Catholic Beer Club responding to millennials’ thirst for community

| Jonathan Liedl | April 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
Catholic Beer Club

McKaela Laxen, center, of Holy Family in St. Louis Park talks with Nick Check of Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul during a Catholic Beer Club event at Able Seedhouse and Brewery in Minneapolis April 4. In the background at left is Father Byron Hagan of Holy Cross in Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Weeknight visitors to a Twin Cities craft brewery might stumble upon one of the newest young adult ventures in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Although they wouldn’t necessarily know it.

There will be no tell-tale signs that an organized Catholic event is taking place — no speaker giving a catechetical talk, no priest fielding questions, no special reserved seating. Just a group of young Catholics casually chatting, laughing and getting to know each other, likely with a pale ale or stout in hand.

Which is exactly how the leaders of the local chapter of the Catholic Beer Club want it.

“Our goal is to provide not ‘just another Catholic event,’ but a casual forum for people to connect with others from all over the archdiocese,” said Isabel Brown, a parishioner of Holy Family in St. Louis Park who coordinates the group with fellow Catholic millennials Tim Cahill and Wesley Sandholm.

Catholic Beer Club

Catholic Beer Club lives up to its name at Able Seedhouse and Brewery in Minneapolis April 4. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

The group has been holding local CBC get-togethers every few weeks since November 2017. Gatherings are held at breweries like Urban Growler in St. Paul and Insight Brewing in Minneapolis. Craft breweries’ open floor plans and flavorful beer selections lend themselves to the type of free-flowing, conversation-conducive gathering organizers have in mind. The CBC’s next event is 5:30–8:30 p.m. April 24 at Fulton Brewing in Minneapolis.

“There’s no program, no script, no secondary mission that we are trying to accomplish,” said Cahill, a parishioner of St. Mark in St. Paul. “The community is our agenda.”

The idea of bringing Catholic Beer Club, a national brand that now has chapters in more than 20 U.S. cities, to the Twin Cities was brewed up last fall, when Brown, Cahill and Sandholm met at the Archdiocese Young Adult Cookout. The three 20-somethings, who were each involved in young adult groups in different parts of the Twin Cities, realized the need for more regular events that brought together millennial Catholics from across the metro area.

After some research, they discovered Catholic Beer Club, which was founded in Denver in 2014 by a group of then-students at Benedictine University in Atchison, Kansas. Brown, Cahill and Sandholm were attracted to the simplicity of its model: “No Agendas. Just Community and Relationship.” They also recognized the benefits of tapping into a national network with an already well-established social media presence and brand identity, important qualities for attracting a young adult audience. After going through a CBC interview process that assessed their views on community and their commitment to the Catholic faith, they got the green light to organize CBC events.

Since getting started, CBC-Twin Cities events typically draw more than 60 attendees, usually an even mix of men and women. Although “beer” is in the group’s name, non-beer drinkers are more than welcome. And though most attendees are faithful Catholics, conversation typically isn’t too theological, an attractive feature for some.

“It was fun to meet new people who share our faith, but we spent most of the time just talking about life and goofing around,” said Cecilia Miller, a 23-year-old parishioner of Holy Family in St. Louis Park, who attended CBC’s first event at Minneapolis’ Town Hall Brewery in November.

While CBC might not be a catechetical event where deep formation is provided, the coordinators believe the “low-bar of entry for newcomers” allows the group to play an important role in deepening attendees’ faith by pointing them to other young adult ministries.

“This is a platform where relationships are kindled, ideas are formed and people can dive more deeply into their faith,” said Sandholm, a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, who added that the CBC coordinators encourage attendees to check out parishes and other young adult faith communities such as West Metro Young Adults, Cathedral Young Adults and Vespers at Lourdes.

This aspect of CBC is appreciated by Catholics such as Andrew Kuhrmeyer, 27, a recent convert to the faith. Kuhrmeyer, who also attends Mass at the Cathedral, said CBC has been “a big blessing,” and it has helped him connect with the Catholic young adult scene.

“A good group of friends is good to have, especially when you’re growing in the faith,” he said, adding that he was invited to join a Bible study at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis through his attendance at CBC gatherings. “You want to walk the path with others.”

Catholic Beer Club can also be a welcoming place for young adults who are new to the area, like Juliana Poschel. The 23-year-old moved to the Twin Cities from Colorado seven months ago for work, and she said she knew no one when she arrived. She first came across Catholic Beer Club on Facebook, and was intrigued by its simple, straightforward name.

“I like all three of those words put together, so I thought maybe I should check it out,” she said.

Poschel, who goes to Mass at All Saints in Minneapolis, attended her first CBC event in January, describing it as a “completely positive experience.” She is currently dating a Catholic man she first met at a CBC gathering, and she said she sees the potential for many healthy friendships coming from her involvement in its events.

“When you have a bunch of people with something so fundamentally important to them in common [as their Catholic faith] and there’s beer, that’s the perfect mixture for good conversation,” she said.


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