Rocky Mountain Brewing News February/March 2014 : Page 1
UNTAIN AIN ROCKY MOUN MOUNTAIN c i m o C Comic f o of Stor y A Stor Colorful a , Books Beer! and Past By Bill Downs ILLUSTRATION BY HANS GRANHEIM By John W Mitchell eligion has been conflicted about beer for centuries. The Bible warns often of the dangers of strong drink. 1 Yet, ancient clay tablets from the time of the Babylonians speak of a grain-based mash used to make shirkaru, which scholars translate as beer. 2 Not surprising that for “ten millennia” pasteur-ized beer was used as a substitute for water which was often contaminated. 3 Even kids drank a weak version of beer to fend against water borne illness. Trappist monks began brewing beer in the Middle Ages and continue to do so today. They even have their own trade group, the International Trappist Association, to maintain purity. 4 And in a truly great irony of beer and religion, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement -which drove the Temperance movement and Prohibition in the United States -was a home brewer 5 . Today beer -specifically craft beer – has been summoned forth by a growing number of ministers as a vessel to create a new style of worship spreading across the country faster then foam in an icy mug. As Allen Kleine Deters, pastor of the Calvin-based Christian Reformed Church in Alamosa, Colo., rea-soned -everyone likes good beer. “Talking over a pint is a great way to close the gap between the church and the community, which I think are too far apart from each other. I don’t believe it has to be that way.” Not only has Kleine Matt Vincent, Dave Thibodeau, and Bill Graham, founders of Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado PHOTO COURTESY OF SKA BREWING CO. ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM See Religion p.4 Above-Amy Fadel (Joan of Arc) and Todd Fadel (Bulwark, God's Unfailing Nature) lead an All-Saints themed Beer & Hymns in Portland. "You know, it’s okay if things get a little bit rowdy – this approach to faith is bit of a disruptor,” said Todd. PHOTO COURTESY TODD FADEL. PHOTO CREDIT AMY MCMULLEN. Left-Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. PHOTO BY COURTNEY PERRY. Colorado Calendar.................... 2 Homebrew....................5 Beer Directory.......10-12 Idaho...............6 Utah.................7 Wyoming.........8 Montana..........9 Upper Front Range.........13 Central Peaks..................14 Western Slope.................15 Denver..............................16 Lower Front Range.........17 Four Corners...................18 ka Brewing in Durango, Colorado, had a very colorful beginning. Back in the mid-80s, lifelong friends and high school classmates Dave Thibodeau and Bill Graham loved to drink beer. They loved to sit, drink and listen to their favor-ite ska music from Two-Tone, an English record label. There was only one problem: m: back then, Colorado’s drinking age was 18 but buying it was ill another story. They still weren’t old enough to buy it. Many of us in d that position just asked S an older sibling to buy it, but Bill and Dave were more of the DIY mindset. They decided to see if they could make beer themselves. Dave’s dad used to homebrew and they had discovered his old brewing logbook. logb They studied stud the log entries ent carefully, looking loo for the step ste where alco-hol ho was added. At some point it finally fin dawned on them, the al alcohol wasn’t ad added, it was cr created . That c changed every-th thing. See Ska p.3
John W Mitchell
ILLUSTRATION BY HANS GRANHEIM
Religion has been conflicted about beer for centuries.
The Bible warns often of the dangers of strong drink.1 Yet, ancient clay tablets from the time of the Babylonians speak of a grain-based mash used to make shirkaru, which scholars translate as beer. 2 Not surprising that for “ten millennia” pasteurized beer was used as a substitute for water which was often contaminated. 3 Even kids drank a weak version of beer to fend against water borne illness. Trappist monks began brewing beer in the Middle Ages and continue to do so today. They even have their own trade group, the International Trappist Association, to maintain purity. 4 And in a truly great irony of beer and religion, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement - which drove the Temperance movement and Prohibition in the United States - was a home brewer 5.
Today beer - specifically craft beer – has been summoned forth by a growing number of ministers as a vessel to create a new style of worship spreading across the country faster then foam in an icy mug.As Allen Kleine Deters, pastor of the Calvin-based Christian Reformed Church in Alamosa, Colo., reasoned - everyone likes good beer.
