What beer says “Christmas” to you?

homer shirtYears ago my kids got me this t-shirt.  I loved it so much that I have since worn it out so completely that it got retired to the cleaning rag pile.  Nevertheless it made an indelible link between Christmas and beer in my mind.

As of now Christmas is only a week away.  It is a busy and a hectic time for all of us, particularly for those of us in the God business.  Yet, in the midst of all the rushing around and frantically trying to get work done, I must confess that my mind has started to wander to the all important question of what beers will I enjoy on Christmas?

So where do we begin.  Well, I don’t usually go in for many “Christmas” beers per se, especially the ubiquitous notion that all one needs to do to in order to make it a “Christmas” beer is to throw a buttload of cinnamon and other spices in.  Of course there are exceptions- Sierra Nevada Celebration is a kickass IPA that I wish they made year round.  Corsendonk Christmas is very tasty and the 12 Beers of Christmas series from The Bruery (currently on Six Geese A Laying) is always inventive and interesting.

But truth be told none of these make the list of beers that I plan my Christmas celebrations around.

So here goes: For dinner on Christmas Eve I usually go with a Yorkshire Stingo.  Since I have mass a hour later I only have one.  From there it is no rest for the wicked until the last parishioners have left after  our “midnight” Mass (which like most everywhere else doesn’t start at midnight anymore).  But by the time I sit down in my living room it is about 12:45 on Christmas morning and I am looking to indulge in something luxurious.  I am planning on a 3 year old Dogfish Immort to pair with some gorgeous cheeses while I de-stress and chat with my lovely wife and a few friends followed by an Odin’s Tipple as a nightcap.

beer_santahatBut the real event comes later on Christmas Day.  Once I have officiated at Christmas morning services I promptly get back into my pj’s.  Once I have finished my second cup of coffee it is time to pop open the first of many tasty offerings for the day.  A two year old Rochefort 10 sounds like the way to start.  Next comes Bruton 10.  Then after we have brought some order to chaos of wrapping paper and boxes, I will choose a barrel aged Eclipse from 50/50 to wind down the day.

What about you?  What beery treasures will break out  to celebrate the day?  Let us know in the comments.  But whatever it may be, I hope you choose to enjoy some of the best you can best and that you get to share it with family and friends.

Stage Diving Elijah (with a little help from his friends)

Kirk Mowhawk 2

The “whole can of Aquanet” version of my mohawk.

The blood was starting to crust around my nose as the roadies changed the set.  The adrenaline high was wearing off as I surveyed the crowd.  My sense of self righteousness ebbed with it and instead of iconoclastic I found myself feeling a alone in a room full of strangers.  As you might have guessed this post continues the tale of  Elijah with a Mohawk.

Fortunately it wasn’t long till the headliner, the Dayglo Abortions, took to the stage.  With their straight ahead punk, the pit was not nearly as violent or intense as it had been with the previous bands.  Soon into the set the stage diving began.

Minutes later, there I was, perched on the edge of the stage, the music pounding and grating behind me… the crowd surging 6 feet below me. I was giddy and terrified and entirely unsure of what I would do next.

Before I tell you how I got there, let me explain what I was doing.   For those of you who are not familiar with the practice, stage diving is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  Someone climbs up on the stage and then leaps out into the crowd.  Of course it is all dependent upon what happens next, namely that the crowd will catch them. Thankfully this happens most of the time and one surfs the crowd before being lowered back to their feet.

Getting back to the story, when the set began I was up towards the front.  As the pit crashed about to my left, I noticed a group of skate punks trying to climb up on the stage so they could dive.  Because they were only fourteen or fifteen and pretty scrawny to boot, they were having some problems scaling the sheer face of the stage.  After watching their struggles for a while, I walked over, put my interlaced fingers down to form a step and motioned towards the stage.

It didn’t take long for them to accept the invitation.   One by one I flung them up onto the stage and one by one they gleefully hurled themselves out into the crowd.  By the time they had all made their way back to where we started, I noticed they were looking at me.  Two of them stooped down in front of me and offered their hands to help boost me up.

stage diving

I hesitated for a moment.  I had never done this before.  When it comes to stage diving, one’s size can be a serious liability.  Although I was about 25 pounds lighter than I am today, I was still hesitant.  Would the crowd actually catch me or would they spread out in fear and allow me to crash onto the concrete floor?

Then I felt the other two pushing me forward.  Cautiously I stepped up onto the hands and collectively they heaved me up.  And that’s how I came to be standing there in a blood soaked “Rebel for Jesus” shirt, looking out at the roiling crowd.

Just an hour before I had looked at the same crowd and seen the prophets of Baal.  Now I saw my new friends.  Then I had sought to defeat them all singlehandedly.  Now I was counting on them to save me from my own insanity.  I took a deep breath and drove.

Beer 101 or So this priest teaches a bunch of other priests and his bishop about the joy of craft brewing

photo (9)The room was full as I got up to talk about beer, God and the Church.  After similar events during Philly and DC Beer Week, this was all pretty normal.  It’s just that this time the crowd was not the usual array of beer geeks, spiritual seekers and assorted others that I am used to addressing.  Instead it was filled with Episcopal priests, deacons and yes, even our bishop.


Bishop Daniel sporting a very handsome Church Basement Brewery t-shirt.

We had gathered for our annual clergy conference and, as last year, I brought a sixtel of homebrew which the crowd enjoyed during the presentation.  Needless to say the focus of our conversation was a bit different.  Instead of starting with why beer and God are not at odds, this was more of an instructional session, explaining why a craft beer focused ministry can be meaningful and how to make it happen.

I won’t go into all the details of our discussion here.  Essentially I talked about how our beer club started, what we do, what resistance we met, what measures we take to ensure safety and legality and of course, the kind of wonderful opportunities that have opened to us because we were willing to put beer back in its rightful place… namely, as a wonderful part of God’s creation.  We even had two other priests share what they are doing with brewing their own beer and with pub based ministry.

But there is one particular point I want to share.  Namely, that in the end, it’s not really about beer at all.  That might seem an inconsistent if not sacrilegious claim, especially here.  But it’s true. Beer is just one expression of a larger cultural trend that the Church needs to understand and learn to incorporate.

The reason why craft beer is skyrocketing in popularity is because it is real.  It is creative, high quality and most importantly, authentic.  People got tired of mass produced, cheap and largely flavorless.  People were no longer satisfied with the same old beer.  They demanded something better and when they couldn’t buy it, they made it. This gave birth to an industry that has grown exponentially for decades.  It established a subculture that reflects the same values of other growing cultural trends such as the localvore, slow food and DIY movements.

WP_000025Craft beer is simply one expression of those real and more important values that the Church needs to reconnect with.   But it doesn’t have to be beer.  It could just as easily be organic gardening, cheese making or baking.  It could be knitting or canning or quilting.  It doesn’t really matter so long as it reflects those core values quality and authenticity.

If the Church can find a way to do foster these kinds of ministries and activities, it will not only strengthen fellowship between our members, more importantly it will create credible way for us to connect with the community outside our walls.