Pittsburgh’s Church Brew Works to Add Bottling Line

After seven years in business, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Church Brew Works is ready to add bottled beers to its product line. Church Brew Works has operated as a brewpub and restaurant since opening, but brewmaster Bryan Pearson told the Pittsburgh Business Times that bottled beer was “something we’ve talked about from the beginning.” For owner Sean Casey, the bottling line may represent another step towards a more distant goal of growing the business to the point of building a larger, dedicated brewing facility off-premise. But for now, the bottling line will occupy its own corner in the century-old former St. John the Baptist Church. Casey financed the line through the earnings of the restaurant, and bought the equipment used. The bottling machine came from Philadelphia’s Yards brewery, and the labeling line was bought used from a John Harvard brewpub in Atlanta that was closing its doors. Casey saved at least 25 percent, even as much as 40 percent, by buying the equipment used instead of new. Church Brew Works will offer its light-bodied Celestial Gold lager and its Pipe Organ Pale Ale in bottles to start, in a first run of 500 cases to be offered in November. The brewery is looking to get bottled-beer production up to 600 cases monthly, with hoped-for annual sales at 7,500 to 8,000 cases, or around 600 barrels of the brewery’s production. For Church Brew Works, getting into bottling is not without its challenges. The small brewer runs as a relatively high cost-of-operations business, and doesn’t plan to add staff to run the bottling line. Instead, the current staff will be cross-trained to handle the additional chores. For Casey the payoff will be the ability to sell bottled beers for his customers to take with them and to pick up in shops and taverns, offering them an alternative to what he derides as “mass-produced swill.”

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