Mosh Pit: 1 Medial Meniscus: 0

“Did you go in the pit?”  My wife’s frown made it clear that this was no casual question.  She didn’t really need to ask.  I limped very slowly down the stairs, leaning on the bannister.  As I collapsed into a chair, exhausted and in pain, one question kept running through my mind, “If only…”

“If only…” How many times have you asked yourself that same question?  If only I had ordered chicken instead of fish.  If only I had zigged instead of zagged.  That morning the question concluded with the words, “If only I had gone to see Ruby the Hatchet instead of Alestorm.”

It was one of those rare occasions in which I had to decide between two concerts.  It’s rare enough that I have the time and energy to go at all.  Now I faced an embarrassment of riches.  Behind Door #1 was Ruby the Hatchet, my favorite slinger of stoner-doom-occult rock that’s straight out of 1972.  Door #2 was a wildcard.  Alestorm is unique, being, as far as I know, the only Scottish-pirate-metal band in the world.  Plus their tour mates, Nekrogoblikon, a melo-death act out of LA sporting a guy in a goblin costume, were pretty unusual themselves.

Perhaps you can imagine (then again, maybe you can’t) just how vexing a choice this was. What tipped the scales in favor of Alestorm was the fact that good friends were also going .  If I went to see Ruby, I would be flying solo.  Not the end of the world, but it’s always more fun to go with friends.

The Voltage Lounge (formerly Whisky Dick’s) was dark, filthy and cramped… in short, everything you want in a venue for this kind of show.  The all-ages crowd was remarkably diverse and included the usual motley assortment of denim, leather and obscure metal t-shirts.  But there was also a dude sporting an old school Mohawk, people in pirate and Viking garb, a few black metalers and a surprisingly large proportion of women.

Appropriate disposal of a PBR in the men's room at Voltage Lounge

Appropriate disposal of a PBR in the men’s room at Voltage Lounge

The first two bands were local acts whose surprisingly good chops were obscured by bad sound work.  There was a small pit going but nothing exciting enough to entice me, especially because I was still feeling right knee injury from a Gogol Bordello show in the spring.  I was happy watching from the balcony and resolved to take it easy.

Aether Realm took the stage and my friend Ben (remember Ben), who was already pumped from a round down in the pit, headed back.

I don’t have a rational explanation as to why I followed.  Maybe it was testosterone.  Maybe it was the Fatheads Headhunter IPA I just finished.  Whatever the cause, my better judgment checked out for the night.

By and large the pit was extremely energetic but good natured.  One standout was a young woman who didn’t just make a cursory pass through the pit but hung with the big boys most of the night.  In between songs I shouted to her, “You rock!”  She turned to me, gave me the finger, screamed, “Fuck you!” then immediately broke out into a grin and high-fived me.  But highlight of the evening had to the stage diving.

I haven’t been to a show where stage diving was allowed in more than twenty years.  But during Nekrogoblikon’s set people would surf up, dance on stage or even join in the singing, before hurling themselves onto the hands of the crowd.  It was so much fun that John Goblikon got into the act, jumping off the stage and surfing to the back of the crowd before making the return journey.

v__d0a1

When Alestorm finally took the stage things reached an even more frenzied pitch.  By that point I was not only winded but beginning to feel that my knee was worse for the wear.  Again, logic would have dictated a hasty retreat to a safer distance.  Yet I stayed.

It would be tempting to say “The beer made me do it.”  The only problem with this is that I had only two at the show and had been drinking only water for the last hour.  So I truly have no alibi.

x

Halfway through the set I was done.  Looking across at Ben I could see he was fading too.  By the last couple of songs the whole pit was barely bumping into one another.

As I hobbled very slowly back to the car I knew something was seriously wrong.  But for now there wasn’t much to do about it.  It was 1 am and all I wanted was a big glass of cold water, a hot shower, a handful of Advil and bed.

This brings us back to the beginning of our tale and my well-deserved spousal admonishment.  Fast forward through several trips to the orthopedic surgeon, some MRI’s, large needles draining pale yellow fluid from my knee, cortisone shots, a brace, a cane and a bottle of Advil and here we are.

