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Pastor blends beer, theology in new book

Grand Rapids native Pastor Bryan Berghoef finds theology and God in discussions down the pub.
The author, Bryan Berghoef.

The author, Bryan Berghoef. /Courtesy of Bryan Berghoef

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Title: Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God

Author: Bryan Berghoef

Publisher: Cascade Books (June 2012)

Price: $18 paperback, $9.99 Kindle

ISBN: 978-1-61097-422-6

Where available: Schuler Books, Calvin College Campus Store,


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/Courtesy of Bryan Berghoef

Bryan Berghoef was born in Grand Rapids and lived in West Michigan for most of his growing-up years. His most recent Michigan home was Traverse City, where pub theology discussions at Right Brain Brewery over the last several years inspired the book. He was founder and pastor of Watershed Church. He and his family recently moved to Washington DC to begin a new church (and pub group!) in the nation’s capital. Visit Roots DC: an urban faith community.

One-sentence description of the book, Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God: From the Introduction: "My argument in this book is simple: good things happen when we sit down at the same table together and talk honestly about things that matter—and frankly, having a beer doesn't hurt."

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The book is based on conversations that have taken place over the last four years at a Traverse City microbrewery. Atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Jews, humanists, Muslims, Christians and spiritual-but-not-religious folks have been part of those conversations. It should not be surprising that a brewery is a good setting for spiritual conversations. The church and beer go way back; monasteries served as brewing centers, and Martin Luther was known to enjoy a good pint or two with students (brewed by his wife, no less!). It turns out that beer and religion make a great pairing: a good craft beer is flavorful and complex, and leaves a lasting impression. It’s the same with a good spiritual practice.

My contention is that for too long the church has insisted on setting the terms for how one can find and encounter God. Yet what if God is to be found in places we haven't been looking at all: in a coworker who doesn't believe in God, in a Buddhist neighbor [or] in a friend who prefers a yoga studio to a sanctuary?

My hope is that the book will shift readers toward a more chastened, humble and inviting faith; for non-believing readers, give them insight into ways that help them see the positive value faith brings to our world. The book invites readers into a faith that seeks not to teach, but to learn; not to speak, but to listen. A faith that will have a seat at the table in the important conversations our world is having.

Pub Theology will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys a good beer and is wrestling with complex faith issues in our increasingly pluralistic world. The book asks the hard questions without supplying easy, predictably safe answers. It invites you to pull up a chair and join the conversation!

How did you go about writing Pub Theology?

The book took about a year to write. I first sketched an outline—a sample table of contents—and from there allowed chapters and ideas to develop. I tried to take regular time out of my schedule weekly, often my day off, to write.

How did writing the book change you?

Good question. I think it allowed me to reflect and crystallize some notions that have been ‘brewing’ in my mind over the last few years, and it certainly allowed me to share with many others the good thing that we had discovered at the pub!

What did you discover about yourself?

That I can write a book! I had always hoped to, and it feels great to have accomplished it. I hope this is the first of several. I also discovered that it’s a bit scary to put yourself out there because criticism will inevitably come. Criticism is especially hard when it deals with such a personal and important topic as faith.

What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

I hope readers open themselves to the diversity of thoughts, ideas and faith all around them. We no longer have to travel the world to learn about different religions, philosophies and traditions. They are down the street, at the office and sometimes right next door.

What writing projects are you working on now?

I am working on a book about church planting, a novel, and I continue to blog about faith and beer. I have a few other book ideas on the back burner as well.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope to be pastoring a growing church in DC, perhaps doing some teaching and definitely doing some writing. Hopefully a couple more books will have arrived by then!

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