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….