As I suspected, the medial meniscus is shot If you don’t know what a meniscus is, that’s not surprising.  In simplest terms the meniscus is the rubbery knee cartilage that cushions the shinbone from the thighbone.  It can tear from being forcefully torqued which happened plenty in the pit.  Since I tore the meniscus of my left knee eight years prior, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m in for.  For the next three weeks I’ll be hobbled and have to take it easy.  Then comes the arthroscopic surgery.  The jagged edge of the tear will be trimmed and all the loose cartilage pieces floating around in my knee get suctioned out.

meniscustearmri

Recovery isn’t too bad.  Walking cast for a day or two and some pain meds.  Then it’s just a matter of carefully working my way back.  More brace, more cane, more taking it easy.  Lord willing I’ll be back to 100% before Christmas which isn’t too bad.

But the real point of this cautionary tale is not so much the what, as the why?  Why did I go in that pit when I knew there was a real likelihood that I would get hurt?  It’s not the first time I have asked this question.  I’m not sure I can explain it but I am sure that at least part of it has to do with trying to deny the fact that I am getting older.  At 47 I can tell you my body just ain’t what it used to be.  Although I exercise regularly and eat a more healthy diet than I have ever before, the plain facts are that my joints ache and it takes me much longer to recover from a strenuous workout or injury.

So why do I continue to attempt such age-defying stunts when I know that there will only be an ever-increasing price to pay the next day?  If I ever discover the answer, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, if you have ever done something stupid and found yourself asking “If only…”, please share your stories and, if you have any, insights as to why.

Granddaddy’s Growler

We were cleaning out my grandmother’s house and figuring out which knickknacks we’d hold onto.  I’d set aside a few things when my wife held up this oddly shaped tin pail.  It was vague familiar.  She asked what it was.  My mother told us it was a  “cherry-picking pail.” Whatever it was, my wife liked it.

Flash forward a decade.  A colleague brought in a similar looking tin pail with a lid.  She brought it in because she had just discovered that it was her grandfather’s growler and she thought I’d like to see it.

growler

My colleague’s growler

In the intervening years I had indeed learned that the mostly glass growlers that I used to bring draft beer home had stated out as simple galvanized or enameled metal pails.  As the realization dawned I ran next door to my house to pull the “cherry-picking pail” off the dusty shelf of its exile.

While the shape and size varied slightly from hers, the material and apparent age were the same.  This odd pail was not for cherries at all- it was for beer!

imag01966

The “cherry picking pail” that turned out to a growler

Given the fact that mine narrows at the neck this makes much more sense.  For gathering cherries or anything else that you’d be tossing into a container, said container should have a wider, not narrower opening.  Moreover, my grandmother was decidedly anti-booze and a member of the WCTU, which gave her motive to disguise the boozy past of this heirloom.

While it’s safe to say I won’t be taking this to the local bar or brewery for a fill up, I am glad to had this piece of family history to my growler collection.

As to the full history of growlers there is much agreement but also some debate, particularly as to the origins of the name.  If you want to learn more you can do like the old after school specials would say and “Consult your local library” or just click on this link, or this one or this one.

So do you have any beer related heirlooms in your family?  Please share your stories and pics.

Beer Week, The Brew Off and other Successful Shenanigans

The last six weeks have been exceptionally busy.  I’m pleased to report that all our endeavors were successful both in terms of fun and funds raised.

All Teams

All the brewers and brewsters at the end of the night

The 3rd installment of the Biblical Brew Off saw our biggest crowd yet.  There is no doubt that the women of Team Eve helped to bring many of their own fans which swelled the crowd.  Those present got to sample the seven brews, dine on BBQ and bid on the silent auction while team of judges (Theresa Conroy, Danya Henninger, George Hummel and special guest Jay Brooks) ranked the offerings.

Team Jesus took back the crown but Team Eve took the People’s Choice with their Saison d’Eve.  But the real winners were the charities who split an all-time high of over $2700.

IMAG01353 IMAG01349 DSC07380

IMAG01386Beer Week was just as fruitful.  Sarah Weissiger joined Rabbi Eli and myself at Fergie’s for the latest iteration of A Priest, a Minister and a Rabbi Walk into a Bar.  Sarah’s knowledge and humor blended perfectly.  Together we shared our thoughts and mused theological.  The crowd was wonderful and posed heartfelt questions.

