Category Archives: beer

Beer is Proof that God Loves Us and wants Us to be Happy


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Nothing serious today unless you really believe that whatever deity you believe in loves us and wants us to be happy. 

But truthfully, in every age, since the people of Mesopotamia discovered the secret of fermenting hops and malts into a bread that one can drink, beer has been proof that God does love us and wants us to be happy.

I love good craft beer as well as imports, especially German and Irish beers. In my years in Germany I learned to enjoy really good beer. In my Navy deployments the the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf I learned to appreciate Irish beer at the Irish expatriate bars that dot both regions. 

Last night I went to a tapping party at the Virginia Beach Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant. Those who know me know that this is my version of Cheers, it is a place where everyone knows my name. 

No matter how bad things are in the world, or in my life, or in the country, beer is there, because God loves us; and unlike the pie in the sky “God loves you and wants you to be happy”  of the Evangelical Christian Four Spiritual Laws,  beer is here. 

So no matter what happens today I simply remind you that no-matter what your belief or ideology, that the creator of the universe does love you and wants you to be happy. Beer is the proof.

Have a great day.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under beer, Loose thoughts and musings

Nothing Serious Tonight


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

For once nothing serious, not that I have not been doing some very serious writing and research on my Civil War and Gettysburg texts. But tonight we had a tapping party at the place that is my version of the Cheers  bar. Our great brewer, Adam Gurtshaw put a Session IPA and a really nice Belgian Wit on tap. It was a nice eating, drinking, and music experience.

The theme of the tapping party was super heroes, so I wore my Madison Bumgarner 2012 World Series jersey. That man is more of a super-hero than anyone wearing tights, three World Seria titles, a WS MVP, and a no-hitter, and in addition to pitching he can hit with power. Top that Clayton Kershaw. 

But then as Benjamin Franklin allegedly said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

Have a great night,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Faugh a Ballaugh: St. Patrick’s Day Thoughts 

  
The Irish Brigade Memorial at Gettysburg 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

According to my DNA tests I am 43% Irish, the highest percentage of any of the DNA in my genetic soup recipe, I enjoy Saint Patrick’s Day. While much of my intellect is coldly logical like the Germans, my attitude toward life is probably more Irish than anything else. I like to have fun, I can be combative, I occasionally suffer from the melancholy that afflicts the Irish, and I love to drink good beer. While my beer preferences tend toward German pilsners and lagers, I love real Irish beer too. When I was deployed on a ship whenever we were in port I found the local Irish expat pubs where I drank a lot of Kilkenny beer with the other old guys from the Wardroom. 

My regular readers know that I am a historian and do a lot with the American Civil War, especially the Battle of Gettysburg. They also know that I am most definitely a Union man despite the fact that many of my ancestors fought for the Confederacy, and that I have tremendous admiration for the legendary Irish Brigade of the Army of the Potomac. In fact the title of this article comes from that unit’s battle cry, which means clear the way. When I lead the Staff Ride to Gettysburg I am always drawn to where those brave men fought in the Wheatfield, the Rocky hill (Houck’s Ridge) and where Father Corby pronounced a general absolution for all of his soldiers, Catholic and Protestant, on Cemetery Ridge before they went into battle the afternoon of July 2nd 1863. 

Likewise, when I am in one of my melancholy moods the Irish song, The Minstrel Boy always comes to mind. 

But all this being said, yesterday and for that matter this week has been a bit tumultuous. I had to deal with a driver who had a road rage attack Wednesday which has left me sleepless, as well as the totally unexpected loss of a beloved long serving civilian employee at the Staff College. 

My wife and some colleagues at work have convinced me to report the road rage incident which I will do today, as the rager was a sailor in uniform.  Since I suffer from PTSD the whole incident was quite unsettling. At first I thought of just letting it go, but I do think now, for safety sake that I should report it. While I don’t think that I am in danger, and while I do not want to have him charged with anything, or have his life ruined, but the young man obviously needs help before his rage gets him killed. 

I attended a memorial for our employee yestday afternoon at the little Baptist Church that he attended. The service was touching and heartfelt, many people from the church and the staff college were in attendance. The man who died wasn’t much older than me and he was a gem. I liked joking with him and he was one of the most conscientious workers, and dearest of people you would have ever wanted to know. Our current class graduates this morning and we are dedicating part of the ceremony to his memory. 

Last night we had a few beers with our friends at Gordon Biersch before going home and taking it easy. 

