Church in the… brewery?

Hops and Hymns offers unique congregation experience

 | By

It is no strange thing for the average Alabamian to notice a church on one side of the road, cross the street and find a completely different church on that side also. That’s just how life in Alabama is: Hot, humid and full of churches, which seems appropriate for the country’s second most religious state.

Alcohol-wise, not as prevalent.

Yes, we have a few bars here and there, and you can always run to your local WalMart or liquor store to help satisfy your intoxicated needs, except on a Sunday. Never on a Sunday, unless you know where to go (we’re looking at you, Tennessee).

While churches usually meet on Sundays, alcohol is restricted from sales. Thus, the concept of enjoying a beer while sitting in the congregation is foreign to most Alabamians, but one brewery in Florence, Alabama, attempts to familiarize the notion.

Singin’ River Brewery off East College Street in Florence hosts “Hops and Hymns” every second Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., where patrons can enjoy a beer or beers of their choice while singing hymns and folk songs with family, friends and new and old members of this unique congregation.

“It’s a really laid back evening where there is somebody that is playing live music using hymns, folk song or spiritual songs,” said Kelli Lambert, head of Singin’ River Events and Marketing.  “We have hymnals someone donated to us and if someone has songs prepared and they want to bring sheet music so everyone can sing along, they can.

“We try to rotate the leadership.”

Patrons are encouraged to participate but do not have to sing along.

Hops and Hymns is modeled after events in other breweries around the United States, such as the Black Abbey in Nashville, Tennessee, where owners Rob and Michelle Jones were inspired to bring the same event to the Shoals two years ago, Lambert said.

“It really reflects the traditional pub and the Irish pub tradition, where people could go down and sing Irish folk songs and hymns,” she said.

“The turnout has been consistent and steady with newcomers and regulars. It’s not for a specific group of people, it’s for everyone.”

Singin’ River is looking to grow and reach out to different musicians, spread the word and get families and friends to come and/or learn about Hops and Hymns, she said.

“Our most successful Hops and Hymns is Beer and Carols in December with a 100-person turnout,” Lambert said.

Beers and Carols is Hops and Hymns in December with a more festive spin on the event, adding Christmas brews and carols to the mix.

“It’s a really special event and seems to have brought the whole community together,” Lambert said. “It’s a really fun atmosphere.

“The idea creates a sense of community where people can order food, grab a beer and enjoy music. People think worship has to happen at the church, but we’re showing others they can do that in a brewery, too.”