Adorning an outside wall of Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery is a mural of a holy man, a flock of people raising pint glasses of maibock beer, and one rebel impatiently quaffing his malty Bavarian lager early.
This mural depicts the annual Blessing of the Maibock, a tradition that’s now in its 18th year at Town Hall. The holy man standing above the crowd in the mural is Aron Kramer, a former episcopal vicar who has participated in the event for nearly a decade. For him, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience.
“It’s about finding a way to recognize something that sustains you, gives you energy, gives you life, gives you joy, and happiness,” Reverend Kramer says. “It’s kind of a rite of spring.”
German maibock is traditionally brewed during the winter months in an effort to usher in the arrival of the brief spring of the Bavarian Alps. Kramer says the maibock beer (also known as a heller bock or pale bock) is also probably tied to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, though he is still digging deeper into that aspect of the beer’s background. In the meantime, Town Hall and Kramer continue to sanctify the beer in their own way: through song and prayer.
“When I think about what church should be like, and liturgy and worship, this kind of epitomizes everything I know about experiencing the holy,” Kramer says, noting that it doesn’t matter if those in attendance believe in a different religion, or no religion at all. “We gather together to bless the creation of the beer and celebrate the joy and excitement it brings in that moment.”
It’s difficult to not feel joyous when listening to the prayer. When trying to explain why the prayer excites Town Hall visitors, Kramer breaks into song: “Good lord, deliver us,” he sings. His voice rises and falls. Next comes the “irreverent, wonderful, glorious, very funny, hilarious prayer.”
It involves bail bondsman, jerks, smashers, creeps, and “thinking that I’m the most amazing person in the bar.”
In the last three or four years, Kramer says it’s been tough not to crack up during prayer. As he scans the room of singers, he notices knowing glances, smiles, and chuckles among friends. “If you catch the right moment, you can just see people reminiscing about a moment when they were too drunk to do something, or all the different stories that just kind of flash across people’s eyes,” Kramer says. “There’s a sense of vulnerability in that moment where people are willing to at least silently express those moments.”
This all happens in less than 10 minutes. This will be Kramer’s tenth year of leading the prayer, a turn of events that kind of happened by accident.
Kramer, who jokingly calls himself the Vicar of Town Hall, was recommended for the blessing by a colleague who originally received the call to do it. He abstained due to an unwillingness to be around alcohol for personal reasons, but thought of Kramer, a young priest who had just moved from Duluth to the Twin Cities.
Kramer says he would have never guessed just how much he would enjoy the visceral reality of it all, how connected he becomes with Town Hall patrons and brewers, as well as what he calls the “best maibock in the Twin Cities.”
“It is the most fun that I have in the whole year,” Kramer says. “I have tons of conversations with people about what they’re looking forward to. There are very few moments in my life that are as fun as this particular event. It is just a blast.”
The Blessing of the Maibock will take place this year on Saturday, May 7, at Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery. The blessing and toast happen at 5pm, and free maibock will be poured from 5–6pm.