On this warm Sunday evening, the night after Valentine’s Day, D’Amico and his family are among 200 or so revelers at the latest gathering of Beer and Hymns Orange County.
The music sounds like a less-polished version of something from the soundtrack of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Raised a Baptist and employed as the guy who runs the tasting room at Monkish Brewing Co. in Torrance, D’Amico knows both his hymns and his hops. And near the end of “In the Sweet By and By,” D’Amico joyfully thrusts his beer in the air.
The monthly singalong is in full rollicking rhythm, halfway through the set list of 17 hymns – some traditional, some contemporary, some Gospel, some bluegrass.
For anyone who doesn’t know the words, “hymnals” printed on sheets of plain white paper sit inside a cardboard box from Staples at one end of the bar.
‘DRINK ONE, SING ONE’
Nobody’s calling it a religious gathering. But there’s the energy of a revival.
The motto for Beer and Hymns Orange County, printed on T-shirts selling for $20, is pretty straightforward: “Drink one, Sing one.”
Which brings to mind a few questions: What would Jesus drink? Or think?
“We don’t want to be sacrilegious,” says Chad Markley, an IT consultant who leads the musicians who play at Beer and Hymns Orange County.
“We don’t want to be flippant about it. But at the same time, God made a lot of fun people. “It kind of tells me maybe God enjoys a good time.”
Beer and Hymns Orange County is one of a host of such casual get-togethers taking place around the country in bars, brewpubs, restaurants and even church halls.
photos by Ana Venegas.
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