13331092_1291803494182386_1811649086735608448_n IMAG01380

A few days later I took my first turn working behind the bar at the Old Eagle Tavern.  Lew Bryson and I poured beers for a big crowd some of whom were regulars but many of whom came out to support us and the good work of North Light Community Center.

13339663_1069972963083602_3446761183106370189_n

Note which side of the bar Lew Bryson is on and which side I was on. Thanks Nancy Rigberg for the pic!

I have to say that it’s a lot harder than it looks.  Thankfully Ryan (the regular barkeep) was a good teacher and the patrons were patient (although I was occasionally heckled for being too slow).  Between keeping orders straight in my head and dealing with foamy taps, I was ready for a beer myself by the time it was all over.  All told we raised $275 in tips and Erin kicked in another $200 from the house’s take which meant that North Light Community Center got $475!

13412909_10209855694532727_2382110223510416420_n

I know- I on the wrong side of the bar yet again but trust me I really did work hard and pour a lot of beers.

The money we raised for charity is great but what is even more important about these events is that they bring people, who otherwise might never meet, together in a way that fosters conversation and helps build common bonds.  There is real power in coming together over a beer and I am truly grateful to have friends that help me harness that power in new and creative ways.

Look out! It’s Philly Beer Week!

philly-beer-week-logo-2016Beer Week 2016 is just hours away.  As usual I won’t be able to make nearly as many events as I would like.  This is particularly true since this year we’ll be away at our 25th college reunion for the latter half of PBW.

But of course one must have their priorities. You can find me at the following:

 

A Rabbi, a Priest and a Minister Walk into a Bar                                                            Sunday, June 5th at Fergie’s (1214 Sansom St) starting at 8 pm.

Join Rabbi Eli, Pastor Sarah and yours truly as we talk about the surprising intersection of beer and faith. Bring your questions, sense of humor and a thirst to learn more about the ways in which God and beer interact to make our lives both more meaningful and enjoyable.  Event is PAYG

 

Extreme Homebrew Challenge                                                                              Monday, June 6th starting at 7 pm Jose Pistolas (263 S. 15th Street).

A staple of PBW this is the brainchild of George Hummel and Nancy Rigberg of Home Sweet Homebrew.  Some of the area’s best homebrewers put on their thinking caps and get a little crazy.  A few years ago someone thought it would be a good idea if I helped judge and I’m honored to continue to do so.  Tickets online or at the door.

 

Holy Beers with Father Kirk                                                                                         June 7th at the Old Eagle Tavern (177 Markle Street in Manayunk)

From 6 till 10 pm I’ll be guest bartending alongside my friend, fellow philanthropist and man of faith, Lew Bryson.

Erin from the Eagle has put together a very special list of beers guaranteed to give you a religious experience.  It includes the debut of “Old Fashion Gingerbread Jesus” which is a whiskey barrel aged version of the Christmastime favorite.

Other drafts include:
Mispilion Holy Crap
Mispilion Not Today Satan
Lost Abbey Devotion
Original Sin Cider
Avery Salvation

But best of all, all of our tips will stay in Manayunk and go to support  the important work of Northlight Community Center.  So come on out, let me pour you a beer and be a generous tipper!  Event is PAYG

So there you go.  Not a full week but a fun one.  Hope to see you out there and have a safe and happy PBW!

Help Wanted

So a priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar….

It’s the start of many jokes and for the last three years has also been the title of our informal symposium on beer and faith.  We had every intention of bringing it back to Philly Beer Week this year but then we found  out that our compatriot and the minister in the equation, Bryan Berghoef, will be away on a pilgrimage to Iona.

Once Rabbi Eli Freedman and I got done calling him names behind his back, we set our minds to trying to find another person to take his place.  For a while it looked like we had someone lined up but unfortunately they will be away for Beer Week.

And so we turn to you, our friends and kindred spirits.  We’d love for one of you to join us this year at Fergie’s Pub as we wax poetic about beer, God and faith and the ways in which they all tie together.

