It’s hard to maintain any preconceived notions about the priesthood after the Rev. Jeff Poirot of Fort Worth starts talking about his beer. Or at least about this specific priest.
Sure, he’s thoughtful, soft-spoken yet authoritative, and plays the role of his buddies’ more reverent counterpart on his (few) off hours. But two weeks ago, the Roman Catholic priest won a national award for his brewing, not his preaching.
That’s right. He and his brewing partner-in-suds, Plano resident Nick McCoy, celebrated winning the coveted Ninkasi Award, which is like winning the homebrewing world’s version of a James Beard Award, on June 17.
The Ninkasi Award is given each year to the home brewer, or in this case brewers, who win the most points at the annual National Homebrew Competition across all 33 categories of beers, meads and ciders being judged.
“It’s surreal,” said Poirot, 43, who serves as pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in Fort Worth. “After we were done screaming from excitement when we won, it was hard to put it into words what winning the Ninkasi means to us.”
The award is named for the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer. Some of the earliest evidence of beer in human society dates back to a 3,900-year-old Sumerian poem, titled “Hymn to Ninkasi,” which is basically the first recorded beer recipe in human history.
But closer to Poirot’s brewing heart is the Trappist brewing tradition, which was started by Belgian monks in the Middle Ages.
He and McCoy have taken what they call “bros trips” to several of the remaining Trappist monasteries and their breweries, including Westvleteren, whose Westvleteran 12 has earned the title of “world’s best beer.”
The duo — who named their homebrewing outfit Draft Punk as a play on Poirot’s love for the music of electronic duo Daft Punk — won the 2017 Ninkasi Award with first-place entries in the Strong Belgian and Trappist Ale and the Specialty IPA categories at the National Homebrew Awards.
The awards ceremony was held in Minneapolis this year, in Poirot and McCoy’s third year of entering beers into the national competition.
Draft Punk’s winning Trappist ale was a Belgian Quadrupel that Poirot calls “Jeffestival,” because the pair brewed it first on his 43rd birthday.
The Draft Punk duo hold most of their brew days on Tuesdays in McCoy’s garage in Plano.
To McCoy, who is also Catholic and runs a Dallas-based printing company, “Jeff is just a dude when we’re brewing.”
The team’s winning Specialty IPA was a black IPA they call “Go Big.” There were 8,613 beers entered in the 2017 competition.
Winners of the Ninkasi, which has been awarded by the National Homebrewers Association since 1992, have usually gone on to either open breweries or write books about beer and brewing.
But Poirot and McCoy say they won’t continue that tradition by entering into Dallas-Fort Worth’s already crowded craft beer market.
Father Jeff might take on a speaking engagement or two as a result of his newfound enlightenment in the realm of beer. He may guest-host a beer podcast once or twice, but he already has a job he’s pretty into.
“For me, I always want to balance [brewing] with being a priest, because being a priest is primary, first and foremost for me,” Poirot said.
“This is a hobby, and it’s a hobby I’ve done all right with. So I would never want it to eclipse what I do ... because my role as a priest takes precedence. You can have a busy life. You can have commitments with family and work, but you can still do something you love.”