My daughter is going to see One Direction. Where did I go wrong?

Since 7 am this morning my daughter has been up carefully laying out her outfit, getting her hair dye ready and offering incense to the shine of picture covering one whole wall of her room.  She has been looking forward to this day since January.  For tonight she will travel to Citizens Bank Park to worship at the altar of  the scourge known as One Direction.

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I confess am baffled.  From the time she was little I fed her a carefully chosen diet of music that ranged from the Decemberists to classic funk to Halestorm.  Yet somehow, in spite of this nurturing, she has now devoted herself to this latest incarnation of the universal parental bane otherwise known as the “boy band.”  Where did I go wrong?

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It’s not that I object to pop.  I had no problem with her first concert when she went to see P!nk last year.  I was fine with her plans to see Lady Gaga (sadly the concert was cancelled).  But what I fail to understand is why a group of 5 teen boys singing insipid drivel can whip a stadium of 42,000 teen girls into an utter frenzy.  I am not blind to the sexual dynamic here, but I just don’t get the appeal of the whole genre.

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So I turn to you gentle reader.  What’s a father to do?  What is it about boy bands that make our daughters act like this?  How should I respond?  Can anyone help me?  Parents?  Former boy band groupies who are now in recovery?  Please post your comments and above all, pray for me.

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UPDATE: I edited the post a bit because in retrospect I realized that I wasn’t simply expressing my own bafflement. I was making fun of my daughter.  No matter what I think of One Direction that’s not cool.  While I still don’t find what there is to like in the music she had a great time going to her first concert on her own and as a parent I am most grateful for that.

We got to get back to the garden (beer garden that is)

Last weekend my wife and I were trying to find a suitable location for the after party that will follow my brother’s wedding reception.  Since many of the guests will be from out of town, or even out of the country, we wanted to find somewhere that really represented our fair city.  We thought about the usual iconic restaurants, bars and hotels but then she was struck by a flash of inspiration.  And so after dinner that night we headed down to the new Independence Beer Garden.

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downloadWhen we arrived at Sixth and Chestnut Streets (directly across from the Liberty Bell) you could see even from a distance that the place was packed.  The main hall was simply too noisy so we walked around the outskirts to try to find some open space to sit and enjoy our beer.  Finding nowhere where there were just two empty seats I spotted a grouping of six Adirondack style chairs occupied by only four people.  I asked if the two empty seats were taken and were told they weren’t.

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For our first round (I had Yards IPA on nitro and she had Ommegang Wit) we spoke only with each other, discussing the merits of the venue.  But as our beers were running dry one of the young women seated in the group complimented my t-shirt which read “Fizzy Yellow Beer if for Wussies”.  With the ice broken we turned our chairs into their group and began to talk.  Turns out  all four were originally from Ukraine.  Two now live in Philly and two were down visiting from Brooklyn.  Soon they were pouring some of their pitcher (Yards Love Stout) into our empty glasses.  We reciprocated by buying the next round.

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Beer brings people together.  I have written before about beer’s capacity as social lubricant and about the potential that the bar has to make friends out of strangers.  This holds true even here in the United States where we tend to prefer reserved tables or sitting with as much space as possible between ourselves and the people on either side of us at the bar.

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Yet in Europe and many other places around the world the social potential of beer reaches its apex in beer gardens and beer halls.  They are of course largely the same as the average American bar.  People still go there to drink, to let off steam, to talk politics and sports and to make friends.  The major difference is in the seating.  Beer gardens and halls tend to feature long tables, often seating a dozen or more.  As such our concept of personal space goes out the window.

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Think about it, a group of three or four people couldn’t possibly hope to keep such a table all to themselves. As the place fills up, people inevitably come and fill in the extra space.  The sense of isolation that some Americans value so highly is simply impossible in such a gregarious setting.  Moreover, the beer garden is not simply a place to dash into for a quick round.  It invite you to sit and stay, often for a long time.  It’s allure is furthered by music and games, be it ping pong, shuffle board, bocce or even giant Jenga.