So anyway, I will have some new material out this weekend. Until then, please take care and be safe. 

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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High Anxiety: The Plane Flight to Oktoberfest

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Today Judy and I are leaving for a trip to the Oktoberfest. I love Europe, we have lived in German and travelled in much of Europe and I do look forward to the trip with Judy. In addition to our time in Munich at the Oktoberfest we plan on making side trips to Salzburg and Nuremberg.

Of course we are flying which frankly is neither of our big thrill. I have never been much about flying, though I readily admit that this is a control thing, I would rather be in the cockpit flying the aircraft than sitting back in steerage. To tell the truth I would love to learn to fly and fly classic World War II war birds like the P-51 Mustang or the Messerschmitt Me-109, or maybe the Focke-Wulf FW-190. But then, I do get to drive Judy’s 2013 Mustang a lot, and I will be driving the Autobahnen in Germany when we get there, but I digress….

The fact is that I have always a distinct fear of flying, or rather crashing. Professor Liloman calls the condition High Anxiety, a condition that he treated the world famous psychiatrist Richard H. Thorndyke for at the renowned Institute for the Very Very Nervous. (Note the gratuitous Mel Brooks film reference) This only has gotten worse with age. Not that I don’t know how to keep myself calm, beer at every stop from beginning to end of the flight with a good number of Hail Mary’s thrown in; in German of course because that is where I first learned the prayer.

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There is a song about the condition too, appropriately named High Anxiety.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHrQC67aPBU

High anxiety whenever you’re near – High anxiety – it’s you that I fear.

My heart’s afraid to fly – it’s crashed before …

But then you take my hand;  My heart starts to soar once more.

 High anxiety … it’s always the same; High anxiety … it’s you that I blame.

It’s very clear to me I’ve got to give in. High anxiety: you win.

High Anxiety 1977, Words by Mel Brooks, arranged by John Morris

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When we returned from our first tour in Germany after Christmas in December 1986 we flew on a Pan Am Boeing 747. It had a beautiful name, I can never forget reading it before we boarded it at Frankfurt, the Maid of the Seas. I mentioned it to Judy before we boarded, and talked about how I wish all airlines named their aircraft. If the name of the airplane rings a bell, just think a bit. In 1988 Libyan terrorists blew up a Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie Scotland. When I saw the wreckage I was stunned to see the name Maid of the Seas on the crumpled wreckage. I have a hard time getting that picture out of my mind. So there is a reason for my gallows humor, I need to take the edge off.

I did make my peace with flying and have done so too many times to count, to far too much of the world, many times on long distance overseas flights to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. I have gotten used to the hassles of flying, especially security, check in lines and lost or damaged luggage. I even managed to get through flying in Iraq, although getting shot at flying out of Ramadi one night in 2007 was quite unnerving.

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Ever since coming home from Iraq flying has taken on a new old sense of terror. I don’t like it. It is a necessary evil to go places. Personally I would rather take trains or ships if I had the option, but I don’t live in Europe.

Anyway, unless I get a chance to write a short article while in Germany everything that will be posted will have be scheduled before I left home.

Peace, love and beer,

Padre Steve+

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Memories of Molly & Thanks to Friends

 

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Dean Koontz wrote:

“No matter how close we are to another person, few human relationships are as free from strife, disagreement, and frustration as is the relationship you have with a good dog. Few human beings give of themselves to another as a dog gives of itself. I also suspect that we cherish dogs because their unblemished souls make us wish – consciously or unconsciously – that we were as innocent as they are, and make us yearn for a place where innocence is universal and where the meanness, the betrayals, and the cruelties of this world are unknown.”  

As most of you know from what I posted yesterday we had to have Molly Fur, the wonderful dog who saved my life after Iraq put down at the age of fourteen. I knew her loss would hit me hard, however I have always tried to conduct myself in such situations as would Mr. Spock on Star Trek, or Commander Data in Star Trek the Next Generation before he got the emotion chip implanted. That being said I knew that I would cry, however, little did I expect that every time I turned around that I be crying.

Honestly I feel a lot like Robert De Niro playing the mobster Paul Viti in the movie Analyze This, where he tells his shrink played by Billy Crystal: “The other day, I was watching a commercial with a kid playing with a couple of puppies, I cried for forty five minutes! You slap a pair of tits on me, I’m a woman!” But I digress…

Molly meant more to me than almost anything in life. I am convinced that had she not come to live with me when I was stationed in Camp Lejeune away from Judy, that I would have succumbed to despair and found a way to die without making it look like suicide. I probably would have driven off the bridge to Emerald Isle or driven into the trees lining one of the state highways on the way to or from work.