“Talking over a pint is a great way to close the gap between the church and the community, which I think are too far apart from each other. I don’t believe it has to be that way.” Not only has Kleine Deters been a pastor for 25 years, he is also a home brewer. He speaks eloquently about Pub Theology, a forum that meets regularly at the San Luis Valley Brewery Company.
“It’s a place where we can have open community dialogue without anyone being against anyone else. It is a Socratic method of discussion and to me it’s an extension of what it means to be a Christian,” he explained. The group discusses big life issues, such as what is the truth and how do we know if there is a God? They have ground rules, such as everyone gets to be heard and no one gets to proselytize.
Kleine Deter is among a very small but expanding and interconnected group of ministers nationwide, many of them young and starting their careers. They are reaching out to those commonly referred to as “unchurched” - and who tend to be as equally young. Speak to any of the ministers leading the craft beer and religion movement and you’ll be reminded of the old business adage: “You have to sell what people are buying, not what you are selling.” A Pew Research study found that Millennials (18-29) are “considerably less religious” than older Americans and one in four are unaffiliated with any faith. 6 This, of course, is the same age demographic driving much of the craft beer boom.
“When I started my group in Fargo there were some complaints that we may be promoting alcohol consumption,” said Cody Schuler who founded The Gathering, which he promotes as “doing church differently.” Schuler holds his meetings at different venues, including Beer & Hymn events at The Fargo Brewing Company.
“But I hope we’ve reassured people that a pint of beer is just a path to creating fellowship. Most people who attend our events are there for a sense of community, not to drink beer. They can stay home and do that.” Schuler’s group sings hymns, which he reports is an effective activity for people getting to know each other. Beer & Hymns is exactly what it sounds like, an occasion where people come together to sip a pint and sing the gospel.
Todd Fadel is one of a handful of organizers recognized nationwide for spurring on a Beer & Hymns movement 7 that traces its roots back to the Greenbelt Festival in Great Britain in the mid-90s. He recently helped lead a live chat on National Public Radio (NPR) about the movement along with others who have established such programs across the country (Fadel numbers it at 25 regular gatherings in 17 states and growing). In the live chat there was concern expressed about excessive drinking, but those already running Beer and Hymns programs assured that they have not observed one instance of inebriation. Fadel noted that they have a two drink limit and many of the programs offer non-alcoholic alternatives at their meetings. Children are also welcome to accompany their parents. A wide range of formats was discussed, including deploying such elements as reflection, singing, musical performance, Bible reading, and topical discussions. But the common denominator in such faith outreach programs is the sharing of craft beer. Fadel said that at their program, which is sponsored by First Christian Church in Portland (where his wife Angie is a pastor) they rely more and more on members who home brew to provide beer.
“We have at least a dozen home brewers who have shared with the group, it’s been fantastic,” Fadel said. He believes this stonesoup approach epitomizes Christian tradition.
“Beer and Hymns is a lot like the approach Jesus took to preaching the gospel - he made a connection in small groups. People are excited to try a new approach to faith. It’s an antidote for the loneliness of modern living that people often feel. And you know, it’s okay if things get a little bit rowdy – this approach to faith is bit of a disruptor.”
Fadel and Schuler, as well as several participants in the NPR live discussion, referenced the work of Nadia Bolz-Weber and her House for Saints and Sinners congregation in Denver. Bolz-Weber is the closest thing the Beer and Hymns movement has to a celebrity. The 44 yearold, six-foot plus, tattooed (the entire liturgical year on one arm), weightlifting, former alcohol/drug abuser and stand-up comedian has evolved into a Lutheran pastor. She has gained a national following with three books advocating inclusiveness, social justice and personal imperfection made right. Her latest book is a spiritual memoir - Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint.
Her message strikes a deep chord with the religiously disaffected. The bumper sticker on her car states “Keep Church Weird” and she describes her Saints and Sinners Church as a place for those who are no longer inspired by traditional religion.In a recent interview she talked about some of her church’s unusual practices, such as Beer and Hymns.
“It’s a quirky blend of tradition and innovation. I feel strongly you have to be deeply rooted in tradition to innovate with integrity,” she said in a recent interview with Krista Tippet at the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina.
