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A pastor hopes his brewpub will be a religious experience for some

By: Gene Marks The Washington Post
November 26, 2017 Updated: November 26, 2017 at 4:15 am
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When you have a drink at Steeple Brewing Co. in Hastings, Neb., you'll not only have a good beer, but also may have a religious experience. That's probably what the Rev. Damen Heitmann hopes.

Heitmann is an ordained minister. But he has other special powers, such as being able to create a great batch of custom-crafted beer. And, according to the Kearney Hub, he's putting a clerical touch on his new business and career as brewmaster.

"I like to say we play around with church culture and the weird little things that happen in church communities," said Heitmann, who, when not brewing beer, continues to be a chaplain at a local college and an associate pastor at a nearby church.

If you're stopping by the Steeple Brewing Co. for a drink, just don't expect a religious ceremony or long sermon. Sure, the business used crowdfunded money to equip itself with old pews, ornate communion railings and high-angled wooden beams that give the effects of a vaulted church ceiling. But Heitmann leaves the robe and stole at home.

He doesn't want people to feel that their faith is being trivialized but does want to attract those customers who consider a delicious beer to be its own kind of religious experience. So Heitmann and his partners designed the restaurant to focus on "the human element of the church experience, and not the religion itself" with a drink menu that playfully pokes fun at churchgoing archetypes, he told the Kearney Hub.

For example, Steeple offers the There's the Wayne Fell Asleep (Again) Porter that honors a guy from Heitmann's home church who was "bold enough to fall asleep every week" during services. Another popular item is the Lighten Up, Keith Pale Ale, which is "inspired by the guy who sits at the back of the room every week with his arms crossed, upset about one thing or another."

It's all in good fun. And the restaurant carries with it a minister's influence as a place to meet, bond, appreciate life, and drink. "We call this place a Fellowship Hall. That's what we're here to do: to offer a place of fellowship," he told the Kearney Hub.

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