Of course we have some standards.

To make sure we don’t wind up like the Mystery Men, here is what we are looking for.

The ideal candidate will:

#1 Be a person of faith

#2 Have extensive knowledge about their faith and its history

#3 Be comfortable talking to a crowd and taking questions

#4 Have a sense of humor

#5 Live in the Philly Metro area

#6 Be free on the afternoon of Sunday, June 5th

#7 Love beer (duh)

In order to broaden our perspectives special consideration will be shown to those outside the Judeo-Christian tradition and to women.

If you’re interested in exploring this further please contact me through the blog or Facebook.  We hope to hear from you!

 

The Biblical Brew Off is Back!

Team Moses and Team Jesus are back and facing off once again to see which congregation’s beer reigns supreme.  But this year they also have to reckon with the women of the newly formed Team Eve. As before, each entry will be blindly evaluated by qualified judges according to BJCP standards. The team with the highest average score will be declared the winner.  There will also be a people’s choice- each person in attendance will get to vote for their one favorite beer.

BibBrew-Off 2016 (2)

But this is not just about bragging rights.  Each team will be competing for a charity.  Representing my parish of St. Tim’s, Team Jesus will be competing for North Light Community Center.  Team Moses from Rodeph Shalom will be competing for HAIS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). And Team Eve, made up of women from both congregations, will be competing for the Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network.  The purse will be split with 50% going to the winner’s charity and 30% to second place and the remaining 20% to third.  That way none of these worthy causes will walk away empty handed.

It all takes place this coming Saturday, May 7th at Rodeph Shalom (615 North Broad Street).  Doors open at 7 pm.  Advance tickets are only $25 and can be purchased here. That gets you unlimited samples of the different beers, BBQ from Deke’s and a commemorative pint glass. We’ll also have custom growlers, t-shirts for each team and amazing baskets filled with beer and other goodies to bid on in a silent auction.

IMAG01326

The only way to win this basket filled with rare beers from Vermont is to come to the Brew Off!

We 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, every penny we net goes to benefit those who are homeless, hungry and who have had to flee from war and persecution.

140510_biblical brew off_008

Thanks to Brian Biggs (who draws the logos) and Home Sweet Homebrew for all their support!

Band of Brewers

As most of you know I’m a beer lover from Philly.  That makes me pretty darn lucky because there are lots of great things about Philly… neighborhoods, museums and food, the Rocky statue, the Liberty Bell and the only place where you can enjoy a nice frosty serving of “wooder” ice.

There are also many great things about the local beer scene.  We have the nation’s first and best Beer Week, we were the first city in the USA to import and promote Belgians and by and large, even though we have a ton of great breweries and bars, there is a wonderful sense of camaraderie in the industry.

If you needed proof of why this is such an awesome place for a beer lover to live, you need look no further than the annual Band of Brewers.  The concept is simple.  A bunch of local breweries each put together a band and perform three songs. The performance is judged and at the end of the show a winner is crowned.  Better yet the whole thing is put together for charity.

So, even though this is the sixth year, it was my the first time I was able to make it (doesn’t Mat Falco know I work on Sunday?).  I was excited to say the least but by the time I got there two bands had already performed.  Fortunately there was still plenty of music to come.  I caught up with friends and sipped on local brews while listening to some surprisingly talented musicians.

When Stainless Maiden took the stage I had no idea what to expect, apart of course from presumably being an Iron Maiden tribute that is.  Heck, I had never even heard of Broken Goblet Brewing before.

IMAG00947

It didn’t take them long to make an impression.  The moment the singer took the stage with his beer gut and faux six pack abs, I was amused.  The music didn’t disappoint either, pumping out solid covers of Number of the Beast, Run for the Hills and, get this, The Brewer, which as you will have surmised, was The Trooper with beer-centric lyrics.

IMAG00962 IMAG00953

By the time the giant Eddie took the stage for the finale, they had the crowd in the palm of their hands.  To no one’s surprise they were crowned the champs.  You can see a whole lot more pics taken by a whole lot better photographers here.

IMAG00964

So move over Liberty Bell, you better make room for yet another reason why this not just a great city, but a great city to be a beer lover.