While Bolz-Weber is much more than her church’s Hymn and Beer nights - including the latest Beer and Carols night in December - she and her congregation were early adopters of the idea of craft beer and faith. She is a self-identified alcoholic, so she enjoys the social aspect of Beer & Hymns, further evidence that while craft beer is an important part of the Beer & Hymns experience, fellowship is actually the point
So what does all this mean for brewery owners? All the pastors in the NPR live chat agreed that any Beer & Hymns venue in a bar or brewery has been received very enthusiastically by the owners.But for Scott Graber, the owner of the San Luis Valley Brewing Company (where Allen Kleine Deters’ group meets) beer and religion is much more than just drumming up new business
“I consider our brewery a community gathering place and I am honored when others in the community see us in that light. That said, what I would say to other brewery owners is - at the very least - it is a good way to market to a group who perhaps would not ordinarily visit a brewery. Most of those who attend Allen’s discussions end up as repeat customers during the month,” he said. And what do those on a faith mission like to drink?
“This group seems really partial to our Alamosa Amber, with our Grande River IPA and Wolf Creek Winter (a red ale with a hint of spruce he harvests himself from the surrounding mountains) close behind,” Graber reports.
Aaron Hill, one of the co-founders at Fargo Brewing Company where Cody Schuler’s The Gathering meets shared a similar sentiment. “My wife and I had a personal relationship with Cody. He started attending our brewery events a few years back and I was like – ‘You’re a pastor? That’s pretty cool.’ So we started visiting Cody’s The Gathering services and we really believe in what Cody is doing,” said Hill.
Hill said that when Schuler wanted to start a Beer & Hymns program, it was a natural fit for The Fargo Brewing Company to offer space for the first meeting. The brewery, which is famous for it’s Wood Chipper IPA (think Fargo, the movie) and its Stone’s Throw Scottish Ale, had nearly 50 people attend its first meeting.
“Sure, as a business owner I am not going to deny I like that many people showing up on an off Wednesday evening,” Hill said. “But we had customers who showed up just because the tap room was open and joined in with Beer & Hymns on their own.So it definitely built a connection in the community.” Hill said that the brewery is already on the schedule to host another meeting after the first of the year.
It’s always possible that Beer & Hymns might just be a fad. But what is happening in craft beer is the equivalent of a consumer religious experience.It is a market sector that is devolving from a mass produced product tightly controlled by a handful of big producers to production by local small artisans.This is unprecedented in modern American consumption.So it’s not a stretch at all that progressive faith leaders would see their own rebirth in the face of the craft beer movement. As the famous (and at times infamous) religious reformer Martin Luther commanded: “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!”
7. Http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/03/242301642/to-stave-off-decline-churches-attract-newmembers- with-beer
Read the full article at http://rmbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Gets+Religion/1631038/196092/article.html.
A Story Of Comic Books, A Colorful Past And Beer
Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado, had a very colorful beginning.
Back in the mid-80s, lifelong friends and high school classmates Dave Thibodeau and Bill Graham loved to drink beer. They loved to sit, drink and listen to their favorite ska music from Two-Tone, an English record label. There was only one problem: back then, Colorado’s drinking age was 18 but buying it was another story. They still weren’t old enough to buy it. Many of us in that position just asked an older sibling to buy it, but Bill and Dave were more of the DIY mindset. They decided to see if they could make beer themselves. Dave’s dad used to homebrew and they had discovered his old brewing logbook. They studied the log entries carefully, looking for the step where alcohol was added.At some point it finally dawned on them, the alcohol wasn’t added, it was created. That changed everything
Bill and Dave went around trying to source ingredients (there were no ‘neighborhood homebrew supply stores’ then, as there are now), and in the process they actually learned how to homebrew.
After graduating high school, and then college, the pair had become very proficient at their craft.
By 1994, they had both relocated to Durango.Bill came first, followed two years later by Dave.They had made themselves very busy homebrewing, snowboarding and generally living the dream of young adults (and everyone else) everywhere. They heard about a homebrew party one day, and decided to crash it with a keg of their own. The host turned out to be Matt Vincent. Before long, Bill and Dave launched “Ska Brewing Co.” in 1995. They brought Matt on as a third partner.
Fast-forward 18 years and Ska Brewing is a regional craft brewery on track to brew just under a million gallons of beer in 2013. “I don’t know what the hell happened,” says Co-Founder Dave Thibodeau, Graham’s original partner. “We worked our asses off and tried to make the best beer we possibly could. That’s pretty much still what we’re doing,” he says, laughing, “but we don’t pay people in pizza and beer anymore. Well, not as often.”
