Father Chuck Wood – Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  Since this is a long post, if you are seeing it through an e-mail, please visit the blog to see all of the photos by clicking on the title above so the narrative is not clipped or shortened.)

Followers of Thebeerchaser blog know that each quarter, I name an individual or group as my Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter.  They may or may not have anything to do with bars or beer; however, the “honoree” has, in my humble opinion, made a contribution to society and a good story I try to convey.  (For the BOQ posts, see the tab on the left side of the header above.)

Dr. John Walker – Portland State University graduate school

As an example, my last group so honored was Lawyers – in light of the 40+ years I worked with these professionals.  Individuals who have garnered this designation include veterans with distinguished military service, authors, athletes, media personalities, civic leaders and academicians including my graduate school professor of public finance – Dr. John Walker.  

The individuals whose stories I related in 2020 include William Tucker (Billy) Main – an outstanding member of the 1967 Oregon State Beaver Giantkiller Football Team and Jack and Jan McGowan – the co-Executive Directors of the outstanding Oregon environmental group SOLVE.

Jan and Jack at their Sisters, OR home

This quarter, Fr. Chuck Wood, joins another man-of-the-cloth, Fr. Martin Grassel (Order of St. Benedictine) in BOQ membership.

Fr. Martin, a Benedictine monk, is also the Head Brewer for the Benedictine Brewery – one of three in the US owned and operated by Benedictine Monks.  I have been privileged to be involved as a volunteer with the Brewery and development of the St. Michael Taproom since late 2017, where our motto is “Taste and Believe” and our flagship beer is Black Habit.

Head Brewer and Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary Procurator, Fr. Martin Grassel

Through involvement with the Brewery, in part, I became a member of the Abbey Foundation of Oregon (AFO) Board of Trustees, which is where I met Fr. Chuck – another member of the Board.  Before telling you Chuck’s story, a few general comments on why I wanted to share it with you.

I’m a Presbyterian, so before becoming involved in the Brewery and the AFO, I had essentially no prior contact with either priests or monks.  Since then – fall of 2017 – I’ve become good friends with both a number of Benedictine Monks who live at the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary and the priests involved with the Abbey.  (Perhaps the picture below, will show why you should visit the beautiful and expansive grounds on the Abbey Hilltop.)

Without exception, they have been wonderful caring and dedicated men of God.  The monks at the Abbey pray collectively six times a day and rise at 5:00 AM to commence their prayer and duties.  They also have diverse backgrounds, for example, Fr. Martin, graduated from the University of North Dakota in Computer Science and after graduation worked as a software engineer for Honeywell Corp in Phoenix, when he got the call which brought him to Mount Angel.

Abbott Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, grew up on a farm in a small town in Idaho and became the twelfth elected head of the Abbey and Seminary in 2016. Before he was elected Abbot, Fr. Jeremy taught theology at Mount Angel Seminary and at Sant’ Anselmo University in Rome.

Abbot Jeremy Driscoll OSB

He has published three books and fifteen scholarly articles on Evagrius (a Christian monk and ascetic) and related topics in ancient Egyptian monasticism.

He has also written widely on liturgical questions. and published three books of poetry in addition to a recent collection of poetic essays called A Monk’s Alphabet.  (A wonderful book I would strongly recommend.)

The Abbot has a wonderful sense of humor and his humility endears him to all.  To see an example, check out this short video – one of the weekly inspirational messages – this one at Thanksgiving – he has given to those of all faiths during the pandemic: https://www.mountangelabbey.org/monastery/abbot-jeremy/abbot-jeremy-videos/

And with apologies for digressing – again…but I have been amazed at the wonderful  perspective and collective sense of humor all the clerics I have met possess.   While I  talk about this merriment more below, look at a brief preview with Fr. Chuck and two of his colleagues (Fr. Mark Nelson and Fr. Mark Bentz)

This YouTube clip is entitled “Three Priests React to Priest and Church Jokes,” and while some of the jokes are corny, just observing the fun these three priests have doing the bit, is well worth watching. (Click on the center of the photo below)

Father Chuck

Chuck and his dad in Washington DC.

