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Be there: Raise a pint and get your singing voice ready for Beer & Hymns

Beer & Hymns at The British Bulldog Pub in Irmo. At this session, from left, Joe Shahoud, Drew Tucker, Daniel Locke, Justin Rimbo, Drew Ingram, Eric Wolf, Josh Brecht, Gail Brecht.
Beer & Hymns at The British Bulldog Pub in Irmo. At this session, from left, Joe Shahoud, Drew Tucker, Daniel Locke, Justin Rimbo, Drew Ingram, Eric Wolf, Josh Brecht, Gail Brecht. Provided photo/Emily Harden

WHAT: Beer & Hymns

WHERE: Various Columbia area locations

WHEN: 7 p.m. at Michael’s Cafe downtown, the British Bulldog Pub in Irmo and Beef ‘O’Brady’s in Northeast Richland

In 2012 Justin Rimbo moved to Columbia from Minnesota with two goals.

The first was to get a two-year degree from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary to be a rostered leader in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The second was to recreate a hymnal singalong that he did with his church in the Midwest.

Four years later, Rimbo has his degree – and Beer & Hymns is a hit.

“The first time you approach a restaurant or bar with the idea, they always give you a side-eye,” Rimbo said, laughing. “But once we show up and we’re there for a month or two and they see that people are having a good time and we help bump their numbers a bit, they always want us to come back.”

Some of us go to this church, some go to that church and some don’t go to any church. If you want to talk about it in terms of Christian denomination, some of us are Lutheran, some of us are Methodist and I bet there are some Baptists sneaking in but they won’t tell anyone.

Justin Rimbo, founder of Beer & Hymns

And, that seems to be the case.

The first Beer & Hymns was at the British Bulldog Pub in Irmo. Rimbo knew it was the perfect location, so he became a regular. Last fall, Living Springs Lutheran Church arranged for Rimbo’s motley crew of hymnal singers and beer drinkers to gather at its family-friendly pub chain Beef ‘O’Brady’s in Northeast Richland. The most recent establishment to host them is Michael’s Cafe downtown, which is housed in a building owned by Agape, a faith-based company.

“We’re excited to be downtown,” Rimbo said. “People were asking us for a long time to do one downtown.”

And without attempting to sound like “Captain Obvious,” Beer & Hymns is exactly that – beer and hymns.

“We’ll do some hymns like ‘Amazing Grace,’ ‘How Great Thou Art’ and ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ but we’ll also put in some newer hymns that are interesting so people can be exposed to something new,” Rimbo said. “And we always include two or three secular hymns – songs that are on the radio that people just like to sing that might hold a deeper meaning. So we’ll sing ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ ’ by Journey or ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift.”

Rimbo normally leads the singalong, playing acoustic guitar with a pickup band comprised of attendees, creating a unique sound each time a Beer & Hymns gathers.

“We’ve had nights where we’ve had five acoustic guitars, to other nights where we’ll have an acoustic guitar, a banjo, an accordion and a saxophone,” Rimbo said. “It’s the most interesting lineup, and the songs sound different every time because the band is different every time. That’s what makes it interesting.”

THE VIBE: When people hear “hymn,” there’s an automatic association with church. But considering these hymns are sung while holding a cold one, it’s safe to say “come as you are” is an understatement.

“We’re not looking to be professional singers,” Rimbo said. “But even if you have amateur, spur-of-the-moment singers coming together to sing, it can be amazing. You don’t need to be a professionally trained choir to get the benefits of singing with other people in public. There’s a magic to it no matter how you do it. We’ve had people wander in from other parts of the bar, and they start coming every month.”

THE VERDICT: Let’s be honest. This sort of event isn’t for everybody. But besides church and a few scattered karaoke nights at bars, where else can you just belt it out in public without being criticized? So if you want to go for the experience of singing hymns in a pub while drinking a pint, then go for that. If you want to go to make new friends, they encourage that as well. It might not be for everyone, but for those who are interested, just know that “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” so just “shake it off” and sing. Loudly.

Beer & Hymns

For information on future Beer & Hymn events, visit their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/beerandhymnsSC.