Beer friendly church

St. Mark's on Capitol Hill offers a house brew

Dec 28, 2004 - The addition of a house beer has created excitement at St. Mark's Epsicopal Church in Washington, D.C.


"I can't say it's a compelling reason," Rector Paul Abernathy said when asked whether the addition of Winged Lion Lager to Sunday's pub lunch menu had anything to do with an influx of new parishoners at St. Mark's. Others point out that attendance by twenty- and thirty-somethings seems to be on the rise.

St. Mark's has a tradition of serving pub lunches. Sharing a brew in a family atmosphere is one way they take part. Every Sunday after the 11 o'clock service, more than 100 people gather in the parish hall for pub-style fare that includes soup, sandwiches, salad, bread, beer, soda and wine.

Until last summer, the beers were commercial. That changed when parishioner Rick Weber rented a kettle at Shenandoah Brewing Co. in Alexandria and brewed the first batch of Winged Lion, the symbol of Saint Mark the Evangelist. The first five cases, 120 bottles, of the beer lasted only a few weeks, and Weber soon produced a second batch.

For holiday variety, Weber made an English-style nut brown ale with spices. The congregation loved the Christmas Cheer ale and and scarfed up all 60 bottles at a Christmas fundraiser for the church two weeks ago.

Weber said he feels joy at "seeing something everybody at the church was excited about, something that contributed to the sense of community and belonging."

Parishioners consume the beer as part of the pub lunch, a nonprofit service to the parish. Participants buy pub tickets for $10, which is a donation to the church, and redeem the tickets for food and beverages.

Abernathy makes no apologies for serving alcoholic beverages in the parish hall. "This is a religious community made up of people, people who do drink socially," the priest said. "We also serve nonalcoholic beverages in a way that is as attractive as alcoholic beverages. We do not encourage or dissuade people from drinking [beer or wine]. And we do offer a choice."