Chuck was born in Washington DC in 1960 into a Catholic family.  His dad was a graphic artist and designer who worked for the Depts. of Agriculture and Labor.  His mom, raised a Baptist, converted to Catholicism and worked as a clinical and hospital nurse at both Howard University and in a private clinic.

The theatre, music and art were all avid interests – “I was a creature of artistic variety and was involved in drama from the time I was in grade school, but our plays were terrible and my talents as an actor were not so good!”  (You’ll have a chance to judge that below…)

His best friend starting in second grade was Vincent Cowal – they kept in contact and in one of a number of amazing “coincidences” in Chuck’s life, Vince now teaches media and technology at Jesuit High School in Portland where he is a respected educator.

Chuck Wood was a good boy growing up – never in trouble, having no curfew, and was interested in going into politics and government – maybe as a diplomat.  He graduated from St. Anselm’s Abbey School – an all boys school for grades 6-12, which was on the grounds of a Benedictine monastery and where “Where Bright Boys Become Exceptional Men.” 

St. Anselm’s Abbey School

A turning point……

Then in his sophomore year “I became bored with being a good boy.”   After a year of somewhat disruptive behavior contrasting with his former demeanor – although not resulting in any major trouble – he had a change of heart because of the influence of a young priest.

Fr. Thomas Kalita came to Chuck’s Catholic parish and helped the young man come to the realization that being a Christian meant not just going to church, but having a personal relationship with Jesus and helping others.

Fr. Kalita – a profound influence

In October 1976 at an evening service, he committed to do that.  “It changed my life.  My life now is a direct line from that day.”   He said that “prayers and circumstance got me to the University of Notre Dame.”

A central factor and one that “became part of my identity” was his introduction to People of Praise.  Founded in 1971 in South Bend, Indiana, this organization has grown into a community of about 1,700 members…. in 22 cities across the US, Canada, and the Caribbean.  To summarize their philosophy:

Jesus desires unity for all people. We live out this unity the best we can, in spite of the divisions within Christianity. We are Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and other denominational and nondenominational Christians…. Despite our differences, we worship together. While remaining faithful members of our own churches, we have found a way to live our daily lives together.

Our community life is characterized by deep and lasting friendships. We share our lives together often in small groups and in larger prayer meetings……. We strive to live our daily lives in our families, workplaces and cities in harmony with God and with all people.”  (People of Praise webslite)

Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus

Chuck became a member of People of Praise  (POP) in the fall of 1978 while a student at Notre Dame and also joined the Brotherhood within POP committed to a celibate life.

He studied economics and government and was a “bad actor” in a number of University productions and “hung around with artsy friends.”   During this time his interest in journalism was heightened by writing articles for the school newspaper and serving as editor of the student magazine.

Preparing for life after graduation, he applied and was rejected for several jobs including a nationally known Catholic publisher, but a priest told him about an internship at the Catholic News Service in Washington, DC. and through the help of a Catholic bishop, he secured an interview in his senior year.

When the six-month internship ended, he was hired as a reporter – a job he loved and at age 24, he thought would be a great lifetime career. Moving back to South Bend, he took a job at a small publishing company.  Although Chuck was firmly committed to People of Praise, he had not seriously considered the Catholic priesthood.

Looking back, when he was about eleven, his Aunt Leona – a protestant – commented to Chuck’s mom, “He will probably be a priest.”   After he was ordained his sister stated,  “Chuck was probably the last person in our family to know that!”

Cardinal Francis George – another strong influence in Chuck Wood’s spiritual journey

Chuck stated, “God nudged and prodded me to be open to the possibility.”   And part of that “prodding” was moving to Portland in 1996 after driving across the country in two vans with ten other Brothers from the People of Praise living in communities in South Bend and Minneapolis.