However, having Molly there kept me from this because I wondered what the effect would have been on Molly. Stanley Coren wrote:“The greatest fear dogs know is the fear that you will not come back when you go out the door without them.”  I couldn’t do that to her, she loved me too much and would not have understood.

Having Molly with me in North Carolina gave me someone to come home to, and her cheerfulness and devotion kept me going through some of the darkest times of my life. Just having her waiting for me when I came home made all the difference and today for the first time I came home from work and Molly was not there to great me. It really hit me again, that she was gone .

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Molly was so irresistibly funny, sweet and beautiful and she lived her whole life that way, caring for Judy as much as she cared for me. Molly would sit with me on a huge bean bag chair and watch baseball, sometimes she would be looking at the television so intently I thought she had to be watching the games at least as much as she was comforting me, especially during the 2012 season when the San Francisco Giants won their second World Series title. She hardly left my side during those games.

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Thankfully, Molly never developed the taste for beer that our now Senior Dog on Deck, Minnie has, otherwise I would have probably had to pour her out of the beanbag to chase the deer around the house.

Over the past couple of days Judy and I have been showed such care and love by family and friends, in person as well as on Facebook. Likewise I have received so many kind words and thoughts from people who follow me here or on Twitter.

I know that sometimes social media can be poisonous and filled with vitriol. However, that being said such is not always the case. There are a lot of wonderful people out there on Twitter, Facebook and in the blogosphere.  The kindness shown by people people that I have never met in person who follow me on this site and Twitter has been amazing.

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I think Molly will always be with Me

Your kindness  reduces me to tears, just like Paul Viti, and just like is happening to me right now as I wipe the tears from my eyes. But those tears are not tears of sadness. They are tears of appreciation and thanksgiving, to Molly who saved my life, and for all who have taken just a few moments of time to offer a word of kindness. Those words have enabled me to remember all those times that Molly made my life better, helped keep me alive, and in the process probably made me a better person in spite of myself.

Thank you all so much.

Blessings, Love and Peace

Padre Steve+

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Oktoberfest Retrospective: Gemütlichkeit, The Importance of Community

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Well my friends we have returned from Oktoberfest in Munich and despite a couple of bumps, the trip went well. That couple of days have been too full and I have been unable to post these thoughts until now, that being said I have given them a great deal of reflection.

Of course for most most foreign visitors to Oktoberfest is a chance to drink and enjoy the festive atmosphere, and that is not a bad thing. However, most miss the understanding of Fests such as Oktoberfest in the life of the communities hosting them. Oktoberfest is just one of many that Munich and other German towns observe, which draw their communities together in ways that most Americans do not really comprehend. German festivals draw the local community together in many ways, community groups, clubs, associations, churches and businesses contributed to making the Fest, be it a major event like Oktoberfest or Fests conducted in small communities. Admittedly some American towns and cities have similar events, but with the exception of some major metropolitan centers with diverse and proud ethnic communities, they usually are a singular annual observance.

German cities and towns usually have a good number of these events, which draw their people together throughout the year. In fact they are somewhat linked to seasons, the church calendar, and important crops or products that their town is known for producing. While all are festive each have a different emphasis and different feel. Oktoberfest in Munich is the largess of its type, not just in Germany but the world, but it is not alone, many towns also celebrate their own Oktoberfest which are not clones of the Munich event, instead they reflect the differences in culture and tradition throughout Germany.

The Germans take life and work seriously, but unlike many, if not most of us, they know when business stops and fun, family and community begin. When people leave work they leave work, and even the business culture, in which stores are not open 24 hours or on Sundays provide Germans the opportunity to spend good amounts of time with family, their neighbors and friends as they meet for dinner or drinks at the local Gasthaus or inn on a regular basis. Likewise communities sponsor sports teams, and a wide array of other clubs which draw them together, everything from Rotary, to veterans associations, bands and choirs, hunting and shooting clubs and many more. Many of these groups sponsor events in which the entire community partake.

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The concept in all of this is that of Gemütlichkeit, a German word that basically describes a situation of where a cheerful mood, peace of mind and social acceptance are joined with the connotation of being unhurried in a cozy atmosphere. It also is understood in relationship to holidays where public festivities in the form of music, food, and drink help promote a sense of community. In this there is a sense that someone is part of something bigger than themselves where they are connected with being accepted by others while enriching the community.

