JOLIET – “I come for the beer.”
That was Karen Williams’ top reason for attending the monthly “Bible & Brew” Bible study at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Joliet, where its pastor, the Rev. Matt Robinson, serves his home-brewed beer beside scripture.
But Williams, of Joliet, also likes Robinson’s Bible study.
“It’s not strict and organized,” Williams said. “It’s kind of laid back and everyone has a good time. And we’re allowed to share our opinions and not be judged.”
Robinson often revolves the study around a topic, which he writes on a whiteboard so everyone can see and add ideas. The topic for Sept. 14 was, “What is the least I can believe and still be a Christian?”
The answers were as varied as the beer Robinson served. “Love” was the most popular answer.
“There’s never a dull moment,” Barbara Pierce, of Plainfield, said. “The pastor has the ability to spontaneously answer a question. He’s got a background in theology, which I appreciate because some pastors don’t. So it’s invigorating and full of energy.”
Robinson is also experienced when it comes to Bible study. He’s led various Bible studies and workshops for more than 30 years. Robinson said he loves the church and never tires of studying the Bible.
“A few years ago, I took up home brewing because I love beer, too,” Robinson said.
Robinson mulled the idea for years. He had friends that home brewed. He faithfully read home-brewing magazines.When Chicago Brew Werks opened in Plainfield, Robinson made up his mind.
“I did something I’ve never done in my life,” Robinson said. “I went shopping on Black Friday.”
Having acquired the basic equipment, Robinson, feeling like an alchemist, he said, was ready to launch his hobby. That was three years ago.
“I’ve been brewing ever since,” he said.
What Robinson didn’t anticipate was his level of enjoyment and desire to share it with others. He was aware of ministries that brought the gospel to bar patrons or Bible studies that met in taverns, but neither worked for Robinson.
“I’ve got my home brew,” he said.
So Robinson devised a Bible study that would be “provocative and catchy, but not heavy graduate stuff.”
“I try to make them meaningful,” Robinson said, “but enjoyable, too.”
All beer, Robinson said as he began pouring, is either an ale or a lager. Robinson said he only brews ales because his equipment is not capable of brewing lagers. The beer served Sept. 14 was brewed from Robinson’s recipes. The original formula called for malt extract, but Robinson has since converted all his recipes to use grain extract.
He recalled his initial brews from several years ago.
“My very first beer was a red ale,” Robinson said. “My second was a chocolate stout because I love stout beer.”
Kari Mills, of Joliet, a lifelong member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, said “Bible & Brew” is another outlet for study and fellowship. Sometimes she has a beer – drinking beer is not a requirement and some attendees actually prefer wine or coffee – but she’s there for the dialogue.
“We all have a chance to speak our peace,” Mills said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Bible & Brew
WHEN: 7 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month
WHERE: Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1015 Winthrop Ave., Joliet
ETC: Informal Bible study and home-brewed beer. The event is free and open to the public.