Pinewood Derby, Dark Tribe and Tigger

tigger_06176The guy in the Tigger suit walked up and down the street blowing a whistle.  As he went he  garnered high fives and was frequently stopped for selfies.   My own costume was not as elaborate and was mercifully much cooler than the plush fur the erstwhile Tigger had to endure.  However I received almost as many greetings.  Better yet I was offered more beers and with them invitations to stop and talk with the revelers.


Such was my annual pilgrimage at the Manayunk Bike Race this past June.   Each year bike raceI head out in my clericals with no other purpose than to mingle with the crowd.  Over the years the event has become a little less rowdy and, I am thankful to say, it is becoming easier to find decent beer at the average house party.  Above and beyond this I have to say that 2014 yielded some rather unique encounters.


The first started out in the usual way.  As I walked down Manayunk Avenue I was stopped by the perpetual question, “Are you really a priest?”  Yet my answer of, “Yes” generated an unusual reply.  On hearing that I was indeed clergy the young man grinned and said proudly, “Well I’m an atheist!”  His abashed friends scolded him, going so far as to smack him upside the head.  Yet I didn’t flinch or admonish as I am sure he hoped I would.  Instead I asked him what he believed in.  Enthusiastically he told me that he was, “Dark Tribe” which was a term I had never heard before.  So I asked him to explain.  I imagine the alcohol impacted his ability to explain this philosophy which seemed to be a combination of nihilism and anarchism (I am not sure how wide spread it actually is since there is no Wikipedia entry.  As best I can tell it has its origins in video games).  But his coherence, or lack of the same did not change the fact that this was an interesting and engaging start to my afternoon.  After chatting more with him and his friends I thanked them for the beer and went on my way.


My next stop took me off the race course down to meet friends at the Old Eagle.  The day featured a special appearance from Yards.  But there was more than just beer specials because they brought along their pinewood derby racing set.   After a while people got bored racing just the cars and started to construct their own racers out of hotdogs and who knows what else.  But what made the event even more enjoyable was the guys from the brewery who included some of the members of their own Yeast Factory band which plays at the now annual Band of Brewers event here in Philly.  It was a pleasant change to sip a cask pour of their IPA and discuss metal all the while enjoying the childhood pleasures of pine wood derby.


Bike Race 2Yet as much as I would have liked to while away my afternoon that was not strictly why I was out and about.  My job was to challenge, surprise and engage in the name of God.  As I hiked back up the race course, I chatted and waved until I had a conversation interrupted by a young woman who quizzed me about Hinduism.  She wanted to know what I knew about that religion.  When I confessed that I only knew a little she told me that she was Hindu and that I should go and learn more about it.  I asked her to explain to me what she thought I should know but she seemed to lose interest now that her confrontational mission had been accomplished.


It is hard to have these kind of encounters at church.  Yet what I found was that almost everyone I talked to, including the “Dark Tribe” guy and the Hindu gal was in fact willing to, or even longing to connect with the kind of meaning and purpose that comes as part of organized religion.  What we in the Church need to realize is that they are not going to come to us.  If we are going to connect with them we have to go to where they are.  Thank goodness I don’t have to dress like Tigger to do it.

Big News! We’re featured in All About Beer!

This is a special post to share some special news.  Food and beer writer Danya Henninger has been following the story of my collaborations with Rabbi Eli Freeman for a while now.  I am really excited to announce that she has gotten a piece published in All About Beer (one of the two major national magazines on the subject of our favorite beverage).  The issue is not yet online but it is at newsstands.  Below is picture (sent to me by Danya) of the article itself.


Check it out if you can and  let me know what you think.

The Joy of the Harvest

Making your own beer is one of the great joys in life.  Even if it never approaches the stuff you can buy, one’s own homebrew somehow always takes just a little better. Even a mediocre batch of homemade beer  with its slight funk still possesses that certain je ne sais qua that cannot be found anywhere else.


Yet  over the years I have found that this appreciation is magnified when you grow some of the ingredients yourself.  Now since most of us cannot grow, let alone malt the necessary amount of barely. nor do we keep and culture our own yeasts, the easiest way to do this is to grow your own hops.


For four years I have cultivated both Cascade and Centennial hops growing them on DSC_3220lines strung up the back of our church parish hall.  Although the first year yielded very little I am now getting two full harvests each year.  Of course while the vines are beautiful the only real use for them is brewing.  So when late August rolls around we have gotten into the habit of brewing a wet-hop or “harvest” beer.  One year we went so far as to collect and brew with  rain water from Hurricane Irene.