Over the years, Ska has cultivated a dominant presence in its home turf of Southwest Colorado, in part by providing beer for every event under the Southwest sun.
“We traded beer for absolutely everything,” says Thibodeau. “We never said no, as long as it didn’t involve minors or motorsports.”
As the young brewery set its sights on markets outside Colorado, Ska set itself apart with marketing and imagery that was unlike what was happening in the rest of the craft beer world. “Everyone had dogs and mountains on their beer label,” says Thibodeau.“We love dogs and mountains, but we just thought we could do something different. We were always really into comic books, and that style of graphic art, so we followed that.”
Follow it they did. Thibodeau and Graham describe an early “marketing plan,” in comic book form, which laid out an epic battle between three young brewers and an evil conglomerate that sought to destroy flavor and character in beer, and wanted to bring the entire beer world under its control. The Ska co-founders created characters to help them in this battle against their fictional nemesis, The Rotgutzen International Beverage Corporation, whose many slogans include “We know you better than you know yourself” and “How much simpler would life be with only one choice? Think about it, you wouldn’t even have to think about it.”
The CEO of Rotgutzen is the evil Pinstripe, a sharp-dressing skeleton that became the namesake for the brewery’s first beer, Pinstripe Red Ale. He also appears with his thugs on the artwork for Modus Hoperandi IPA, now the brewery’s most widely recognized (and celebrated) beer. In the comic book, the bumbling but good-hearted boys of Ska are frequently kept on track and even rescued by their tireless and ultra-capable colleague Lana Lovibond, who was also known as True Blonde, another of the brewery’s early flagship beers. Lana’s character, especially twenty years ago when she was conceived, was far ahead of its time in presenting a tough-but-feminine character who was at least as knowledgeable as the boys when it came to beer, and usually more capable when it came to everything else.
Underlying the clever branding and the “awshucks” and the “right place at the right time” personas, it is what should be the basis for all craft beer success stories: consistently great beer.
Ska has also never forgotten its homebrewing roots.They host the majority of the meetings of the local homebrewing club, The Animas Alers. They have hosted and sponsored the annual Animas Alers/Ska Brewing GABF Pro- Am Homebrewing Competition and have brewed the Best of Show for the Great American Beer Fest.
Ska has won over 100 medals for its beers, including 11 from the Great American Beer Festival, and several more at the globally prestigious World Beer Cup.
Today’s craft beer drinkers are highly educated about their beers and they have a dizzying array of choices: that means that success is rarely an accident, nor is it created solely with marketing.
In 2008 the brewery opened a purpose-built, four-story brewery and tasting room. They had outgrown a series of smaller, inter-connected warehouses that had been their home. Thibodeau recalls the expansion: “The new facility was a huge leap of faith for us.” Thibodeau recalls, “We couldn’t even really wrap our heads around what it meant to take on that much debt, but we figured if a bank was willing to take the chance, we should be too.”
With a tasting room serving world-class beers to a growing number of people, the Ska partners realized that the part-time Mexican food truck parked Outside was no longer enough to serve the brewery’s needs.
“I was always interested in building something out of shipping containers,” says co-founder Matt Vincent. “We had kicked around some different ideas, but suddenly it seemed clear that we needed to do a restaurant.” In the summer of 2013, Ska opened The Container at Ska Brewing World Headquarters.Built from two recycled shipping containers that were stacked on top of each other and painted bright red and orange, the restaurant serves fresh, locally sourced food, including brickoven pizza and a “beer-fed” burger made from local beef finished on Ska’s own spent brewing grain.
While the three Ska founders have always pictured themselves as guardians of the goods, craft heroes willing to take on the evil Goliath Rotgutzen, it seems that after 18 years they have convinced a notso- small craft beer army as well. The once-tiny brewery is now armed with the facility, the following (and the food) to stick it to the Rotgutzens of the world.
Of course, there are real obstacles and real foes in the rapidly growing craft brewing world, and they’re more complex than a comic book battle. That having been said, there will always be battles to fight in the world and the fighters will always need a beer.For that matter, so will just about everyone who’s 21 or older, and these days, it’s getting a little more likely they’ll choose a Ska beer over a “Rotgutzen.”