This was, in part, at the urging of Yakima Archbishop Francis George who would soon be appointed as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Portland and who was eventually created a Catholic Cardinal in Chicago by Pope John Paul II in 1998.

This move was a matter of faith as he was finishing his Masters in Theology at Notre Dame.  Three of the ten new Oregonians decided to attend seminary at Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary near Salem, Oregon – a Benedictine community.  Two started in the fall of 1996 and Chuck joined them in January.

“I attended high school on the grounds of a Benedictine Monastery and felt very comfortable in this environment,” he stated.  “I became immersed in the Benedictine tradition and love the intellect and culture.”

Mt. Angel Abbey Seminarians

Upon graduation in 2000, he was ordained a priest and his first assignment was at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in North Portland.  For two years at that assignment,  he and a colleague also co-pastored at Sacred Heart Church in SE Portland.

It also brought some special assignments with a Brother from POP in Minnesota involving teaching at a secondary school. He then returned to his long-term home in Oregon, where Fr. Chuck has served in a number of parish posts all in the Portland metropolitan area as follows:

2004 – 2010:  St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Gresham as Associate Pastor

2010 – 2012:  St. Clare Parish in SW Portland as Pastor

St. Clare Catholic Church

2012 – -2016: Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Lake Oswego as Associate Pastor

Now lest you think that Fr. Wood’s attachment to the arts diminished in his ministry and restrained him from showing his talents, take a look at this video below.

It shows him and Fr. John Kerns, the Pastor, rocking out and their “inspired” dance moves to the cheers of their congregation at Our Lady of the Lake’s 2014 Parish Festival.  (This one should make you laugh out loud….!)  And if you search YouTube, you can find more of Chuck’s artistic endeavors including a Gilbert and Sullivan entry. (Click on the center of the photo below)

2016 to present: St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Scapoose ( 20 miles from Portland) as Pastor

The beautiful sanctuary of St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church

St. Wenceslaus is a parish of about 275-300 households. They are fortunate to have a pastor with the faith, dedication, intellect, sense of humor and dance moves of Fr. Chuck Wood.

Since this is a blog about bars and beers, I ended my interview (unfortunately we could not meet face-to-face in a bar or brewery) asking Fr. Chuck about his beer-of-choice to which he replied:

“Because of pre-diabetes, blood sugar issues, I had to cut back on beer intake.  When I do drink beer, I like darker brews – stouts and porters such as Benedictine Brewery’s ‘Black Habit(an obvious choice) – and Hopworks Urban Brewing – ‘Survival – 7 Grain Stout.'”

In light of Fr. Chuck’s fondness for corny jokes, after I saw the video about the three priests, I sent him this bar joke – perhaps he will use it in the future….

A little variation with a computer reference..

“A priest, a minister and a rabbit walk into a bar and the rabbit says, “I think I may be a typo….” 

And finally, because I couldn’t resist, I leave you with just one more YouTube example.  Fr. Chuck sent this 2020 production to the Monastic Community, the AFO Board and the Abbey Staff by e-mail after Easter.

After a few months of the pandemic and lockdowns, people were looking for something light-hearted and positive and he accomplished that goal. He prefaced it with the following comment:

“While it’s still the Easter Season for a couple more days, I invite you all to take a look at an Easter video I put together. Just short of 6 minutes, it’s a spin on Pharrell Williams’ song, ‘Happy,’ from the 2013 movie, “Despicable Me 2.’ Pardon me if my ego is showing, but I’d be honored if you’d care to take a look.  Happy Easter!”

The reaction as you might expect was effusive and generated numerous thankful e-mail responses.  God bless you Fr. Chuck.  You are truly a Soul Man!  (Click on the center of the photo below)

The Coast is Clear……..Reflections

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this through an e-mail, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking on the title above so the post is not clipped or shortened.)

 

Well Beerchaser followers, I’ve told you since March that I’ve not been to any new watering hole because of the lockdown and pandemic.  

