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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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:

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!

BibBrew-Off v2

“You should listen to Creed.” or Is there any point to “Christian” Rock?

My friend Ben loves Slayer.  He loves to tell the story of an encounter he had at an Ozzfest when he wore one of their shirts that read, “Jesus Slaves.”  For most of the crowd the shirt didn’t even register a blip.  But one other concert-goer took great offence.  He approached Ben and with an air of disbelief asked him if the shirt was “real?”  Apparently this young man could not believe that someone would actually wear something so blasphemous. Now Ben is not the most patient man but he still took the time to try and explain that yes, it was indeed a “real” shirt.  Dumbfounded and apparently lost for a response the young man sputtered, “You should listen to Creed.”

Setting aside the stylistic gulf between “Arms Wide Open” and “Raining Blood” it would seem that young man was trying to help Ben by suggesting a “Christian” alternative to Slayer.

As someone who once burned my secular records and listened only to “Christian” rock for a time I have to say that get it.  I really do.  But having been there and done that I am now left questioning the whole enterprise.

south-park-s07e09c08-christ-fest-16x9When you dig deeper what you find is that there is not very much to it.  While there are notable exceptions many of the acts are usually pale imitations of their secular counterparts.  An episode of South Park, “Christian Hard Rock” kind of nails the dynamic I am trying to describe.

That’s because the “Christian” Music industry is just that, an industry.   They have their own rules and policies and if artists do not conform they will suffer the consequences.  One need look no further than the recent furor over World Vision and their hiring policy to find evidence of that point.

But even if we set aside the issues of inferior product and an industry that often fails toVengeance Rising - Human Sacrifice - Front 01 live up to the standards they supposedly profess there are even more disturbing issues that need to be acknowledged.  Take for example the thrash metal band, “Vengeance Rising” who according to Campus Life magazine made, “Stryper sound like Sandi Patti.” Consistent with their style they gravitate towards very violent lyrics.  My favorite is the song “Beheaded” from the album “Human Sacrifice.”  Set during the apocalypse when Christians will be called to renounce their faith under pain of death, the chorus runs as follows,

“I want my head chopped off.  You’ll see my body rot. 

And then I’ll reign with Christ.  And then you’ll fry!”

While willingness to die for your faith can be an incredible virtue,  rejoicing that your captors will go to hell to be tortured for eternity is not a terribly Christian sentiment.  Interestingly enough when the band split in the early 90’s the lead singer split and abandoned his faith releasing several very anti-Christian albums under the same name.  He also publically reviled the Christian Music Industry for some of the same issues cited above.

CapaBut perhaps the greatest head scratcher of all is the subgenre of Christian “Black” Metal.  Also called “un-black” or “white” metal, these bands copy the music and look of some of the most Satanic bands out there.

The most over the top example maybe the band Horde who’s album Hellig Usvart  resulted in death threats from some black metal bands.  The album boasts the following song titles,


  1.  “A Church Bell Tolls Amidst the Frozen Nordic Winds”
  2.  “Blasphemous Abomination of the Satanic Pentagram”
  3.  “Behold, the Rising of the Scarlet Moon”
  4.  “Thine Hour Hast Come”
  5.  “Release and Clothe the Virgin Sacrifice”
  6.  “Drink From the Chalice of Blood”
  7.  “Silence the Blasphemous Chanting”
  8.  “Invert the Inverted Cross”
  9.  “An Abandoned Grave Bathes Softly in the Falling Moonlight”
  10. “Crush the Bloodied Horns of the Goat”
  11. “Weak, Feeble, and Dying Anti-Christ”
  12. “The Day of Total Armageddon Holocaust”
  13. “My Heart Doth Beseech Thee (O Master)” 

“Release and Clothe the Virgin Sacrifice”?  Really?  The track listings are so absurd as to appear to be an Onion-esque parody as opposed to a serious album.  While I actually like the track in question musically I am left wondering if it all only goes to prove South Park’s point.  You can keep the violent lyrics and corpse paint and still call yourself Christian.  All you have to do is cross out Satan and write in Jesus’ name instead.

In the end I can’t help but wonder how much richer our collective soundscape would be if bands stopped trying to figure out how they can take the square peg of the music that they love and somehow pound it into the round hole that is the imagined (or otherwise) standards proscribed by their faith and instead just bloody well focused on their music.  Or to put it another way, I think all of us would be better off if “Christian” bands spent less time worrying about how to measure up to the “Christian” part and instead focused on being the best band they can be.

