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Building Community with Beer and Jesus: Brethren Brewing Company

The Brethren crew knows how to brew. Photo courtesy of Brethren Brewing Company.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have a church that was, like, beer and Jesus?

Jesse Adams and Daniel Machado discussed over a couple of beers one night six years ago. The two of them had been brewing beer together for a decade. Sitting by the pool enjoying a drink, they saw how their own conversations deepened. What if the same could happen with a larger group of people?

Out of that conversation, the Brethren Brew Pub was born.

Beer and Jesus

The Brethren Brew Pub began meeting in Manteca, California, every other Thursday. Adams and Machado showcased a beer they were making, invited a guest speaker to talk, and coordinated a breakout session where those gathered can go deeper into a set of questions.

“We created a safe space of shared camaraderie,” said Adams. “We’ve had 50 speakers in our community that aren’t pastors who help validate emotions, feelings, and jadedness. Jesus is in this space and he’s moving amidst his people in a tangible way that isn’t super church-y.”

Many who attended said the Brethren Brew Pub was better than any church they’d ever been to, but there were others who were naysayers as well. “We also had those people who were outraged about us ‘getting drunk and preaching.’ We’ve had protesters, and stuff written about us,” Adams said.

But the fruit of their gathering is evident. “We baptized someone at Brew Pub who wasn’t a believer and is now. Pastors now see the Brethren Brewing Company as a unifying catalyst,” said Machado. “Long-lasting relationships have come out of this gathering. The unifying of church pastors in the community has been incredible.”

Beer and Jesus can be a complicated combination, since some believers may balk at mixing of Christianity and alcohol. There is also concern over those struggling with alcohol addiction. “We lead with relationships first and then policy. If you struggle with alcohol, then we’re going to talk to you about it and help you connect elsewhere,” said Adams.

“We go to a fairly small church,” Machado said. “When we started this, I had an attitude of ‘We’ll do this whether the church supports us or not.’ People in our congregation didn’t just poo-poo it, they went and experienced it, and the people that came said, ‘Oh, Jesus is here. It’s church.’ What God led us to do and what God continues to lead us to do is of him.”

Brew Pub Tithing

The group began to grow. “Our community wanted to give back,” Adams shared. Carrying forward its non-traditional style, the Brethren Brew Pub began to consider what non-traditional “tithe” they might give.

“They started to ask each other, ‘What would it look like if we raised money for local nonprofits, so they could focus on their mission and less on their fundraising?’” said Adams. Soon, the Brew Pub started raising money for area nonprofits. To date, the Brew Pub has raised almost $10,000, beginning first with a partnership with the Sierra Nevada Resilience Fund after the Paradise Fire, followed by Love, Inc., the Pregnancy Help Center, and the Manteca Unified School District. Their efforts with the school district focused on helping kids struggling with homelessness stay in school.

Before the pandemic, a gathering of brethren. Photo courtesy of Brethren Brewing 

Brewing Up New Dreams

Manteca is a combination of “old town folk” and Bay Area commuters who drive two hours one-way for work each day. The community and its downtown have slumped over the years, leaving empty shopping centers and little to do.

After two years, Adams and Machado saw the fruit of what God was doing in the Brew Pub and how much the community was able to raise to support area nonprofits to transform the community. What would it look like to be able to do the same, at tenfold or twentyfold? 

The team caught a vision for a faith-based brewery to serve as part of an incubation cycle for other businesses in their community. After expenses, the business could donate its proceeds to area nonprofits to help meet the needs in the community. They asked themselves, what would it look like for the church to re-engage in community development and civic life again? What would it look like to see more “what if” dreams come true?

“God was pointing us in this direction of opening up this brewery to help be the epicenter for change we want to see in our community,” said Adams.

Resurrecting New Dreams from an Old Building

The two of them started looking for a building that would suit their dreams for the Brethren Brewing Company. At first, nothing seemed right. Finally, they came upon an old consignment shop, one of Manteca’s oldest buildings. It fit the aesthetics the two had in mind. It would be a massive fixer upper, but it was in their price range. They put in an offer.

Someone else had already bought the building. This was especially discouraging; the two of them loved the idea of being downtown, but many of the buildings available weren’t the right kind of structure to house a brewing facility. At a loss for how to move forward, Adams and Machado said, “We need to pray.”

The two gathered with other members of the Brew Pub community and laid hands on the building that was no longer up for sale. “Lord, this building is ours,” they prayed. “And you need to make it ours.” The group prayed this prayer and then left. 

One month later, they received a call. “You can buy the building,” they said. The other offer had fallen through, and Adams and Machado were able to buy the building outright.

New location of the Brethren Brewing Company.

Inching Closer to Opening

The pandemic disrupted the Brethren Brew Pub gatherings, and with local liquor licenses suspended throughout the pandemic, the community hasn’t been able to gather in the same way since March of 2020. 

In the meantime, Adams and Machado have made progress on the building. “We’ve gutted most of the inside. We have purchased 95% of the brewing equipment. We’ve invested $500K into the restoration and purchasing of equipment, and now we’re at the threshold of starting general construction,” Adams said.

Unfortunately, construction costs for the building came back higher than they anticipated. They need another $400K to cross the finish line. “God is faithful to complete this project, we know it, we feel it,” Adams said. They are launching a round of fundraising over the next month to try to cross the finish line.

“God is going to show up and show off in a way we don’t even understand. Just to be a part of that is going to be bonkers,” Adams said.

The Brethren Brew Pub gathering has set a tentative start date for the first week of May 2021, which marks the three-year anniversary of when they started. They plan on meeting in the new building during its continued renovation and ongoing fundraising efforts to make the final stretch toward project completion.

“If you want to strengthen your community, that’s a great way to do it,” Machado said. “After a couple of beers.”

Learn more and follow their progress on the Brethren Brewing Company Facebook page.

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