onstage stripper pole. Pinups and Pints combines exotic microbrews with exotic dancing, but is closed on Sundays. The Pinup Pale Ale is the inaugural ale from the owner who started out with no beer-making experience, and the brewery is expected to keep growing and experimenting with different ales and lagers.
Brewery Vivant, Grand Tapids, MI
Don’t let the fact that it’s a former funeral parlor get you down – people are dying to try Brewery Vivant. The restaurant and bar are located inside the early 20-th Century funeral chapel, and the brewery is in the former garage/auto shop. Brewery Vivant was influenced by French and Belgian countryside farmhouse breweries and their artistic style of beer. As a result, they offer 15 French/Belgian-inspired brews that will make you think you’ve seen the light. After $3 million in renovations, they decided to keep the funeral parlor’s stained glass windows and aren’t afraid to poke fun at the building’s past. One of their original drinks is The Undertaker, a Belgian-style dark ale with notes of roasted malt and Belgian yeast that combinations different rich, dark flavors: dark chocolate, hints of coffee notes, dark cherries, and molasses.
Vault Brewing, Yardley, PA
Vault Brewing is a Kickstarter-funded brewery that took the old Yardley National Bank and transformed it into the business it is today. But the bank, which was built in 1889, has not completely disappeared. The vault’s 8,000 lb door now guards the beer-conditioning cellar instead of money. Yardley National Bank deposit slips and paid checks dated from a century ago are used in the decor, and the safes are used for practically as illuminated wine-holder displays. The brewery aims to give its customers an upscale experience, with live jazz performances instead of pop and rock tunes, and no TV’s above the bar. The focus is on the conversation, food, and of course the beer. There’s a rotating lineup of 25 beers including a Sweet Potato ale and the Signature Vault IPA - “the Vault IPA experience in one beer” has notes of pineapple, bitter lemon, sweet red grape, and dandelion.
Old Firehouse Brewery, Williamsburg, OH
This brewery, located in a former firehouse, was actually opened by a former fireman. Naturally the taproom is decorated with firefighter memorabilia including extinguishers, and fire-fighting suits. While most breweries need a wall or partition to separate the taproom from the brewery,Old Firehouse Brewery can sidestep the law thanks to its high-tech sprinkler system. The beers have names like Hoser Gose (flavored with coriander and sea salt with a twist of sweet orange peel) and Code 3 (a Red Ale with a roasted dry finish). And, just like the firehouse, the brewery is dog-friendly.
Jailhouse Brewing Company, Hampton, GA
Most people try to avoid the drunk tank, but these days people in Hampton are going to the jail to start their drinking. TheJailhouse Brewing Company is re-utilizing a two-story brick jail from the 1920s, which has also been used as a fire station, mason lodge, sandwich shop, and courthouse. You can tour the building as you sip on the seasonal Conjugal Visit Imperial Red Ale, which blends bitterness with caramel sweetness. Or you might like the Mugshot IPA, mixing malt flavors without overwhelming you with their taste. Just avoid Old John – according to stories, his ghost was locked up for public drinking and still haunts the building.