To be safe, we have just stayed away and confined our consumption of my favorite beverage to Happy Hours on our back deck with the exception of one visit to the Benedictine Brewery in Mount Angel, Oregon. (see below)

We added to that one exception on October 15th however, when we went to the Oregon Coast for a few days.  On a beautiful fall Friday, my spouse convinced me to break away from the Siren Call of “Breaking News” on cable television and drive down the Oregon Coast from our base in Lincoln City on the Central Oregon Coast.  

A beautiful sunset the night before helped me to fully grasp the natural treasure that we have in our own backyard.  

We drove about 50 miles south along Oregon’s amazing scenic coastline momentarily escaping thoughts of COVID and focusing on breaking waves, seals and gulls populating dramatic rocky cliffs and the surrounding lush forest which complements the ocean views. 

And all the while, we remembered the legacy of Governor Tom McCall, whose actions in 1967 preserved public access to the beaches in the Oregon Beach Bill.

On our 2017 road trip

Yachats Brewing was not a new establishment for us – we had stopped here during a road trip in 2017 which I highlighted in a November blog post – it was a wonderful place to have lunch.  Still being cautious about COVID, we ate on the patio which is right on Highway 101.

We split a tasty pint named “Bestest Mensch” which is a hoppy and delicious collaboration with the innovative Wolf Tree Brewery a few miles up the road. Our server was friendly and helpful.

I had a delicious brisket sandwich while Janet’s chicken-salad sandwich was also a winner.  Yachats did a great job observing preventive and cautionary COVID measures so we were buoyed, so to speak, by the fact that this coastal brewery appeared to be thriving during these challenging times.

It was a wonderful day and we realized how fortunate we are to be able to have a day like this and will continue our prayers and support for those who are struggling with the pandemic.

A Quick Watering Hole Update

Bars, breweries and restaurants are some of the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic and I was saddened to see that Bailey’s Tap Room and it’s upstairs annex, the Upper Lip – reviewed in the early days of Thebeerchaser – closed permanently.  

Bailey’s featured twenty-four rotating taps of great microbrews and was a repeat recipient of Draft Magazine’s 100 Best Beer Bars in America.

I won’t go into all of the closures in Portland but to give you an idea of the breadth of this economic downtown for the hospitality industry, other shut-downs include Back Pedal Brewing  on NW Flanders, Grixen Brewery – a SE Portland brewery established in 2013 which was:

 “….one of the area’s most striking brewpubs with open-beam high ceilings and old-growth timber repurposed into table tops and other accents.  Modern-industrial custom metalworks graced the space, with rolling bar-table frames and a 600-pound lighting trust above the length of the bar.” (Oregonian, 8/19/20) 

We visited Grixen early this year as my neighbor was one of the three owners, but I didn’t have the chance to write a Beerchaser review.)

Another innovative brewery – Base Camp – which is owned by Justin Fay, a graduate of the Oregon State University Fermentation Science Program and opened in 2012 by some Klamath Falls friends, shut down its Buckman Neighborhood brewery:

“The taproom with its spacious outdoor areas, fire-pit and food-cart pod, was a popular spot for years, attracting neighborhood regulars and drawing from Portland’s beer tourism as the scene exploded around it, all while spreading the outdoor life mantra.” (Oregonian 8/19/20)

Even some of the stalwarts of the Oregon Craft Industry are having to revamp their operations to cut operating costs because of reduced patronage.  For example, Rogue Brewing shut its public house in the Pearl District in September after 20 years (Willamette Week) although its two other Portland locations will remain open.

The BeerMongers

With the closures above, I was heartened to see that another early destination when I started Beerchasing – The BeerMongers – celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. 

