Ira Gerhart finally found a place last year to fulfill his dream of opening a brewery: a 1923 Presbyterian church. It was cheap, charming, and just blocks from downtown Youngstown, Ohio. But soon after Gerhart announced his plans, residents and a minister at a nearby Baptist church complained about alcohol being served in the former house of worship. "If we didn't choose to do this, most likely, it'd fall down or get torn down," Gerhart says. "I told them we're not going to be a rowdy college bar." With stained glass, brick walls, and large sanctuaries ideal for holding vats and lots of drinkers, churches renovated into breweries attract beer lovers but can grate on the spiritual sensibilities of clergy and worshippers.
"We don't want (churches) to become a liquor store," says a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which has imposed restrictions on turning closed churches into beer halls. "We don't think that's appropriate for a house of worship." Despite opposition, at least 10 new breweries have opened in old churches across the country since 2011, and at least four more are slated to open in the next year, the AP reports. Gerhart's will open this month after winning over skeptics like the Baptist minister and obtaining a liquor license. At the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, a desanctified former Catholic church, owner Sean Casey says the regulars drinking brews like Pious Monk dark lager include clergy members. (Read more brewery stories.)