Beer and Churches Forge a Holy Union
Yesterday, the Orlando Sentinel ran a piece on Castle Church Brewing — a combination of a Lutheran church and brewery that is set to open in the city this December. On Sundays, churchgoers will be encouraged to stick around after services. “We’re kind of tongue-[in]-cheek about it — a lot of people leave church early so they can grab a beer and watch the football game,” co-founder Aaron Schmalzle told the paper. “We say the church is already here so we might as well just have a beer after and watch the football game.” Meanwhile, on Friday nights, it’s brewery business as usual: “We’ll have all the events — you may not even know it’s a church,” Schmalzle added.
Though the idea of tying together a house of worship and a house of potential drunken debauchery might sound strange, it’s actually a growing trend in the constantly growing craft beer world. Back in August, Santa Cruz, California’s Greater Purpose Community Church made headlines for the same thing: Offering up beer during services with plans to open a brewery next summer where future boozy services would be held. “During the week, we'll serve Southern-style comfort food with vegan and vegetarian [options],” the church wrote on its website. “On Sunday, we'll host a church service before opening up to the public.”
Other combinations of church and beer are more subtle. For instance, Toledo, Ohio’s Black Cloister Brewing was founded by a former pastor of a non-denominational church, Tom Schaeffer. Though he doesn’t hold services on the premises, he told CraftBeer.com his past does inform his present. “Meeting people, listening to people, they are skills I’ve learned over the years in the ministry,” he explained. “I’ve just adapted for a new place.”
Meanwhile, combining church and beer doesn’t even have to be so explicitly religious. As the name implies, New Buffalo, Michigan’s Beer Church Brewing opened in 2017 in a former Methodist church with the former reverend’s blessing. “The pastor of the church is one of our biggest supporters,” one of the brewery’s co-founders, Jane Simon, told the Chicago Tribune. Though the brewery admits they aren’t the first to turn a former church into a brewery, they said part of their mission is keeping that church feel inside. At the time, they said they were already eyeing other iconic, unused local churches for potential locations.
Of course, combining religion and brewing isn’t new: It’s extremely old. Monks are behind many of the world’s longest surviving beer brands like Belgium’s Rochefort Brewery, founded in 1595. In fact, to be a Trappist brewery — which also includes brands like Chimay and Orval — the international association requires that members don’t make a profit: the earnings must support the monks and their facilities or be donated to charity. Schmalzle voiced a nearly identical sentiment for his forthcoming Castle Church brewery. “It’s kind of the directive — if you have profits left over, then give them away,” he was quoted as saying. Sounds like church and beer are just coming full circle.