Pub Theologian’s Best of 2013

Pints were raised. Theology happened. Another year has come and gone.
Pints were raised. Conversations happened. A good year comes to a close.

To new and old readers of this blog, to those who I’ve been able to lift a pint with, and to those gathering everywhere to enjoy a good brew and engage in thoughtful discussion, here’s to 2013! It was a good year! Cheers.

YEAR-END GIVEAWAY – I’m giving away a signed copy of Pub Theology along with a $25 gift certificate to your favorite brewery. Entry details below. (Winner, drawn on Jan 4 2014 is: DIANE McGRATH from Abington, PA! She entered via Facebook. Results via


Pub Theology Official Directory: A listing of all Pub Theology and Theology on Tap style gatherings in the United States. There are over 130 groups listed here and more are being added every week. Know of a group that’s not listed? Post it in the comments below! It’s really great to hear from folks all over the country who are being intentional about cultivating an ongoing conversation in their community about matters of life, philosophy, and faith.


HuffpostRPMA Rabbi, a Priest and a Minister Walk Into a Bar – at both Philly Beer Week and DC Beer Week, I was privileged to join Rabbi Eli Freedman and Father Kirk Berlenbach for conversational sessions in which each of us discussed the role of craft beer in our faith communities. Both events drew packed houses and generated considerable buzz as unusual offerings on the usual slate of beer week events. Look for us at a beer week near you in 2014!


You’ll see a few saisons on the list this year as my palate expanded to enjoy more farmhouse and Belgian style beers.

10) Monkey King Saison (New Holland Brewing) – A soft, medium body saison with subtle pepper character and fruity undertones.

9) El Hefe Speaks! (DC Brau) – a traditionally brewed German-style Hefe. It is fermented around 65°F and hopped with German Tettnang hops. 11 IBUs and 5.3% ABV make this one extremely drinkable. One of three local DC beers to make my top ten.

8) ESA (Yards) – East Kent Golding hops give this English style ale a subtle spiciness, which compliments its strong malt backbone. Hints of chocolate and caramel round out this deep chestnut colored ale. Floral, earthy, smooth. A cask-conditioned wonder that is a staple of Yards in Philadelphia. I enjoyed this one at a small bar served via the hand-pull from the cask. Smooth and delightful.

7) Peppercorn Saison (3 Star Brewing) – Belgian style farmhouse ale. Slightly sweet fruity nose, hints of grass and coriander, smooth underlying bitterness, clean dry finish, smooth lingering citrus notes. A local DC offering.

6) La Saison Des Fêtes (Atlas Brew Works) – A warming winter Belgian ale straight from the farmhouse to your fireside. The third saison to make the list, and the third DC brewed offering from one of the District’s newest breweries.

5) Stone Ruination IPA (Stone Brewing) – an extra-large helping of malt, and a lot more hops. And then some more. And then even more, resulting in a vibrant blast of citrusy bitterness that hits you on the first sip. Just one taste and you’ll know why it says on the bottle: “A liquid poem to the glory of the hop!”

4) Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter (Starr Hill) – a traditional English-style Brown Porter with pumpkin added to the mash. Light spicing allows the subtle flavors of pumpkin and roasty porter to shine through. Boxcarr is a session beer at 4.7% and very drinkable. This was my go-to beer this fall.

3) Three Philosophers (Ommegang) – A beer made for contemplation. Aroma a sweet and heady mixture of rich toffee, floral tobacco, vanilla bourbon, and brown spices. Very sweet smell but there’s a little bitter grain to provide balance. Palate is all rich sweet malts, dark fruits, and spice, minimal toast or roast. Milk chocolate, dates, nutmeg and clove, vanilla cream, a little banana, and licorice toffee with a semi-chewy, buttery mouthfeel. A small amount of ale brewed with Belgian kriek cherries imparts a subtle red fruit acidity from start to finish. Low to moderate carbonation. A very nice Belgian-style quad with a lot of complexity and character. And much gratitude to Ommegang for sponsoring our DC Beer Week event!

2)  Parabola Russian Imperial Stout (Firestone Walker) – Bold bourbon, tobacco and espresso aromas and a hint of American oak greet the nose. Rich, chewy roasted malts, charred oak and bourbon-like vanilla fill the palate and create a seamless finish. A remarkably complex brew that—according to the brewers—offers a transcendental drinking experience. I enjoyed this at Smoke & Barrel tap takeover during DC Beer Week.