Unfortunately for many Americans this is not the case. Unless one belongs to an organization such a various types of lodges, local sports fan clubs, or a local pub or bar where “everyone knows you name” there are precious few places one can experience this type of community. Churches like to claim that they are places of fellowship, but in my adult experience I have to say that most churches neither foster community nor are they places where one can go to be accepted. They are often the most cliquish, unfriendly, uninviting, and judgmental places around, and this is across the board. This cliquish and uninviting spirit covered in a veneer of spirituality and forced friendliness knows no denominational or theological boundaries, but I digress….

As I mentioned the Germans have festivals for almost everything. There are Spring, Fall, Summer and Winter festivals, harvest festivals, wine festivals throughout the Rhine, Main and Mosel and Nahe River valleys where wine is produced. I already mentioned Oktoberfest but there are Advent and Christmas markets in almost every city, town or village, Passion plays, celebrations of music, art and culture some of which are tied to the church calendar.

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In Bamburg, which is in the north of the state of Bayern (Bavaria) there is a celebration of its large number of very elaborate nativity scenes. In fact it is known as the city of nativity scenes. Some of the displays, of which there are over 30 major ones are changed every week to correspond with the nativity story, from the annunciation until the birth of Jesus, but are extended out to the scene of the first miracle of Jesus where he changed water into wine at the Wedding at Cana, just before Lent.

Speaking of Lent, there are a large number of places where Carnivals, similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, known as Fasching are celebrated, which all end on Fat Tuesday. In some cities there are Easter festivals, festivals involving the Patron Saint of the city, or state, and all of these are part of a holiday atmosphere.

The Germans for all of their serious nature and sometimes brusque manner of getting around do know how to draw the line between work and play and in the process build community. Their cities and towns are designed to keep a community connection including the use of excellent public transportation which means that most people don’t have to use up their cars sitting in traffic jams on the way too and from work or to a major event. I like to drive, but if our city had good public transportation I would definitely use it.

Part of this is the difference in culture and how over the years our American culture has become detached from this sort of community. In many ways we have become increasing individualistic through the proliferation of suburbia and all that goes with it, including the abandonment of cities, and small poor rural communities. The fact is we don’t know our neighbors and that leads to a culture that devalues people, destroys community and actually being on more social problems including crime. But again I digress…

This was my first trip to Oktoberfest, and though it was crowded the crowds were relatively well behaved, those who are obviously drunk or out of control are taken out, often to the first aid tent. Likewise, crime is not much a problem, despite the crowds. What is amazing is how many people lose valuables but get them back, either from someone who sees them leave them behind or drop them, but those who turn them in to security.

We experienced that on Wednesday night when the small pouch Judy had containing all of her identification and a debit card was lost. Of course we did everything we were supposed to do, retrace steps, talk with security and go to the lost and found. When I was at the lost and found I was amazed and how much was there, including very expensive looking purses, handbags and backpacks. The people there did not have it. They told me to come back the next day at 1PM Thursday when they opened and assured me that this happens all the time and that most items lost are returned.

On the way back to the hotel Judy was quite upset and my best efforts, as well as those of our friends at comforting her were of little solace. But on the U-Bahn train going back to the hotel, an older German man across from us was most kind, offered to help and did what he could to comfort Judy. That was really neat, and we both appreciated his concern and his offer of help.

With our departure less that 36 hours away, we could take no chances. Immediately on returning to the hotel I cancelled the debit card, which had not been used and contacted the U.S. Consulate in Munich. They too were reassuring, but since we could take no chances we reported her passport as lost and received a new temporary passport to ensure she could return home.

We went back to Oktoberfest after concluding that mission, when to the lost and found and they did have the pouch and nothing was missing. It had been a long 16 hours for both of us, but on finding it the mood lifted considerably. Our friends, who were doing last minute shopping met us at the Munchen Hofbrauhaus tent where we had saved seats. After dinner and a few beers we did a little bit of shopping, a quick bite at a local Gasthaus near the hotel we met our friends at the hotel to drink some of the beer that we had bought out in town.

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One of the cool things about this was how we have grown closer to our friends. It will be hard not seeing them everyday, but we are planning other get togethers outside of meeting at Gordon Biersch where we all congregate anyway, but cook outs, dinners and other things where we all contribute. I think what we experience with our friends is much closer to the way that Germans do life in community, and for us that is a good thing.

