Why So Many Breweries Are Built In Old Churches

Small microbreweries making craft beer have been a part of the American scene since the early 1990s and have only grown since (per Chron). It's easy to see the appeal. Like any product, the idea of small batches crafted carefully with a focus on quality over quantity appeals to consumers who simply want more from their experiences. Additionally, the range of craft beers can appeal to a younger crowd who want to experience a wider variety of flavors than mainstream beers can provide (via DSM).

Something that's vital to running a small business like a brewery is marketability. A great product is wonderful, but it's not going to help if nobody knows it exists. Microbreweries need more than great beer; they need to create an experience for their customers (via Bad Rhino). These experiences can come from anything, but a dramatic or unique location certainly helps — which may coincide with why so many American breweries are opening in abandoned churches. According to Religion News Service (via Associated Press and posted at U.S. News & World Report), eight church-based breweries have opened since 2020, with around 30 operating in the country in total.

The secret behind church brewing

Of course, there's the slightly scandalous appeal of drinking in a church. The old architecture and towering stained glass windows create an atmosphere that's virtually impossible to obtain elsewhere for a truly unique experience. But there's more than just marketability when it comes to using the churches as breweries. Closed churches with historical significance are often left abandoned as historical preservation laws prevent alteration to the structures, but their composition makes it hard to turn them to other uses, as buildings or businesses, but the high ceilings and spacious rooms already built to hold a crowd make them the perfect place for both brewing and serving beer (via Craft Beer).

Purchasing the churches and renovating them into breweries benefits both parties. There many cases where these old churches would be left to be demolished or simply decay away, but purchasing these properties breathes new life into them. Tomme Arthur, co-founder of The Lost Abbey brewery company in San Diego, told Religion News Service that the church they acquired "fell into massive disrepair and probably would have been demolished." Breweries opening in these former houses of worship creates a unique atmosphere while helping to preserve the buildings and giving them continued use.