1)  Indian Brown Ale (Dogfishhead) – A cross between a Scotch Ale, an India Pale Ale and an American Brown, Indian Brown Ale is well-hopped and malty at the same time (It’s magical!). This made my top ten last year, and this year moves up to no.1! A beer worthy of any top listing.



10) Tomorrow’s Theology. Today’s Task. – My response to a controversial article in The Banner.

9) “No, Donny, these men are nihilists.” – This 2011 post on the roots of rapturous nihilism continues to be popular. The end of the world viewed through the lens of The Big Lebowski.

8) Apology NOT Accepted – A Lutheran pastor is forced to apologize for praying at an interfaith prayer service. I refused the apology.

7) Jesus in the Desert: A Midrash? – Jesus encounters Satan in the desert. History, parable, or midrash?

6) God Doesn’t Need Our Help, But He Asks For It – James K.A. Smith says there is a “new apologetics” afoot in Christianity to make the faith more palatable in an age of intellectualism and postmodernity. He’s wrong.

5) Why Conservative Churches Attract Young People… Or Not – You get the idea.

4) Religion May Not Survive the Internet, Then Again… It Might – Some are saying religion is going to be vaporized by this thing called the ‘internet’. I say not so fast.

3) Noah and the Violence of God – Debate: who is more violent – God or Russell Crowe? [Trailer included]

2) A New Convergence – There are  shifts happening within broader Christianity… whether one likes it or not. This 2012 article is the most popular post ever at

1) Show Up or Else: the So-Called Scandal of the Semi-Churched – A controversial post (from just a couple weeks ago!) where I take a pastor to task for chastising his congregation (and every Christian) for inadequate church attendance.


1) Practicing Theology Without a Net: Theology Pubs, Spiritual Direction, and Letting Go – This fantastic article by Keith Anderson was featured on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed. A great read.

2) 10 Things You Can’t Do at Christmas While Following Jesus – Mark Sandlin’s piece got a lot of attention this Christmas. Deservedly so.


5) Walden Two (B.F. Skinner) – This fictional outline of a modern Utopia has been a centre of controversy ever since its publication in 1948. An interesting read if you’re interested in sociology, community, and attempts at ‘getting it right’.

4) Schrödinger’s Gat (Robert Kroese) – A quantum physics thriller. If you like having your mind bent by science and philosophy (who doesn’t?) while reading an engaging story, read this book! ($2.99 for Kindle)

3) To An Unknown God (John Steinbeck) – A mystical tale, exploring one man’s attempt to control the forces of nature and to understand the ways of God. Steinbeck once again captivates.

2) A Being Darkly Wise (John Atchison) – Every once in a while you find a book that knocks your socks off. “A Being Darkly Wise” is such a book. A group of Washington bureaucrats go on a wilderness training led by a mysterious, charismatic activist/scientist. As the story progresses they begin to realize how estranged they have become from the earth we inhabit. ($3.99 for Kindle)

1) 11/22/63 (Stephen King) –  My favorite read this year, and timely with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. If you could go back in time, would you change anything? Captivating read, and really great story-telling. I couldn’t put it down.


Thanks for reading, everyone! Don’t forget to enter the year-end giveaway!

Here’s how to enter:
1) Share this post on social media (FB, Twitter, Google+).
2) Like my author page or invite your friends to like my author page.
3) Like this post with your WordPress account.
4) Share your favorite beer or favorite book (or both!) from the past year in the comments below.
5) Follow me and/or Pub Theology on Twitter: @bryberg and @pubtheology


You can enter multiple times by doing each of the above. Must enter by 1/1/2014. Drawing on Jan 2. Good luck!

Congratulations to

Diane McGrath
Winner, Year-End Contest 2013!


14 thoughts on “Pub Theologian’s Best of 2013

  1. Both are already on your list, but …

    Beer: Dogfishhead’s Indian Brown Ale. Brown ales generally don’t interest me, but this one is fascinating.

    Book: Schrodinger’s Gat, by my friend Rob Kroese! A noir thriller that incorporates quantum physics and philosophical issues such as free will/determinism, ethics, personal identity, and possible worlds.