I went to this eastside bottle shop and taproom with former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, in 2014 right after he assumed the Executive Director position of the City Club of Portland.cxcvx

The BeerMongers  is “known for its artfully curated selection of beers, being named the Best Beer Bar in Oregon by Craftbeer.com in 2018.”  (Oregonian 8/30/19)  The owner of Porto Bello, the pizzeria – a vegan trattoria in the same building as the bar in between BeerMongers and a tattoo parlor next door – came over to our table and said:

“Sam Adams, we really miss you.  I want to buy you guys a pizza!” 

Sam Adams and Porto Bello owner

She came back ten minutes later with a delicious complimentary pizza which meshed perfectly with the pints we drank. 

Unfortunately, it appears that Porto Bello wasn’t still around to celebrate with its neighbor in 2019.

The Monks’ Legacy Continues

Some of you know that I was involved as a volunteer in the planning of the Benedictine Brewery and St. Michael’s Taproom, which opened in the fall of 2018 on land owned by the Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary in the rural area east of Salem. 

The community effort in erecting the structure in late 2017 is a wonderful story (check out the videos in the post below) and it’s one of only three breweries in the US owned and operated by Benedictine Monks.   https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/11/21/the-benedictine-brewery-beam-me-up/

A skilled brewer – Father Martin Grassel

And former Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter, Fr. Martin Grassel, the Manager and Head Brewer reported that the first year of operations was a great success.  He brewed 118 barrels with sales that greatly exceed expectations that year.

When the pandemic hit in March and with the lockdown, only take-out sales were allowed for ten weeks in 2020, but since reopening,  the Brewery continues to thrive with August being the highest month of sales since opening in 2018.

My wife and I can confirm that the Taproom was very cognizant of COVID measures and has an expansive patio area which allows social distancing.   The Taproom will soon have a permanent heated pavilion tent above it during winter months.  

And the best part of was taking the short hike up to the Abbey Hilltop and strolling around the  campus with outstanding views.  The beautiful chapel has also reopened.

While the ambiance and the scenery is a real draw, the key is Fr. Martin’s growing skill as a brewer.

With over ten beers now on tap, this former software engineer has drawn rave reviews for the quality and taste of his brews with the St. Michael’s Helles being the most popular although the flagship Black Habit is also a favorite.

And take a look at the charcuterie plate that you can enjoy while drinking one of Fr. Martin’s beers.

Survival of the Fittest?

Speaking of the pandemic, there’s nothing remotely funny about this global tragedy, but maybe it helps a little to try to look on the light side when one can – for example, this post from one of my favorite dive bars.

Darwin’s Theory is in downtown Anchorage and owned by a fellow Oregon State University alumnus.  This “story” was in it’s latest newsletter.

Darwin wrote: “We were in the 11th day of self quarantine.  As I saw my wife quietly standing in front of the living room window staring off into space with tears running down her face, it was breaking my heart.  I was trying to think of some way to cheer her up.  In fact, I almost considered letting her inside, but rules are rules!”

Maybe he named his bar Darwin’s Theory because of his adherence to the concept “Survival of the Fittest”.

“Dough nut” Follow This Example!

In a previous Beerchaser post where I cover the legal profession and how I enjoyed working with lawyers for over thirty-five years, I mentioned some bizarre cases.  Some of the most recently appreciated essential workers have been emergency responders although this 2001 incident reported by MyPlainview.com addresses an incident some years ago. 

The incident precipitating the lawsuit was bizarre:

“An ambulance driver was fired after being accused of stopping for doughnuts while taking a patient to the hospital….The incident occurred while (he) was taking a boy to the hospital with a leg injury.  The injury was not life threatening.  The boy’s mother filed a complaint.”

“Eat one whenever you want”…Not!”

But perhaps more bizarre was the fact that the driver then filed suit against the City of Houston for intentional infliction of emotional distress and racial discrimination. 

While initially a judge rejected the City’s effort to have the case dismissed and ordered the plaintiff to amend his lawsuit, all of the claims were ultimately dismissed in July 2002. (I’ve been saving that one up for a long time….)

Cheers and Stay Safe!