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Another important difference from the traditional American bar is that the beer garden isPicture 632 usually a family friendly environment.  In my travels to Germany in particular, this was a place for everyone to gather, to eat, talk, play and of course drink.  It is not considered at all incongruous to have children playing just because the men (and some of the women too) are hoisting liter mugs of beer. (FYI, my daughter is only holding that mug for the photo op)

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philly-fergies-beergarden-lg_636_400_85_s_c1Thankfully, this time honored tradition of drinking and community is finally catching on here, particularly in Philadelphia.  Several years ago Frankford Hall helped to get the trend of an outdoor beer garden going.  But this summer, spurred by a newly exploited loop hole in the law, a number of “pop up” beer gardens have appeared all over the city.  Some are in very public places like the Parkway in front of the Art Museum.  Others, like Fergie’s “Beach,” (above) are in open lots next to established bars.  But I am not here to opine on the legalities but I hope they are here to stay.  Because I enjoyed meeting my new friends from Ukraine and it might never have happened without the blessing of the Beer Garden.

Every Saint has a Past, Every Sinner has a Future

One never knows where inspiration will strike.  As someone who looks for moments of the Divine outside its traditional milieu, I try to stay alert for such things, but at times even I get caught off guard.

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il_570xN.419946369_as8fI was heading towards the checkout line at the local Acme when I noticed the young woman standing in front of me.  Her tank top revealed a multitude of tattoos, none of which were very good.  Yet as I was about to squinch up my nose in displeasure, I noticed the tattoo on her shoulder.  But what struck me was not its quality (it was just a poor as the others) but rather the sentiment that was permanently inscribed there.  It read “Every saint has a past.  Every sinner has a future”

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I stood transfixed, completely absorbed in considering the depth and meaning of those words.  If anything their poor execution made them even more profound.  In these words I heard a plea to look beyond the surface of a person and consider not just who they might be at the moment, but instead to try and see them as a work in progress.  Who might they have been?  Who might they still become?

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As I thought about it more I realized how very apt these words were for the occasion.  The young woman who first brought them to my attention was in fact covered with about a dozen tattoos of poor quality.  I confess that I am often quick to both judge and dismiss those who cover themselves in bad ink.  I am not proud of this fact but there it is.  How wonderfully and indeed grace-fully ironic that the very thing that would normally elicit my contempt was instead the catalyst that challenged it.

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When I got home I hurriedly googled the phrase only to find that it was in fact a rather popular expression appearing on a multitude of tattoos and Etsy jewelry.  The quote itself, like so many other profound and witty words, comes from Oscar Wilde.  In full context it reads, “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”  In full context it rings a bit more of Wilde’s wit and social commentary, yet still held its power to challenge me.

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In thinking about those words and the young woman who first brought them to my attention I realize that I was not nearly as open-minded as I liked to think.  Truth be told I knew nothing of her past yet I was fully prepared to judge her present and indeed her future based solely on the quality of her tattoos.  Although I shall never know her name I will always be grateful to her for helping to open my eyes and see that I had a long way to go in terms of accepting that fact that regardless of whether we are saints, sinners or somewhere in between, we all have a past and that no matter how bad our past may be, that it doesn’t always have to determine our future.

The Curator Challenge

Let me begin by apologizing for another extended absence.  I truly appreciate your patience and pledge to be more consistent moving forward.  I have many stories to share from recent travels.  Now, back to the business of beer.

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Earlier this year my good friend Ben (you remember Ben don’ t you?) and I were discussing dopplebocks.  As you probably know dopplebocks (or double bocks in English) are a fortified bock  beer first created by German monks to sustain them through their Lenten fast.  We talked about the merits of this brand and that and of how our American versions stack up again the German originals.  While I have tried many different ones over the years in the end there is Celebrator and then everyone else.  To my surprise Ben (who knows his dopplebocks) disagreed.