Look, if faith plays a role in your life and you want to make that part of your music, more power to you.  But unless the rock and roll comes first both the music and the message will be compromised.

I think even my friend Ben could agree with that.


Christians Against Slipknot?

I am sure that last week you spent your St. Patrick’s Day doing what I was doing… no not drinking green beer, but frantically trolling the net to find out more about the announcement that Alysia White Gluz had taken up the reigns as the new lead singer of Arch Enemy.  Ok so maybe you found other pursuits like watching paint dry or figuring out what green clothing you were going to don that day.  So in case you missed it here’s the skinny: Angela Gossow had stepped away from the stage into the role of manager and White Gluz left The Agonist to front AE.  A link to their first single (War Eternal) in this new configuration can be found here.

Anyway the news left me truly bummed.  But rather than wallow in my sorrows or make up my mind that I simply would never like AE with White Gluz I went and did some digging to find about more about her.  I checked out some Agonist videos and then started reading her official FB page.   When I got to something she posted on  February 8th I stopped cold.

1891045_780701455290794_338218905_nShe had reposted something from a FB group called “Christians Against Slipknot” which claimed that metal will destroy families and pollute children’s mind.  White Glutz  posted it with the comment, “Please tell me this is a joke.”

Unable to resist the urge I did some digging.  The page is a series of pictures and post that rail against the dangers of heavy metal.  Based on what I read one can infer that listening to heavy metal will cause you to become an unemployed, murdering, Satan-worshipper.  In fact very few of the posts had anything to do with Slipknot per se.

Their posts were so absurd (for example on March 18th they picture a picture of Mick 1904241_786499021377704_1016754413_nHucknall of Simply Red and claimed that his devotion to demonic heavy metal caused his somewhat troll-like appearance) that at first I thought it might be a parody (Simply Red- metal?  If you say so.).  Yet the mission statement and explanations are so extensive that I had to conclude that  unfortunately the page is entirely serious.

My point is not bring more attention to a seriously deluded group of people but rather to ask the question, why in the world do so many Christians still have a problem with rock and roll, particularly when it gets heavy and loud?

It’s not like this is a new issue.  Any music that made people want to dance or have fun has suffered the condemnation of people claiming to act in the name of God.  So why can’t we Christians wrap our heads around the idea that just because something is new, or if we just don’t “get it”, doesn’t therefore mean that it is therefore automatically bad.

images (1)I get that most metal acts try to generate a dark and menacing image.  Some go to great lengths to create an association with evil.  Yet it is the widely accepted fact that in the vast majority of cases all the corpse paint and pentagrams are simply part of the act.  There are a few exceptions like Deicide and Deathspell Omega who leave no room for doubt that their image and lyrics also reflect deeply held personal beliefs.

But even in those rare cases when you are dealing with the proverbial true believers it only begs the question of what purpose does “protesting” such bands actually serve?

In reality it only brings more attention.  As a parent I know that the surest way to get your kid to think something is cool or interesting is to repeatedly condemn it.  I can recall from my own experience as a teenager who specialized in trying to shock my parents that nothing could  make a band cooler than knowing that their name, album art or lyrics was going to give my mother a heart attack.

So why do some Christians keep banging their heads against a wall instead of just accepting that some people just want to bang their heads?  I don’t really know for sure, but I am quite sure that Jesus is probably more concerned with issues like poverty, starvation, war and preventable disease than he is with Slipknot.

“…a godly, righteous and sober life”

Fr. Kirk:

So now that we are deep in the midst of the penitential season of Lent I realized that several folks have asked me if I was again giving up alcohol. I am not, at least not this year. Instead this Lent I have chosen to focus not on giving up a pleasure but on using that spiritual energy and discipline to try and do something positive each day.
Yet last week as I knelt on the cold stone floor of the church and lead the people in confession this post (and the experience that inspired it) came to mind.
I hope you enjoy it!

Originally posted on So This Priest Walks Into a Bar...:

It was the morning after attending the 2nd Annual Philly Craft Beer Festival.  As I knelt on the cold tile of the church floor and said these words (which come at the end of our confession of sin) I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony.  There I was at 8:05 am, still slightly green around the gills from many hours of sampling craft beer the day before, and I was praying that God would inspire me and help me to lead a “sober” life.  Did I really mean what I was praying for?  How does one define a “sober” life?  This got me to thinking about what it means to find an honest balance between one’s spirituality and one’s love of beer (or wine or scotch or whatever your drink of choice may be).

The answer is not nearly as poetic as the circumstances that inspired…

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