Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Blessing of a Brewery

“From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.”

Saint Arnold of Metz, Patron Saint of Brewers

     Craft beer means something different to everyone, and we all enjoy for it various reasons. For some it's the excitement to try a new beer they have never had before, and for others it's the joy of discussing craft beer with other craft beer enthusiasts.

     I was recently able to be part of the blessing of The Athens Brewing company in Athens, Texas. I have a good friend, Matthew Frick, who is the Vicar at St. Matthias Episcopal Church. While visiting him in Athens we attended the grand opening of the brewery. I was excited to try their beers and to see the one and only brewery in this small East Texas town. The brewery is inside of an old bank building on the town square and is ran by wonderful people who not only care about making craft beer but bringing it to the town they live in as well. While attending the grand opening and touring the facilities we starting talking to the owners about it all. Half joking I told them that my friend Matt was a local Priest and that they should have him bless the place. To my surprise they said “that would be great!” and spoke further with Matt over the next few weeks. Once the date was set Matt asked me and another mutual friend, Grant Massy, if we would like to assist him in the blessing. We happily accepted and it went from there.

 The day finally came for the brewery blessing to take place after church on Sunday. Many members of Father Matt’s church were there to take part and several members of my family were able to attend as well. As we are getting into our robes and making final preparations I noticed a small bus pulling up out front from a local assisted living facility. I couldn't help but smile as I watched several elderly men and women come through the front door of the small town brewery to see it blessed. Once the brewery was full of family, friends, church members, and complete strangers we began.

Everyone in attendance had a program so they could follow along and take part in the readings that were part of the blessing. It was surreal to look around the brewery as I wore a thick ceremonial robe holding the cross atop a staff following Father Matt while he performed the blessing slinging holy water on the brewing equipment and throughout the brewery. I listened to the recited lines from priest and crowd alike with a reverence. I realised that this wasn't some ceremony done to make the brewery feel blessed, but a real blessing being performed through everyone in that building. A community had come together made up of the Brewers, Church, and patrons to share their prayers, excitement, and love to this place and what it was doing. I was a part of something special.

Beer and the crafting of it isn't just about the final product; It's about the people it brings together. The East Texas town of Athens now had a beautiful brewery ran by people who love to make beer for the community they love. It was blessed by a Priest of a church who is a great part of the community who were also gathered there. This was a local town coming together to celebrate good craft beer and each other. I watched people of all ages races and beliefs talking afterward about a common love, craft beer and the new brewery that made it.

     We should all hope to have a local brewery come into our town. Not only so we can have easy access to great local beer but so our communities and families can come together to celebrate it and one another.


Jonathan Heflin

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