Philly greets Pope Francis with a kegs of cold beer

WASHINGTON greets the pope with a full session of Congress.

New York welcomes him with the United Nations.

Philadelphia? We tap a keg.

No fewer than 10 specially brewed ales will greet Pope Francis on his visit to Philly this weekend – and what else would you expect from America’s holiest beer-drinking city?

Yes, the mildly irreverent names may have some believers accusing local brewers of heresy. (The folks at Brewerytown’s Crime and Punishment brewery are risking eternal damnation for their salty Jesus Wept gose. )

But all that Communion wine notwithstanding, it turns out the Vatican has long welcomed a good glass of suds.

I present a Brief History of Papal Beer:

33 A.D.: Apostle Peter, the first pope of the Catholic Church, attends dinner with Jesus on Mount Zion. Wine – not beer – is on the menu, and we know how that turned out.

About 996: Gerbert of Aurillac, later to become Pope Sylvester II, invents the pendulum clock. Also, the first happy hour.

Jan. 28, 1077: Excommunicated from the Catholic Church, Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV completes his humiliating “Walk to Canossa” to plead forgiveness from Pope Gregory VII. Henry’s bow cements the power of the church’s hundreds of Benedictine monasteries across Europe . . . and, not coincidentally, their many profitable breweries.

Sometime in 1250: Pope Innocent IV lifts a 250-year ban on nonmonastic brewing in Prague. Making up for lost time, the Czech Republic today drinks more beer per capita than anywhere in the world.

About 1629: Bavarian monks from the order of Francis of Paolo send a cask of their strong Lenten beer to Rome for approval for fasting. Legend says the beer soured during its transport across the Alps, and the pope – seeing no reason to deny the brothers a bad beer – gave it his blessing. Today, that beer is known as Paulaner Salvator (Our Father) double bock.

Aug. 24, 1855: Pope Pius IX grants a dispensation to the St. Vincent Abbey in Latrobe, Pa., allowing it to brew beer on its grounds. America’s only monastery brewery operates for 40 years, till the growing Prohibition movement forces its closure.

Nov. 6, 1928: Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith, a Roman Catholic accused by Protestant ministers of following secret orders from Pope Pius XI, runs on an anti-Prohibition platform. He loses. Prohibition continues for five more years.

Oct. 5, 1965: Yankee Stadium, built by beer baron Jacob Ruppert, hosts a mass led by Pope Paul VI and attended by 90,000 worshippers. In an uncharacteristic sign of respect for a higher power, the Yankees halt beer sales and cover the Ballantine signs with blue bunting.

Nov. 30, 1996: Pope John Paul II’s visit to Australia is sponsored by a brewery that emblazons 100,000 cans of its lager with the pontiff’s official symbol. Organizers reject anti-alcohol critics by noting that one of the country’s earliest Roman Catholic churches was built in a former brewery.

August 2008: Pope Benedict XVI demands the removal of a “blasphemous” sculpture by artist Martin Kippenberger from an Italian museum. Called “Feet First,” the 4-foot-high artwork depicts a crucified frog in a loin cloth holding a beer mug.

May 10, 2012: Benedict canonizes Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th-century nun who is credited with studying and popularizing the use of hops in beer.

March 11, 2013: Benedictine Monks from Norcia, Italy, deliver several cases of their monastery’s ale to a Vatican conclave after Benedict’s surprise resignation. The cardinals shock everybody by selecting Argentina’s Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who takes the papal name of Francis.

April 3, 2014: During a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II regifts a bottle of English bitter she had received a year earlier on the 60th anniversary of her coronation.

April 16, 2015: Now-retired, German-born Pope Benedict celebrates his 88th birthday with a half-liter of Bavarian beer.

Sept. 24, 2015 (today!): Doobie’s Bar (22nd and Lombard streets, Center City) kicks off Popepocalypse 2015, a weekend featuring a menu of papal food (“Fishes for the Masses”) and pontiff-themed beer. The bar fully expects the pope to drop in for a pop.

Philly’s pope beers

  • Holy Wooder (Philadelphia Brewing, Kensington), Belgian tripel, 10.5 percent alcohol.
  • Jesus Wept (Crime & Punishment, Brewerytown), gose, 4 percent.
  • NOPE (Flying Fish, New Jersey), India pale ale, 5 percent.
  • Papal Ale (Manayunk Brewing), Belgian-style amber, 6.7 percent.
  • Pap-Ale (Iron Hill Brewery, Chestnut Hill), Belgian-style single, 4.5 percent.
  • Papist Ale (Vault Brewing, Yardley), India pale ale, 8.7 percent.
  • Pater Noster (2nd Story Brewing, Old City), patersbier, 4 percent.
  • Pope Dennis the Phyrst (Saucony Creek, Kutztown), gose, alcohol percentage unknown.
  • White Smoke (Forest and Main, Ambler), saison, 4.5 percent.
  • YOPO a/k/a You Only Pope Once (Cape May Brewing, New Jersey), pale ale, 5.2 percent.


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