Michiana’s Menu: Michigan’s first brewery pizzeria Napolitana sits in a Civil War-era church at Beer Church Brewing

Michiana’s Menu: Michigan’s first brewery pizzeria Napolitana sits in a Civil War-era church at Beer Church Brewing

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NEW BUFFALO, Mich.,-- This week on Michiana’s Menu, I stopped in New Buffalo for some Napolitana style pizza and brews at Beer Church Brewing.

When you think of church, beer isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But that’s not the only combination that makes beer church brewing so unique. It’s also a brewery and pizzeria Napolitana, an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.

John Lustina and his partner Jane Simon started Beer Church Brewing in 2016. The pair loved to travel to

“In our previous lives, she was a law professor at Notre Dame, and I had an advertising agency.,” said Lustina. “We always would try and find the best brewery that we could whenever we were traveling, and the best pizza Napolitana, which is the style, and what we noticed--and we were pretty confident that we were two freaks. Two freaks in the world that had ever combined those two. And yet, never we found another location that had those two at the same time, a brewery on site, and a pizza Napolitana. And so it was always our dream to find one like that. And then after a while, we'd started to think, well, maybe we should start figuring out how to do it.”

The building’s history goes way back standing tall for more than a century. It opened as a United Methodist church in 1861, serving as an improvised armory during the Civil War. It was awarded with the title of the oldest religious house in continuous use. Now it’s home to small batch brewing.

Lustina takes pride in both food and beverage as the world’s first brewery pizzeria Napolitana. Napolitana, also known as Neapolitan-style pizza, is a Naples style pizza.

“A lot of times a brewery is congratulated, just because they have food,” said Lustina. “But I don't think they expected us to have phenomenal pizza in this style.”

What makes it unique? It’s how it’s made.

Head chef, Alyssa Brake shares how to make this style of pizza.

“You see other people do where it’s up in the air, that’s not usually this style,” said Brake. “So, the other way, pulling out your dough is creating two fists... And then you just like, gently pull away --the fists away from each other.”

Once the dough is stretched out we add the toppings for the pepperoni margherita and the New Buffalo-style cacio e pepe, created by Brake.

The oven at Beer Church was made in Italy. Chef Brake says the interior is made out of volcanic clay bricks from Mount Vesuvius

“And same with the bottom,” said Brake. “It's like a slate bottom. It holds heat really well. Obviously, being volcanic.”

Onto the brewery, head brewer, Nate Peck has brewed for thirteen years, creating a range of beers from all around.

“Usually for me, I like to have kind of some archaic styles on like an English mild or something like that, that you wouldn't see it a lot of breweries,” said Peck. “That's all English malts. We even modify the water profile to be like London.”

Getting creative in the brewing process, Peck loves seeing people get out of their comfort zones.

“I do genuinely look forward to seeing someone's expression when they try a new beer,” said Peck. “Whether they like it or don’t or they're kind of middle of the road about it…"I just like to try new things and get out of that comfort zone a little bit.”

The unique pizzas, community atmosphere and flavorful beers bring in customers both new and old.

Plan your visit here.

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