Faith and Froth in Atlanta’s Craft Beer Scene (Part II) – Atlanta Evangelical…

Note: This is the second in a series about craft breweries in Atlanta owned and operated by evangelical Christians. Monday Night Brewing was the focus of Part I.
Brian Purcell had just gotten back from Portland. Excited from a first-hand experience of the city’s famed craft beer culture, he went out and bought a home brewing kit, which promptly sat in a corner, unopened and gathering dust, waiting for its opportunity.
In the next few years, a lot happened to Purcell. He got married and had a child. He moved to Decatur, near the Brick Store Pub, now known locally as a community gathering place and purveyor of the world’s best beers. Most importantly, after reaching what he calls a “desperate moment,” he finally, in his words, “gave his heart and soul to Christ.” The old home brewing kit was about to become a big part of his spiritual and professional journey—once he replaced the parts that had rotted from disuse, that is.
The Culture of the Table
The friendship of other young fathers at his church contributed greatly to Purcell’s spiritual growth. “It was a time of intense bonding, of building deep relationships with these men,” he remembers. And, because the church came from a reformed tradition, alcohol—in moderation—was welcome. “Since we had a common love for craft beer, we started brewing together. Then we thought, ‘What if we turned this into an event?’” Thus began something called “Home Brew and BBQ,” a small group get-together that became more highly anticipated each year.
Soon Purcell found himself as part of a church plant in Decatur, All Souls Fellowship. Hoping to build both the new plant’s community and its relationship with Decatur, Purcell drew on his experience. Rather than doing the traditional Saturday morning men’s pancake breakfast, he suggested putting together a beer and cheese tasting event. Once again, craft beer proved conducive to relationship building, and the event continues to be successful. “I’ve always found a love of beer to be in harmony with a love of people, and community” he says, calling it the “culture of the table.” “And I’ve always thought that the beer should be good beer!”
Calling and Purpose
As Purcell continued in his faith, he noticed that the leadership work he performed as an elder at church was personally fulfilling in a way that his profession had never been. “There was a sense of calling and of felt purpose in it that I would have pursued in my day job if I had ever known it were possible,” he relates. He came across a quote from Frederick Buechner: The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. Was it still possible to find that as a man now in his 40s? And could craft beer be the avenue?
“For a long time, I didn’t feel advanced enough to go pro!” he laughs, adding that he demurred the first few times someone approached him about brewing as a business. But as his skills improved, he sought counsel and prayed. Finally, he asked his wife. “She’s an actress, so she was all for the idea of pursuing a dream, but under one condition: I had to find a financial guy.” Purcell developed a relationship with fellow Christian Chet Burge, a local CPA in Decatur who shared his vision. He was ready.
Gratitude and Encouragement
Purcell always knew he wanted to name his venture after a real place, a place that reflected the deeper meaning of what beer is all about. One day, as he was looking through a Bible concordance, he saw the name “Three Taverns.” Not remembering it from the Bible, he turned to the reference, Acts 28:15 (ESV): And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.
“I thought, what better name could there be than one that echoes the Apostle Paul’s gratitude and encouragement, even as a prisoner on his way to Rome?” Reflecting on this significant meaning, Purcell settled on Three Taverns Craft Brewery. “Rest, sustenance, community, encouragement: That’s what I want Three Taverns to be about.”
Beer at its Best
From the beginning of his home brewing days, Purcell was reticent about putting alcohol front and center at church-related events. “I thought about people, including a neighbor of mine, who have a bad background with alcohol, whether themselves or their loved ones,” he acknowledges. “I always wanted to make sure to communicate that alternatives were available.” And though he never faced any overtly negative responses to his brewing, he has come to recognize and accept that some people will think it is not right for a Christian to make a living brewing beer.
Purcell strives to be sensitive to that point of view, but also wants to challenge it winsomely. He points out that people misuse many things: food, sex, money and power, just to name a few. Are Christians to avoid or eradicate those things? “I kept coming back to the fact that my savior drank wine and made it part of the sacrament we are to use to remember him,” he concludes. “We can’t just erase that.” Instead, he would rather produce a product that he views as a gift from God, designed to be used responsibly. “Some of the TV commercials give beer a bad name,“ he explains. “When the beer is at its best, it’s about gifting the community with a worthy participant in the rich moments in life.”
Three Taverns Craft Brewery opened in July of 2013, a long time from that visit to Portland. It is located just across the parking lot from All Souls Fellowship in Decatur, where, true to its heritage, it doubles as a small group meeting place for the church on Sunday mornings. In more ways than one, it continues to promote the culture of the table.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *