Greg Carey has brewed two styles of beer at his home in Cedar Township to be sold on St. Patrick’s Day at historic St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Jefferson.
Greg Carey has brewed two styles of beer at his home in Cedar Township to be sold on St. Patrick’s Day at historic St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Jefferson.

March 13, 2017


According to legend in Cedar Township, the parishioners of St. Patrick Catholic Church were explicitly told in the days after a fire on June 15, 1919, not to rebuild.

Not with St. Columbkille Catholic Church a mere 4 miles away in Churdan.

Then again, the Irish are notoriously stubborn.

The church was promptly rebuilt.

The Irish are so stubborn, in fact, that now more than 20 years after the Catholic diocese closed St. Patrick’s as an active worship site, it’s still a hub of activity in northern Greene County.

That’s worth drinking to — and for this St. Patrick’s Day, one of the parish’s own has crafted two styles of beer to celebrate the church’s rich history.

“It’s a great cause, and I love the history of St. Patrick’s,” said Greg Carey, a native of Cedar Township who brewed 288 bottles of his own beer for the church to sell during March 17 festivities. “It was a great run through history trying to come up with names.”

Revelers at a fish fry following Mass that evening will be able to buy two brews Carey has bottled for the occasion: Church Burner IPA and Bootlegger Pale Ale.

Church Burner obviously pays tribute to the 1919 blaze — complete with a label that features an actual photo of the church on fire and an inscription of, “Too Soon?”

Bootlegger Pale Ale is a nod to the hollow grave marker in the adjacent, St. Patrick cemetery used by bootleggers during Prohibition as a drop point for illegal booze.

Carey’s label features a photo of the infamous grave marker with an inscription, “What’s in your tombstone?”

Carey and his brothers hatched the names, but that was pretty much the extent of their help, leaving him to label all 288 bottles.

“They only help when it comes to drinking,” Carey joked.

For Carey, 48, the microbrews are the culmination of a hobby that began four years ago with an unexpected Christmas gift.

“My wife got me a kit for Christmas one year,” he explained. “I liked going to microbreweries and trying different brews. But I opened it up and thought, ‘I’m never going to use this.’”

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

“It just blossomed,” Carey said.

This marks not only the most beer he’s brewed at one time, but the first time he’s named and labeled his beer.

“You do a lot of research,” Carey said.

“Basically,” he added, “you drink a lot of beer.”

Sales will benefit programs and upkeep at St. Patrick Church.

The beer will be available two ways: In a wooden crate, complete with an original St. Patrick Church brand, of four beers for $40, or $8 for a bottle and a specially designed souvenir glass.

“I’ m just doing this because it’s a great cause. I’m not attempting to become a brewmaster,” said Carey, a contractor in the commercial construction industry.

Carey grew up at St. Patrick Church. Great-great-grandfather John Carey was among the Irish who settled in Cedar Township in the 1870s via Canada.

The first church — a wood-frame building — was erected in 1872.

Sioux City architect William LeBarthe Steele, a protege of Louis Sullivan in Chicago and his Prairie School, later designed a Romanesque Revival building for St. Patrick’s that still looks like little else on a gravel road.

It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has even been restored in recent years.

Historically, Carey explained, St. Patrick’s was the Irish parish, while St. Columbkille was the German parish.

That all changed in 1996, when St. Patrick’s ceased to be an active parish. The Sioux City Diocese permits just two Masses per year at St. Patrick, including the St. Patrick’s Day Mass.

“For the people in this area, it’s huge,” Carey said of St. Patrick’s Day.

But in a twist of fate few saw coming, all Catholics in northern Greene County will soon be reduced to immigrants once more.

Citing a shortage of priests, the diocese in January announced that St. Columbkille is among 38 churches moving to “oratory” status, a move that closes a church as an active worship site.

After summer 2018, St. Joseph in Jefferson will exist as Greene County’s sole Catholic parish.

“We’re all going to be torn in different directions,” Carey lamented.

This St. Paddy’s, drink to that, too.

How to go

What: St. Patrick’s Day Mass, fish fry and variety show

When: 5:30 p.m. March 17

Where: St. Patrick Catholic Church, 449 E Ave., Cedar Township, 4 miles west of Churdan

Cost: Free-will donation to benefit programs, utilities and maintenance at the historic church