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Strong Beer is the Milk of the Old: Brewing the Padre’s Pils

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The great author of the Protestant Reformation, Dr. Martin Luther, in old age noted: “We old folks have to find our cushions and pillows in our tankards. Strong beer is the milk of the old.”

There is truth in that statement. The monk theologian of Wittenberg knew his beer.

Yesterday was a lot of fun. I got to brew about ten barrels of what will be called The Padre’s Pils at Gordon Biersch. I had a great time with our master brewer, Adam Gurtshaw and the experience helped inspire me to learn the craft of brewing when I eventually retire from the Navy so that as a brewer I can help out at whatever craft breweries are located wherever we eventually decide to retire.

You see I really don’t want to own the brewery, nor to I want to be in charge of anyone or anything when I retire, but I would like to be able to help out or substitute as need be. As I have told people for a number of years, I have the Sam Weinberg * retirement plan, in that I plan to have no responsibilities when I retire from the Navy. I don’t want to be in charge of anything or anyone, but I digress…

Today was cool because I got to learn about brewing and doing it was fun. It is something that I could enjoy doing. There is activity, combined with some science, and artistry to craft a great beer. I wouldn’t mind doing that as a way to keep busy when I retire and maybe supplement my income a bit by helping out in different breweries.

So in about four weeks or so this beer will be tapped at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach. Unless something unexpected happens I should be back from the Oktoberfest in Munich in plenty of time for the release. I’ll let you know of the official release date when I have it, and when I do come on down and enjoy this or any of the other great beers that Adam brews.

So until we can drink together I ask you to consider the words of Martin Luther:

“Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

* Sam Weinberg was played by Kevin Pollack in the film “A Few Good Men.” His quote “Sam Weinberg I have absolutely no responsibility here” is my post retirement plan.

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Brewing “The Padre’s Pils”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today I am taking a day of leave before I make my seemingly annual religious pilgrimage to Munich for the Oktoberfest so I can do some apprentice work brewing beer. A few months back I won a day with our brewer at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach. When our brewer Adam Gurtshaw asked what kind of beer I would like to brew I said a very crisp, clear, German Pilsner, something like Wurzburger Hofbrau, Lichter Pils, Henninger Pils, Romer Pils, or Bitburger Pils. All are almost champagne like in their clarity and run between 5.0 – 5.8 percent alcohol; all are hoppy but are not over hopped, and each perfect beer to pair with almost any kind of food.

When I first was stationed in Germany in the 1980s I enjoyed a lot of really good beer, but I was always drawn to the pilsners. Over the years I always enjoy a good pilsner, not the crap that some of the big American brewers call pilsner. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lagers, some IPAs, certain dark or Stout types, as well as some wheat beers, but I find that there is something exquisite in a well brewed pilsner. Thankfully, Adam loves brewing pilsner and lagers so my request was met with favor. Besides that, all my Papillons, including Izzy who is in the picture with me love a good pilsner, even my 4.8 pound boy, Pierre who is as incorrigible as me when it comes to beer.

So today I’ll be at the brewery before they open and get to help Adam make what we will call The Padre’s Pils. Honestly I am thrilled as one of the things that I want to do when I retire from the Navy is to use part of my GI Bill to go to one of the universities, such as U.C. Davis that have a master brewing program. I think that would be incredible to do and I could join the long line of German, Belgian, and French priests and monks who have inspired so many people to appreciate good beer.

So wish me luck, and hopefully a month or so after we return from Germany you will be able to join me for the tapping. I promise to let you know when it happens.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Great Hampton Roads Blizzard of 2017

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I live in southeastern Virginia and beginning last night we have been under a Blizzard warning. Blizzards are not uncommon here, but normally when one wants a Blizzard here they go to Dairy Queen, but this time Mother Nature has given us a real blizzard.

It’s crazy enough here that the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore is in town. Parts of the area now have over 10 inches of snow although our neighborhood only has about 6 inches on the ground right now and I expect by the end of the storm our total will be between 6 and 8 inches of snow. The one thing that has kept our snow total down is the fact that we began the storm with sleet and freezing rain, which has also been interspersed with the heavy snow and high winds. The combination has left the roads very icy and dangerous.

