Beer: Praise Jesus and pour me a good pale ale


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Jesus always gets cast as more of a wine guy.

But his name figures into the creation of an up-and-coming Western Pennsylvania brewpub, the three founders of which all publicly and proudly describe themselves as followers as Jesus Christ.

On the website of Reclamation Brewing Co. (reclamationbrewing.com), they even posit their "theology" of beer, noting that while Jesus and home brewing "may seem to be a contradiction in some people's minds ... [w]e believe that beer is among the many good gifts with which God has blessed mankind."

One of the principals, John Smith, is a Reformed Baptist pastor near Kittaning; his son, Ben "Dennis" Smith, is an admissions counselor at Geneva College, the Christian college in Beaver Falls. Their partner is Ben Duncan, a price estimator for a company that makes bullet-resistant glass who leads worship at his church and who lives in Templeton, Armstrong County.

They all stress that you don't have to think like they do to enjoy their brews, but they'll be happy to talk about it.

"We're not handing out tracts and Bibles or anything," says Ben Smith, who's 24. "That's just who we are. If you want to talk about it, we'll talk about it; if you don't we won't."

You can meet all three of them Saturday, Nov. 10, at the third-annual Butler's Brewfest at the Days Inn Butler. Reclamation is one of several breweries that will be pouring at the fest from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission ($18 or $20 at the door) gets you beer and food samples and live music. There's also a homebrew competition, and attendees can vote for the best India pale ale from several mid-sized brewers; for more details, call Keith Dawson at 724-287-6761 or email him at kdaws18@aol.com.

The guys also will do 6 p.m. tastings on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at Bocktown in Monaca (where they'll be followed by the band Breadline Preachers) and on Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Bocktown in North Fayette (bocktown.com).

Reclamation is now in the seemingly obligatory Kickstarter phase, aiming to raise $35,000 in donations via Kickstarter.com to buy equipment, complete paperwork, secure a building -- most likely in Butler County -- and build their brewpub. They would sell their own beer their on draft and in growlers to go, and sell kegs to other watering holes in the region.

As of Wednesday morning, people had pledged $10,500-plus with two weeks (14 days) to go.

If the campaign succeeds, and if they can get their state and federal licenses quickly, Ben Smith says they could be up and running next year. If they have to raise money another way, it'll take longer, but they still plan to open.

Their Facebook page notes, "A Baptist pastor, a college admissions counselor, and a cost analyst decide to build a brewery ... No punch line, that's our story."

They've been brewing and sharing their beer since Ben Smith's May wedding, when, he says, "People didn't know we made it and they were complimenting it." People were complimenting their brews at the Oct. 30 at a meeting of the Pittsburgh Brewmasters (http://pghbrewmasters.com), where they poured three: Promised Land Ale, Spurgeon's Chocolate Milk Stout and Egan's Irish Stout.

Spurgeon, they note, was himself a Baptist pastor who was short and stout. Egan's is the name of a pub the trio fell in love with while visiting Ireland about a year and a half ago.

Another of their brews has a religious name: Carey Me Home India Pale Ale is named for a Baptist missionary to India. But as Ben Smith's father, John, has joked, it also can be read as "carry me home," since the brew is 10 percent alcohol.

They also have a Second Breakfast Brown Ale, the name of which is inspired by J.R.R. Tolkein's hobbits, and a White Sangria.

Their Christianity is the basis for one other aspect of their business: They plan to give at least 10 percent of profits to local charities.

So far, their Christian bent has attracted some "naysayers" but also a lot of supporters, among fellow Christians and non-Christians alike, Ben Smith says. "The good far outweighs the bad."

East End Brewing Co. has started pouring at its new brewery in Larimer, at 147 Julius St. That means no more Growler Hours at the old space at Susquehanna Street in Homewood. But there are expanded hours for the new growler room: 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays thru Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

Just hitting the shelves at distributors and some taps at area watering holes is a new, but old, beer from Straub.

The St. Mary's, Elk County, brewery is marking its 140th anniversary in part with Straub 1872 Lager. The beer, which is part of an anniversary sampler case and will be available on draft at many places through the Christmas holiday season, is modeled after brews from before Prohibition, when American beer tended to be a bit darker, maltier and hoppier than it became after Prohibition.

Straub head brewer Vince Assetta and his team brewed 1872 with domestic 6-row malted barley and a corn adjunct, with a little Munich malt to provide more color and flavor, to an alcohol-by-volume of 5.6 percent. They also upped the hops, starting with domestic Cluster hops (the only ones available, they say, in 1872), then adding German Hallertau Mittelfruh hops.

The result? A beer with some nice color, body and taste. I really liked a sample I requested.

Read more about this beer, Mr. Assetta's plans for Straub's first all-malt brew (an ale!) and other beer news on our new group food and drinks blog, The Forks, at pgplate.com/forks. There I'll be able to write more frequently and immediately about the region's craft beer scene.

libations

Bob Batz Jr.: bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.


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