  2. Yeah, so they are all IPAs, don’t judge me for my love of hops 😉

    #5 Stone Enjoy By 05.17.13 IPA
    Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
    Style: Imperial / Double IPA
    ABV: 9.4%

    I drank this beer on 5.12.13 after completing the World Series of Birding with the highest total of species for a full state team. It was a celebration beer, so it tasted even better than expected. Sadly, in the morning we discovered that our total was eclipsed by a youth team so we were awarded second place. I could have used a second one to wash the taste of defeat out of my mouth. Oh well, there’s always next year.

    #4 Julius
    Brewery: Tree House Brewing Company
    Style: American IPA
    ABV: 6.5%

    This is my local brewery’s flagship beer (and the only one on my list under 8% ABV!) I was promised a great IPA and this delivers. Citrus nose, full-bodied hop feast front to finish. Bursting with 1.6 oz per gallon of American hops, Julius is loaded with notes of passionfruit, mango, and citrus. At 6.5% alcohol, it is refreshing and freakishly drinkable.

    #3 Stone RuinTen IPA
    Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
    Style: Imperial / Double IPA
    ABV: 10.8%

    I haven’t had anything from Stone I didn’t like. When I was in Long Beach and this was on tap I figured I wouldn’t get a shot at it any fresher. This beer has the same ingredients as Stone Ruination IPA, but the malt is bumped up to achieve its elevated 10.8% ABV. And of course they jacked up the hops as well. Not just in the boil, but they doubled the dry-hop amount, using a 50/50 blend of Centennial and Citra. The combination is a hop kick in the face.

    #2 Palate Wrecker
    Brewery: Green Flash Brewing Co.
    Style: Imperial / Double IPA
    ABV: 9.5%

    Hops in the nose, hops on the front end, hops in the palate, hops in the finish, hops in the check, hops in the tip, hops in your dreams! Here is how Stone describes it:

    “Palate Wrecker was originally brewed for the Hamilton’s Tavern 2nd Anniversary celebration. It’s the most complicated West Coast–inspired IPA we have ever brewed. With 6 pounds of hops per barrel, Palate Wrecker is officially the hoppiest beer in the ring. Our Double IPA is the result of a complex and innovative double-brewing process that is exclusively ours. First, there is a single infusion mash and subsequent boil at 65 IBU with Columbus and Centennial hops. Then, a second duplicate mash using the 65 IBU wort instead of water and a second 65 IBU boil using the same hop schedule. The result is a higher gravity beer with kettle caramelizing in place of crystal malts and an elevated hop flavor and bitterness that might not be achieved with the same amount of ingredients in a single brew.”

    #1 Curiosity Five
    Brewery: Tree House Brewing Company
    Style: Imperial / Double IPA
    ABV: 8.4%

    This was the Tree House’s Thanksgiving offering with a limited run. It was a combination of a couple of their amazing recipes. There were pine notes with hoppy goodness from nose to finish. I gave thanks for being one of the lucky ones who got the maximum three 750’s


  3. Hands down best beer in America (yea, my opinion) is Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. It’s simply amazing year after year. My favorite book is Mike Stavlund’s “A Force of Will” which is fresh, real, brilliant, theological and yet pastoral. How many theologians are really pastoral – far and few between.


  4. So many beers to choose from and not so many books. New Holland Dragon’s Milk was a pleasant surprise! Bell’s Expedition Stout is always a good choice and you can’ go wrong with Kastel Donker! The Gospel of Rutba and The Jesus Driven Life topped my list of books. I also enjoyed Pub Theology and I See Satan Fall Like Lightening. Well maybe there was a good number of books after all!


  5. Favorite book of all time is Tsotsi………..or The Dive from Clausens Pier. No definitely Tsotsi. Just started drinking beer this year. Don’t have a favorite yet, although I like Ambers best.


  6. My favorite brew is Kenyian Black tea (sorry but you know me). My favorite book this year was “Cracking the Pot”. Now I am not just saying that because of the amazing author. It helped me to understand and refocus my own journey.


    1. I loved the Bacon Stout (excuse me… snout lol) because of the novelty and it’s all organic. Unfortunately unless you live near Asheville, NC (aka the craft beer capital of the world) you probably won’t ever get your hands on a growler of it. If not the Three Philosophers (#3 on the list, and still underrated in my mind) is one of the most interesting and complex beers I’ve ever had and it’s fairly easy to find on the east coast. Also I had the Westmalle Tripel, which is a trappist belgian style beer, and wow! Anyways keep up the great work Bryan.


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