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“Have you tried Curator?”  I shook my head.   Not only had I not tried it,  I had never even heard of it before.  “Kirk, Celebrator is good but Curator tastes like heaven’s vagina”  (Did I fail to mention that Ben is given both to hyperbole and color metaphor?)  Once we both stopped laughing Ben pressed his point.  “Kirk, you need to try this beer!  In fact, if you try it and don’t agree with me that it is best dopplebock out there I’ll convert to Christianity!”  In terms of religion Ben walks the line between agnostic and atheist so needless to say this caught my attention.  We shook hands and called it a bet.

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With lots of work to do it took me sometime to actually track this beer down.  No bottle shop I visited had it, indeed most had never heard of it.  But finally I found it.  The weekend after Easter I was taking a much needed Sunday off from work and   was staying downtown with my lovely wife.  While walking around Olde City we wandered into Bierstube.  Knowing they were a German beer bar I immediately read through their bottle list and to my delight found my long sought after goal.

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The bartender (who knew her stuff) brought out the large bottle, popped the top and set it front of me next to an empty glass.  The first thing I noticed was how cold the bottle was.  She agreed with me that it would be far better to let it warm up.  I wanted not only to be fair to Ben but also to get the most out of it.  So in the meantime I enjoyed a half liter of happy hour special pilsner and conversation.  Once my mug was dry the hour of truth had finally arrived.

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WP_000038The color was quite dark, somewhere between brown and black.  The aroma was remarkable, rich and full of a huge range of malty overtones.  The beer itself was quite delicious.  However, I was immediately struck by the amount of fruit, especially plums and raisins, that seemed to be present.  Moreover, while it finished well, it was a bit sweeter and more cloying that I was quite expecting.  In fact Curator reminded me more of a good Belgian Quad than of the kind of thing I was looking for in a dopplebock.

Wanting to be sure that I had gotten a good bottle I asked our barkeep and she confirmed my perceptions as accurate.  To serve as proof, I snapped this picture with my phone (apologies for the poor quality) and texted Ben my conclusions.   While Curator is indeed a good beer, I’ll be sticking with my Celebrator whenever the dopplebock craving strikes.

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In fairness, once I told him that I respectfully disagreed Ben never protested.  We are still trying to get him booked into catechism classes but will keep you posted.  If you have ever tried Curator, Celebrator, or otherwise have a favorite dopplebock, please let us know.  Until next time….

Walking back into a bar….

Philly Beer Week is now upon us.  For those of you who aren’t familiar its a ten day festival celebrating all things craft beer.  You can meet brewers, get to sample special one-off brews and take part in so truly amazing and sometimes even insane events that cover beer trivia, music, dunk tanks and even seeing who can assemble Ikea furniture the fastest after down several pints in rapid succession.

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For the second year in a row I am pleased to be an official part of it.  On Monday, June 2nd  I will reunite with Rabbi Eli Freedman and Pastor Bryan Berghoef to present “A Rabbi, a Priest and a Minister Walk into a Bar…”    I hope you can join us as we share stories and perspectives on how we have found that beer is not simply permissible in religious life but in fact has sacred potential.  It all takes place at Fergie’s (1214 Sansom St) at 5 pm.  The event itself is free and beer is pay as you go.

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A shot of last year’s packed house at Fergie’s.

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On Thursday Rabbi Eli and I are honored to be part of a special event at Impact Hub Philly.   This Brew Ha Ha fundraiser will benefit their community kitchen and is designed to support food justice initiatives in the city as well as to provide a space for entrepreneurs to try their hand at food innovation.

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I hope to see you at these events and who knows, with so much good stuff going on this week there’s a good chance you might see me lots of other places too.  I’ll be the one in the collar.

