Thursday, May 19, 2011

Re-pint, er, repent! Judgment Day cometh!

Oh what rapture it would be to spend this Saturday in Southern California.

Specifically San Marcos, where the folks at The Lost Abbey, makers of some big, tasty Belgian-style beers, plan to throw a swinging End of Days party, complete with space for saints, sinners, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse and avenging angels.

"It's the end of Craft Beer Week and the world as we know it at the same time," says Sage Osterfeld, one of those Lost Abbey folks. "Can you think of a better way to go, after you've just had a great beer?"

If you haven't heard – if you've been spending more time re-pinting than repenting – for quite some time a Christian radio evangelist has been preaching that May 21, 2011, is Judgment Day – the Rapture, Jesus' return and the run-up to the annihilation of the Earth that's supposed to happen five months later. (Better get your winter seasonals brewed now.)

"It's been Judgment Day here for five years," says Osterfeld.

Known for taking an ale-infused satirical turn on religion (Devotion, Inferno Ale), Lost Abbey, part of Port Brewing, just marked its fifth anniversary, and incidentally, is looking to expand into the New Jersey market, beyond Belgian brew-loving Philadelphia, this fall.

Unless, of course, the Earth is destroyed.

On Saturday, the brewery will make its Belgian quad, Judgment Day, the centerpiece of a daylong party in the brewery's tasting room, serving the 10.5% ABV ale and other beers that use it as a base. The brewery is reserving one side of its 50-foot bar for saints, the other for sinners. A costume competition invites you to attend dressed as your favorite character from Revelations.

"We've gotten a lot of calls about it," Osterfeld says, referring to the intersection of Judgment Day (the beer) and Judgment Day (the end-of-the-world proselytizing). "The local news in San Diego did a story about it."

Those calls started back in January. At first, the Lost Abbey folks were a little leery about making light of the End of Days pronouncement by Harold Camping, leader of the Family Radio Worldwide ministry. The apprehension was less about the appearance of sacrilege and more about the possibility of doomsday cults, a legitimate concern since the group that followed the Comet Hale-Bopp into the afterlife with a mass suicide in 1997 was located only 15 miles from San Marcos.

But in this case, things are quite different.

In hordes of interviews, Camping says he zeroed in on May 21, 2011, as the date for Judgment Day through close examination of the Bible. He calculated (seems more like extruded) the moment based on the date of Jesus' crucifixion (April 1, 33 A.D.), the 1,978 years hence, the number of days in a solar year (365.2422) and the 51 days from the start of April to May 21st. The product of all that mathematical contortion was then matched to some numerology representing atonement, completeness and heaven. The result: May 21, 2011.

Camping's revelation has drawn plenty of believers, including some who have trumpeted the end-is-coming message via billboards (like ones in Morris County in North Jersey and Cumberland County in South Jersey) that also, coincidentally, promote the ministry's radio show and website. (Wonder if Camping will do a big finale show like Oprah?)

But the bold pronouncement that Saturday is the Big One also has an ample share of doubters and critics. Ample, as in probably most of us.

So, who's to say some satirical, irreverent, or even gallows, humor isn't in order? After all, the doomsday prognosticator made a similar calculated forecast for 1994 (wonder if Camping forgot to carry the 1?) and yet, we're all still here.

For now, at least.

But in case you still need some reassurance about things, Osterfeld offers this comment: "I don't think anyone actually thinks the world is coming to an end."

The image above comes from Lost Abbey's website. And, yeah this site is nearly always about New Jersey beers, but this story was too good to leave behind.

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