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!

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.


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.

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

Introducing Team Eve!

We’re just two weeks out from the Biblical Brew Off. Team Moses and Team Jesus are all tied up going into this third year of competition. Just when things seemed set for the showdown a wildcard appeared.  Both Rodeph Shalom and St Tim’s count many women among the beer geeks at our congregations.  No longer content to leave the brewing to the guys, they joined forces to form Team Eve.


In early April, under the expert guidance of Nancy Rigberg, they gathered at St. Tim’s to brew a saison, the name of which is so secret that even yours truly doesn’t know it yet.



Not only will their presence liven up the competition, it is fully in keeping with the ancient tradition that brewing was solely a feminine art.  Even today among some of the indigenous peoples, it is women along who brew the chicha since it is common knowledge even allowing a man to walk into the brew house will spoil the beer.

A big thank you to Nancy for her expertise and to Brian Biggs for creating the logo.

The only way to taste their beer is to join us at the Brew Off on May 7th at Rodeph Shalom.  Advance tickets are just $25 ($35 at the door).  Click here to get yours now!

SUSAN stirring the wort Removing Flavors NANCY LAUREL combining flavors JESSICA stirring in malt JEANNE cooling


Saints of the Suds: Katharina von Bora

It’s been a long time since I wrote about one of the great holy women or men who had an association with beer.  Today a new one was brought to my attention and so I couldn’t wait to share her with you.kathvonbora         

Of course most of us know that the great reformer and theologian Martin Luther also had a great love of beer.  He once jokingly wrote that, “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!” But, did you know that his favorite beer was brewed not by some monastery or town brewery but by his wife, Katharina von Bora?

Lutheran friends may already be familiar with her since her “saint” day is December 20th and thus is fast approaching.  A little quick research revealed that she was in fact an incredible woman who well deserves to be more broadly known and admired.  Katharina became a nun early.  After becoming enamored of the Reform movement and fleeing the  convent, she turned down a number of other suitors before surprising everyone and marrying the older Luther.


The Luthers lived in the Black Cloister, the former home of the Augustinian monks in Wittenberg. Katharina supported her family by gardening, making wine, raising livestock, and through use of the monastery’s right to brew, made some mean beer. She was a force to be reckoned with rising at 4 am in the summer and 5 am in the winter to oversee the workings of their large home and farm. Luther and Katharina had six children and adopted eleven more. At any given time, university students, refugees and homeless relatives lived with them.

Katharina’s prowess was not lost on Luther who showed her great respect.  He is reputed to have said, “In domestic affairs, I defer to Katie. Otherwise I am led by the Holy Ghost.” and, “At home I have good wine and beer and a beautiful wife, or (shall I say) lord.”             

6cfaf4f989610f44d77da60cbf22dc3b_320x320Katharina’s importance has not been entirely overlooked.  She has graced a postage stamp and had Danish brewery name a beer in her honor.  So, please join me in raising a pint or, more appropriately, ein maß (mass), to Katharina von Bora.  Prost!

Breaking The Christmas Seal

downloadI normally observe and enforce a strict moratorium on all things Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving.  That means no Christmas music or decorations of any kind.  Normally it would also apply to Christmas beers as well.  But today I will make an exception.  That’s because today Gingerbread Jesus 2015 goes on tap.

It was a lot of fun coming up with the concept, but it has been even more fun making it.  This year we kept the same basic Belgian Dubbel base but doubled the amount of fresh ginger and made sure we used whole cinnamon and fresh nutmeg. But never fear- based on a taste a few weeks ago, the spices do not overwhelm the beer.  Last year everyone agreed that the ginger was too subtle so we hope this helps make this already wonderful beer even better. It goes on tap today at Barren Hill Tavern.  The official launch party with Christmas Carols will be next Friday, December 4th and will include a keg of last year’s GBJ and a firkin of Gingerbread Jesús- which will be enhanced with cacao and ancho chilies.  Hope to raise a toast with you there.

gingerbread jesus

In the meantime I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Gingerbread Jesus is Back

Making beer is hard work.  Period.  End of discussion.  Homebrewing is a good way to begin to learn this lesson.  It teaches us about measuring and quality control and after a while we start to understand that making beer, especially good beer, takes a lot of time, focus and dedication.  But industrial brewing, even at a small scale, is a far better teacher.