And the winner is…. hungry people in Philadelphia

140510_biblical brew off_030On May 10th six brewers went head to head to answer the age old question… which religion makes the better beer.  The Biblical Brew Off brought together the beer clubs from St. Timothy’s and Congregation Rodeph Shalom as well as many others to settle the issue.

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Rodeph fielded JezebALE (a Poor Richard’s Porter), BEERsheba (an orange cardamom Hefeweizen) and Saison and Delilah (a classic Saison).

St. Tim’s fielded Job’s Stout (a mocha Stout), Barrabas Bitter (an ESB) and Abraham and Sara’s Saison (a four grain Saison).

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The four judges took nearly ninety minutes as they thoroughly evaluated each entry 140510_biblical brew off_022according to BJCB standards.

In the meantime the crowd gathered sampling the beer and feasting on BBQ.  They chatted with the brewers and looked at the awesome beer baskets at the silent auction.  But they too were judging the beers and registering their votes for the “People’s Choice” award.

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After reps from The Food Trust and North Light Community Center (the charities who would benefit from the event) told the crowd about their causes it came time to announce the winners.

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BEERsheba was the big winner of the People’s Choice.  Its brewer, Karenann, will get to go brew with Scott Morrison of Barren Hill Brewery.  We’ll report back on that once it happens.

 

When it came to team results St. Tim’s won with a very strong total score proving that 140510_biblical brew off_036although Moses was able to produce water from the rock, it was Jesus who took that water and turned it into wine.  Abraham and Sara’s took the high score with JezebALE close behind.

But the real winners were the two charities who will share the $1100 we raised.

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Of course not everything can be measured in terms of dollars or points.  Perhaps what matters most is that people from two different faiths (and no faiths at all when you count in some of our guests) managed to get together to share fellowship and to work together to help others in need.  While I have no doubt that we could have done with without beer, I also have no doubt that the beer made it a whole lot more fun.

For more pics from this awesome evening keep on scrolling!

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A Showdown of Biblical Proportions

Let me begin by apologizing for my absence. For parish clergy Holy Week and Easter are kind of like April 15th for accounts.  But I’m back now and really excited to announce our latest efforts to promote a creative connection between beer and spirituality.

As some of you know in the last couple of years I have developed a friendship with Rabbi Eli Freedman from Congregation Rodeph Shalom (a large Reformed synagogue in Philly).  We have worked together on the Rabbi, Priest and Minister Walk into a Bar presentations and  since then have gotten our congregations together to brew and share fellowship.

But now the time has come to throw down the gauntlet and see which congregation arm-wrestlemakes the better beer.  We are excited to announce the Biblical Brew Off.  Each congregation will brew 3 beers which will then be blindly judged by qualified judges according to BJCB standards.  The team with the highest total points from their 3 beers will be declared the winner.  There will also be a people’s choice- each person in attendance will get to vote for their single favorite beer.  That winner will then get to brew with Scott Morrison from Barren Hill Brewery.

But we will not simply be competing for bragging rights.  Each team will be competing for a charity- my parish of St. Tim’s will be competing for North Light Community Center and Rodeph Shalom will be competing for The Food Trust. The purse will be split with 2/3rd going to the winner’s charity and 1/3 to the other one- that way no one walks away with nothing.  We will also encourage donations and give someone from each charity a few minutes to talk about their mission.

It all takes place on May 10th at 6 pm at Rodeph Shalom (615 North Broad Street).  Tickets are only $30 and can be purchased by going to:

rodephshalom.org/men-rs-broad-street-interfaith-brew

That gets you unlimited samples of the different beers, BBQ from Deke’s (a local favorite) and a commemorative pint glass.

Stay tuned for more updates.  If you’re in the area we sure hope you will join us for what is sure to be memorable evening of friendly competition, food, fellowship and of course beer.  Best of all its all to benefit those who are hungry and in need.

Thanks to Brian Biggs (who drew the logo), Home Sweet Homebrew, Blue Stone Creative Group and to James Zeleniak of Punch Media for all of their support!

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