Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
I appreciate the art of craft brewing. I
enjoy tasting craft beers, and talking with the people who brew
them. There are many different kinds of beer, and each has its own
distinct flavor. Each craft brew has a story, and I am on a craft
brewery pilgrimage to listen to as many of the stories as I can.
Some of the stories are about how the beers
came to be. Some are about how people began brewing, and why they
continue. Some of the stories are about the people I meet along the
way, friends and fellow pilgrims.
I first met Bryan Berghoef through his books.
The first time I saw the cover of Pub Theology, I knew it was a book
I wanted to read. Our connection has grown and deepened since then.
As a pastor in Michigan, Bryan began Pub
Theology about five years ago. It has continued, and expanded, this
year as he moved to the District of Columbia to begin a new church
Bryan is attracted to craft breweries because
of the way they reflect their local communities. Craft breweries
tend to be regional, small-scale production operations that concoct
their own unique styles of beer. often using local ingredients and
flavors which reflect who they are and where they come from.
It is a challenging time in craft brewing, as
new breweries proliferate in many parts of the country. There is
often more competition for business, and more of the creativity that
produces great beers.
He encourages people to try new local craft
beers at Pub Theology.
Bryan tends to favor darker beers like
porters and stouts. A favorite is the Firestarter Porter by Right
Brain Brewery in Traverse
City, Michigan, a porter flavored with chipotle and chocolate. As he
describes it, "the smokey, chocolatey taste hits you initially, and
there’s a bit of fire on the backside that makes it delectable." He
also recommends porters and stouts that are barrel-aged in either
bourbon or whiskey barrels. Lately he has begun exploring more
Belgian-style ales and sour ales, and the jury is still out on
Bryan's favorite beer-food pairing is good,
spicy Mexican food with a nice pale ale or IPA.
He would also pair a Cat Stevens album in
summertime with a nice wheat ale, or perhaps some Cowboy Junkies
with a good, thick stout in winter.
Pub Theology began with a desire to gather
people together to talk about things that are important to them,
while enjoying a good, locally-crafted beer. For Bryan, Pub Theology
is about discussing the deep things of life – relationships,
philosophy, justice, meaning, ethics – and how God might (or might
not) fit into the picture.
In addition to beer-food and beer-music
pairings, I asked Bryan whether there were appropriate beer-theology
pairings. Is some theology more "hoppy?"
He thought that the diversity of responses to
a given question on a night at the pub might reflect as much about
participants' diverse choices of beer as it does their theological
background. In addition, some heavier questions might best be paired
with a lighter brew, or they might all just sink into the cloud of
unknowing together. Seriously, he recognizes that there is something
about a craft beer that has multiple layers, texture, and nuance,
and helps create a new experience each time you try it. He thinks
that good theology should aspire to the same.
Bryan is contributing to the richness of both
the faith community and the craft brewing community. Bringing more
awareness to people in the faith community of how enjoying good beer
is not in any way opposed to one’s desire to live a full and
faithful life, helps people recognize again that the two can and do
work well together. He is convinced that nothing beats the pub for
good, deep conversation. In addition, a local brewery is a great
place to support, because it 1) is local, and 2) has some of the
best and most unique flavors around!
Bryan's goal for pub theology is to continue
creating settings where people from diverse perspectives and
traditions can come together and share their thoughts on what
matters to them in conversations. He finds that the more we engage
each other, the more we realize that we have far more in common as
fellow human beings that we may have realized. Many of our
stereotypes about what a Catholic is, or a Baptist, or a Buddhist,
or an atheist, or a Muslim, are simply just that: stereotypes that
do not hold much water when we get to know someone face to face.
Bryan is especially happy that his books
have helped other people begin to cultivate conversations in their
own towns and neighborhoods as well. His book, Pub
Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God,
tells the story of how he came upon the idea of pub theology and how
his initial group started, as well as a number of stories and actual
conversations at the pub, and how the experience has shifted his own
theological perspectives. His ebook, Pub
Theology 101: A Guide to Cultivating Meaningful Conversations at the
Pub, is a how-to resource that
helps people walk through the steps of getting their own group
started, and includes hundreds and hundreds of discussion topics
that he has used in over five years’ worth of gatherings. It’s
available for $2.99 for Kindle.
The bottom line is that people have been
having great conversations over beer for centuries, and Bryan is
simply one of many who are happy that we are tapping into the
Lloyd is making a significant contribution to
the craft brewing community in Southern California. First as an avid
consumer, and also as someone who has been active in
online marketing since 1996 and who has garnered an extensive
audience. He is dedicated to promoting American craft beer with
social media efforts that reach tens of thousands, if not more.
Lloyd is approached on a regular basis with questions specifically
about craft beers, and waitresses in restaurants often ask if he is
"the beer guy."