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There is a song that is sung at Oktoberfest as well as at other Fests throughout Germany called Ein Prosit

The band leader will get everyone’s attention and begins to sing as the band plays and everyone joins in standing, swaying to the music holding their beer steins high:

Ein prosit, Ein prosit, gemütlichkeit;
Ein prosit, Ein prosit, gemütlichkeit!
Eins, Zwei, Drei, G’Suffe!

A to at, a toast
To cheer and good times;
A toast, a toast, to cheer and good times!
One, two three! Drink up!

With that in mind I wish you the best weekend, and my wish that we all discover what it is to be in community and experience gemütlichkeit.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Oktoberfest Pilgrimage Live Blog: A Visit to Beer Land

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“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Benjamin Franklin

One of my favorite comic strips is Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine. A few months ago one of the main characters appropriately named Rat, since he is a rat, decides to open his own amusement park called Beer Land. The series of strips is amazingly brilliant, especially to true beer drinkers. I think the strip from that series that I most enjoyed was this one, because of the way Pastis linked a ride at the strip to the syrupy Disney ride It’s a Small World.

Today we did a bit of a road trip and took the U-Bahn from Munich to a small town on the outskirts of the city called Erding, for a visit and tour of the Erdinger Weisbier brewery, the largest brewer of wheat beers in the world. Before heading to Erding we had taken a short visit to the historic Marianplatz where we were able to see the famous Glockenspiel at the old city hall, or Rathaus.

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Now Judy has incurred a couple of injuries to her knee, ankle, and a couple of years ago had to her Achilles’ tendon repaired. As such sometimes a lot of walking causes her a lot, I mean a lot of pain. We tried to go out some yesterday but after a few minutes at Marianplatz but she was in such pain so we went back to our hotel until later in the evening when we went to dinner with our friends.

This morning she was in less pain but she knew if she didn’t get some European style crutches that she would not do well and possible be confined to the hotel for must of our remaining time here. For those that don’t know, European or as they are referred to in the United States Canadian crutches are far superior to the type most of us know and loath so much. They provide the user much more mobility and less pain to the armpits and shoulders because you do not swing from them.

So while she hung out with our friends I googled where to find the crutches in Munich. The word for crutches is krucken and they are sold at stores that specialize in equipment for those recovering from injuries as well as those with various physical disabilities called a Saniatshaus. The closest of these was about two miles away, so with google maps to guide me I set off. I walk pretty fast so it didn’t take that long to get there and when I did after the normal greetings with the lady at the counter I asked for a pair of crutches, which she showed me and allowed me to even pick the color. They cost about 34 Euros, which isn’t too bad, and for that quality I would have payed more in the U.S, had I gotten them at home. I made my way back by hailing a taxi to save time. Had a nice conversation about Munich, beer and the Oktoberfest with the driver and he delivered me back just city meters from where Judy and some of our friends had gathered. Since we were waiting on some of the rest of our group we had a beer at an outdoor cafe across from the Rathause where we saw the Glockenspiel do its thing when the clock stuck eleven.

Once all of us were gathered we boarded the U-Bahn to Erding a trip of about 45 minutes. Once in Erding we caught a city bus to the Erdinger brewery. We got our tickets for the tours and bought a couple of items in the gift shop and then went on the tour. The tour took about an hour and a half and was amazing.

I was impressed with how well a large brewery can make great beer using only the natural ingredients of hops, barley or wheat malt and water. There are no added sugars, food colorings known to be carcinogenic, Bisphenal A (BPA); cheap filler grains such as rice and corn as well as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and mono sodium glutamate, and even propylene glycol (a component of anti-freeze) are found in many mass produced American beers. This is because of the observance of the strict Bavarian or German beer purity law the Reinheitsgebot which stipulates what are acceptable ingredients in beer. Frankly the difference in taste is amazing as well as the effects, especially the morning after. But I digress….

As I mentioned the tour was informative and enjoyable. At the end of the tour, which cost 12 Euros per person we were provided freshly baked Bavarian pretzels, two large Bavarian Weiswurst, which are a mildly spiced and finely textured pork sausage and three half liter glasses of whichever of the eight styles of Weisbier that Erdinger brews.

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It truly was a visit to Beer Land and I am sorry to say that at each stage of the tour I kept thinking about that comic, but no, I didn’t see the German kid beat up the French kid for his Hefeweizen.

So Since this a religious pilgrimage, I will close with a quote from one of my favorite rebellious theologians, the eminent Doctor Martin Luther:

“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!”

Have a great day.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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