When Pastor Todd Barker of Canyon, Texas took out a prominent newspaper ad in October 2016 that began with the words, “Craft beer is the devil’s craft,” it was a very on-brand decision. Barker is a Baptist teetotaler, and countering the evils of alcohol is a centerpiece of his ministry, and the Canyon News covered bar openings. What he likely didn’t anticipate was that the newly opened local watering hole he was targeting, the Imperial Taproom, would honor his printed ad as a coupon valued at $1 — and that this would lead the small community to embrace the bar with a vigor they might not have shown otherwise.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the bar would retaliate. Even Canyon, which a county judge described to the Amarillo Globe-News in November 2017 as “the most conservative place on earth,” was developing a taste for craft beer. The scripture-heavy advertisement was a direct response to the Imperial Taproom opening on Canyon’s main square.
According to My San Antonio, a local online news division of San Antonio Express-News, the Taproom’s response on the company Facebook page, which is no longer active, read: “We’ll give you a dollar off for each (‘coupon’) you bring in so feel free to bring multiple. Come enjoy some devilishly tasty craft beer and/or wine (grape juice with booze in it) with us! We’ll see y’all at the Taproom, cheers!”
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The promotion was welcomed by area beer drinkers and picked up by multiple local and national media outlets. Barker’s unneighborly ad might have even helped to put the business on craft beer lovers’ radar: Imperial Taproom was voted the best beer bar in the entire state of Texas by readers at Craftbeer.com in 2017 and 2018.
Meanwhile, the pastor’s anti-craft crusade continued. In July 2017, Barker ineffectually stood in front of the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum to protest its “Crafts and Drafts Event,” leading one local news site to dryly note, “The protest did not seem to hinder the evening’s event.“ Later that same year, restrictive laws that prevented alcohol sales in much of the mostly dry county were also struck down. It would seem the pastor met his second foe: first craft beer, and then a beer-loving bureaucracy.
More recently, Barker has taken to the internet to encourage his community to flaunt government mandated rules put in place to help end the coronavirus pandemic. On his church’s website, an update posted in April 2020 says: “If you can’t meet in public, meet in secret. Do like Paul and invoke your rights as an American citizen.” (Given the Canyon community’s response to Barker’s prior ministrations, one can only hope they’ll counter his most recent directive.)
As for the Imperial Taproom, the beloved bar unfortunately closed in 2019. Given the degree to which Canyon has affirmed its love of alcohol and craft beer, it’s likely another craft-focused community gathering place will take its place.