We lost power for a couple of hours when according to the police some idiot crashed into a power line pole. When that happened we bundled up, defrosted the Escape and took a short drive over to Gordon Biersch until we knew that power had been restored. Since there were very few people there we had some wings and a couple of beers and Judy introduced me to a fascinating tile game called Quirkle.

The road conditions were bad. The snow was heavy and the roads icy and though few people were on the road, it was obvious that many had no idea what they were doing.

Now our Papillons love the snow, especially Izzy. It is so fun to see them play and get what Pappy owners call the “zoomies.”

So anyway, wherever you are I wish you a great day while I eat my special recipe chili and drink beer.

Peace

Padre Steve

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A Reality Break


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Just a short post today to emphasize a couple of things. 

First, just because Donald Trump is now President-Elect, life does not end. I have my concerns, but I still have family, friends, and beer. 

Second, beer is good. As Homer Simpson so correctly noted “ah beer, the cause and solution to all of life’s problems.” 

Third, and this is serious; I am going to hold off on anymore speculation about what a Trump presidency my bring. Right now everything is speculation and no-matter how well any of us think we are reading the the tea leaves the fact is the fact is that the internal divisions of the GOP may force Trump to work with Democrats to get anything done. Thus it is too early to do more than speculate what may happen after January 20th, even if we strongly believe (like I do) what will happen. 

Because of that fact I am going to restrain my comments until there is empirical evidence that I am right, and when I do write, my words will be carefully crafted in order to focus on policy and its effects than anything directed at any specific person. Emotions can carry one into shoal waters that are more dangerous than listening to the voice of reason. 

So tonight I am listening to great live music and drinking great craft beer with friends at our tapping of the Winterbock at Gordon Biersch Virginia Beach. 

So for the next few weeks I will be writing about things other than the Trumpsition. 


Have a great night, and remember, beer is good.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Unexpected Loss in the Wake of a Storm


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today was a sad day as we unexpectedly lost a friend due to a heart attack or pulmonary embolism. Our friend Dave Shaw had just returned from a business trip and we actually saw him last night before Tropical Storm Hermine hit our area. When I saw him leaving the bar he did not seem to be well, but I assumed that it was simply being tired from his flight home, but I was wrong. 

I found out about Dave’s passing from my friend John as I was cleaning up the mess left by the storm. A mess that was only that as well suffered no real property damage, though we are going to have to find out why water is entering our house from our back yard. That is why we have insurance, but I digress. Had all we had to deal with was the post storm hassle today would have been easy, but we lost Dave, something far greater than our temporary inconvenience. 

Dave was really a good guy, and a friend to many people. He was a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman and was only 61 years old. Dave had friends who were much closer to him than me and I am sure that our mutual friends Randy and Dave are grieving more than I could ever grieve his loss as they were both much closer to him than I ever was. We were able to go with him, Jeri, and a number of other friends to the Oktoberfest in Munich just two years ago. While we were ther Dave donned a Burger King Crown and a German nicknamed him the King of Virginia, a nickname that he relished, and with good reason. 

It was sad for so many reasons, but especially because Dave and his wife Jeri were happy. They were married less than a year ago, but from the time that they met a few years ago I had never seen Dave so happy. They had just purchased a motor home so they could travel and create new adventures when he planned on retiring from his civilian job in the spring. 

I went an visited Jeri this evening, and we will do what we can to help her over the days ahead, as will many other dear friends. 

When you lose a friend unexpectedly it is most difficult, but that being said it would be worse never having to know them or have missed out on the simple joy of friendship. I would have rather that Dave had been able to live out another twenty or thirty years with his beloved Jeri traveling around the country and also enjoying his time with so many of his other friends, here, and around the world. 

As word of his passing spread I saw many wonderful comments and expressions of love and loss. Dave will be missed by so many people. Today the folks at Gordon Biersch leaned the barstool where he sat against the bar and placed a full stein of his favorite beer in front of it. It was a gesture of love and respect for a friend who though gone from us in the flesh will remain part of all of us forever. 


So until tomorrow, please take the time to love and care for your friends, and if you will, please lift a stein or pint in memory of Dave, the King of Virginia. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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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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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.

oktoberfesttent

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.

weihnachtsfest

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.

Oktoberfestmunich

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.

einprosit

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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