I was privileged to be invited back into this classroom last week when I returned to IMAG00667Barren Hill Tavern to again lend a hand in making Gingerbread Jesus. One of the first lessons of the day was that sometimes, not everything goes as planned.  We found this out upon walking in the door to discover brewmaster Dave Wood struggling with the grain mill.  For some reason not all the rollers would spin which meant we couldn’t crack the barley.  And, if you can’t crack the barely you can’t brew beer.  After an hour or so of taking the machine apart, making small adjustments and putting it back together again about 3 times we finally were ready to mill the grain.

This is where we got the experience the physical part of brewing first hand.  Hauling and lifting 50 pound sacks of grain and then hauling and lifting the tubs that held the cracked grain into position.IMAG00669 IMAG00671

Once added all that grain has to be carefully worked in so that is thoroughly wet.  The IMAG00674all steel paddle used for this purpose looked kind of like a canoe oar but could also have been the sort of thing you’d see in the hands of a Klingon warrior.  Moving it through a thick slurry of wet grain is no easy feat.  Dave made it look easy but when I took my turn I found it was a whole lot harder than it looked.  It’s not brutal work but it does teach you that brewing is a very physical art form.

After we finished mashing in it was time for a coffee break.  Which leads to another reality of brewing that few non-brewers actually get… namely there is a lot of waiting.  In professional facilities they definitely find ways to make use of that down time.  There is no end to cleaning, checking things like gravity and ph, and generally doing whatever else you can to make sure the equipment is ready to make the next batch.



After a while we moved things over to the boil which meant we could clean out the mash tun.  600 pounds of dry grain doubles in weight which meant there was a lot of scooping into plastic trash can and then dragging said heavy cans outside so they could be picked up by a local pig farmer.  This marked the end of the strenuous activity but hardly the end of the work.


Hops had to be added and then later the spices.  Since we were working to perfect last year’s recipe this meant doubling the amount of fresh ginger but otherwise we kept the balance of cinnamon and the nutmeg about the same.

All told the process took more than eight hours.  I’m grateful to Dave and Erin not just for making this crazy idea happen again, but also for opening the brewhouse so that I and other members of the church beer club could get hands on experience and deepen our understanding of how beer gets made.

Look for more updates on Gingerbread Jesus and the launch party with Christmas Carols very soon.

It’s Team Jesus vs Team Moses. The Biblical Brew Off is Back!

In what we hope will be bigger and better than ever.  For the second time homebrew teams from Saint Timothy’s Episcopal Church and Congregation Rodeph Shalom will be laying it all on the line to see which faith makes the better beer.  Team Moses will be putting up three of their best in the rematch in hopes taking the title away from Team Jesus in the 2nd Annual Biblical Brew Off.     arm-wrestle

If you’re not familiar with the event from last year, each congregation will brew 3 beers which will then be blindly evaluated by experienced 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 one favorite beer. 140510_biblical brew off_030

But we will not simply be competing for bragging rights.  Every penny above our actual expenses will go to charity.  Team Jesus will be competing for North Light Community Center while Team Moses will be competing for Jews in All Hues. The purse will be split with 2/3rd going to the winner’s charity and 1/3 to the other – that way everyone walks away a winner.  Of course we encourage donations and will give someone from each charity a few minutes to talk about their mission.

This year promises to be bigger and better than ever since it will be part of Philly Beer Week.   Join us on May 30th at 7pm at Rodeph Shalom (615 North Broad Street).  Tickets are only $35 ($40 at the door) and can be purchased here.  That gets you unlimited samples of the different beers, BBQ from Deke’s (a local favorite) and a commemorative pint glass. Best of all its all to benefit local people in need and those who struggle to fit in.


Big thanks to our judges (Nancy Rigberg, Danya Henniger and George Hummel)  Brian Biggs (who drew the logo), Home Sweet Homebrew, Michael Mafodda of Blue Stone Creative Group who got us the glasses and shirts, Erin Wallace and Barren Hill for donating the People’s Choice prize and to James Zelniak of Punch Media for all of their support!