DSC_3225This year we decided to wait until we were actually brewing to go out and pick them.  So while the grains were steeping we went out to the garden to pick the flowers of aromatic, oily goodness.  It takes a surprising amount of hops to make the necessary weight  for the aroma stage and to have enough extra to dry hop the carboys.


DSC_3227While this beer has been consistently good I am under no illusions.  There are a lot of great wet-hopped beers out there.  Yet knowing that part of the beer came not from the supply store but as the fruit of my own labor makes our own beer taste that much better.


So what about you?  Do you grow your own hops?  If so, what variety?  How much use do you get out them?  Please let us know.

Beer Cocktails

I confess that I am rather skeptical when it comes to  beer based drinks.  Beer, be it a simple pilsner or a complex barrel aged stout, is best appreciated on its own.   Yet they seem to be growing in popularity.  From classic concoctions like the michelada to dreck like Bud Light’s Limearita and its ilk, there are many different cocktails out there that rely on beer for their flavor.  To date I have yet to find one I really liked, until this summer that is.


 That’s when I finally decided to try this recipe from Draft Magazine.  I find this magazine one of the best out there about beer since it includes more than just the usual assortment of brewer and style profiles, it also devotes many pages to food and recipes.  And so it was, not without some reluctance, that I decided to give this one a try.


I used a good resposado tequila and the same Cuvee Rene gueuze shown in the picture which I chose strictly because of the price point.  I sure didn’t want to use an expensive bottle only to find that I had wasted it on a dud recipe.  Given that there were only 4 ingredients it came together rather quickly.  One word of advice- don’t fill the shaker to the brim- the gueuze will foam up when you shake it!


The result was not just decent- it was excellent.  While it could never be mistaken from a traditional margarita the balance of flavors was wonderful.  Sour but just sweet enough it went down dangerously easy.


I liked it so much I have made it twice more using different gueuzes with equally good results.  In fact, I like it so much I plan to try my own variations using gose and Berliner Weisse beers instead of the gueuze.  The light sour, and in the case of the gose, the salt too, should stand in nicely.


The recipe and photos below come directly from the March/April 2014 issue.

How to: Make the ultimate beergarita

It doesn’t look like a bright yellow marg, but the flavors are dead-on, and the bubbles are a refreshing bonus! Here’s how to mix up a proper beer margarita:



2 ounces gueuze

1 ounce tequila

1 teaspoon agave nectar

squeeze of lime

A gueuze stands in for tart Triple Sec, and a little agave soothes the sour. Shake it up, salt your glass, pour over ice and serve.

To see the original article click here.


If you try it let us know how you like it!

No Room in the Trunk? No Problem!






When it comes to packing the car I am a master.  To me it is a challenge like a jigsaw puzzle… I love to try to get all the pieces put together in the most efficient way possible. As a result I can squeeze more bags into the small trunk of our Mazda 3 than anyone else I know and still manage to leave room to see out of the rear view mirror.  This skill comes in handy, not just in terms of packing for vacation, it is also useful to visiting breweries.

Two weeks ago I undertook my annual pilgrimage up to see family in Vermont and Rhode Island.  As you may know Vermont is particularly rich in great local beer, most of which cannot be found outside the state.  Many times I have come back with bottles squeezed into every available nook and cranny of the car.  Once I managed to pack in two cases of Heady Topper in addition to everything else.

Although I did not get to many breweries on this trip I still had more than 3 cases of beer to squeeze in amongst our bags.    Below is a list of the beers I brought back:

Berkshire: Czeck Pilsner and Lost Sailor IPA

Foolproof: Backdraft IPA, Raincloud Robust Porter

Grassroots: Arctic Saison (Hill Farmstead and Anchorage), Arctic Soiree (Hill                 Farmstead and Anchorage), Black Nitro (Hill Farmstead and Amager)

Longtrail: Imperial Pumpkin

Switchback: Extra Pale Ale

Wachusset: Larry Imperial IPA

Trinity: IPA

Mystic: Saison, Table Beer, Day of Doom

Woodstock: Double Pig’s Ear Double Down Brown Ale

Graysail: Flying Jenny EPA, Flagship

Newport: Storm IPA

If you’ve ever had any of them, let me know what you thought.  So how much beer have you managed to squeeze in the car?  Solo trips or with just a beer buddy don’t count.   No, I want to know how many bottles and growlers have you packed among all the kid’s luggage coming back from your road trip?  Let us know below.


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