Are Local Breweries Creating Papal Beers? Is the Pope Catholic?!

Emma Lee/WHYY

There's been no shortage of cottage industries cropping up in the weeks before Pope Francis arrives for the World Meeting of Families in late September.

But if you really want to cash in on Popemania and get Philadelphia-area residents excited about the pontiff's visit, what do you do?

Give. Them. Beer.

Several local breweries are praying beer drinkers will adore their liturgical libations. After all, who can resist a pale ale inspired by a popular pope?

That's the hope of the folks at Manayunk Brewing Company, which recently created a brew they're calling Papal Pleasure, a pale ale brewed with Malbec grape oak and South American candi sugar.

"We were just researching what was Argentina known for — and that's where the pope's from — and all the sources on the Internet came back to Malbec grapes, as a big export," said head brewer Evan Fritz, who helped conceptualize Papal Pleasure. "We just thought let's get our hands on some of those grapes and put them in the beer."

Fritz even called in a Catholic priest to help enhance the hallowed beverage.

The Rev. John Kelly of St. John the Baptist in Manayunk "came in and blessed the tank, so all of the brewing water that we used to clean the tank and make the beer with was all blessed. He put his hand on it and read this whole little thing," said Fritz.

"[We] gave him some beer to take back with him."

Across the Delaware River, Cape May Brewing Company is hoping its divine drink gets an audience with the pope. It's a pale ale whose name plays on the phrase "you only live once," or YOLO.

It's called YOPO. You Only Pope Once.

"Turns out [Pope Francis] is not much of a beer guy," said president Ryan Krill, who researched the pontiff's background as part of the brewing process.

"He's more of a wine guy, but the beer that he does drink is a light beer. So we produced a very light pale ale — it's about 5 percent alcohol — and we added an unholy amount of hops."

And it would be a sin to forget one of the newer additions to the group.

Philadelphia Brewing Company recently announced their pope-based brew, a Belgian-style tripel called Holy Wooder, a play on how a Philadelphian might say the word water.

All three beers will be available at local bars, and some are being bottled in small amounts.

Manayunk Brewing Company's Fritz said the brewery wanted to celebrate Pope Francis' visit and, given its resources, brewing a special beer felt like the right idea.

"It's a special honor to have somebody of his importance come into our city," Fritz said. "Even aside from all the crap we're going to have to deal with, with traffic and all the people and everything, you gotta look past that and just, you know, be glad that he chose our city."

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