“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”
This is a well-known passage from Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his influential novel Crime and Punishment. For a high school student, reading these lines for the first time in study hall while cramming for an English Lit class, these words normally fade into oblivion. But they can take on a whole new meaning when you are sipping a purple beer and staring at the owner of a brewery named after Dostoyevsky’s famed manuscript.
“Art and beer certainly go together because you are creating something from nothing, while also having a context of influences inspiring what you do and do not make,” said Mike Wambolt, co-owner of Crime & Punishment Brewing in Philadelphia. “The utilization of certain ingredients to find flavors and aromas that may have never been used in beer is the best part of the process.”
Wambolt holds a Masters of Theology from Eastern University and chose a Russian folk art theme for his brewery, hence the name. Logically, Crime & Punishment is situated next to a refurbished old church called North Abbey that was converted into modern loft-style apartments. The owners of the brewery take a similarly pious attitude toward their brewpub. Nothing is accidental here.
“I would consider myself an artist in some ways,” said Wambolt, who plays guitar, piano, and synthesizer. “I love architecture and design, and think that shows in the creativity and unexpectedness in our beers and in how we present our space to the public.”
The goal is to house an eclectic array of art, not to necessarily pocket a profit.”
During a recent trip to Crime & Punishment, there was a hazy violet-colored beer flowing called Space Dogs: Belka, a blueberry and vanilla IPA bursting with notes of Dum Dums lollipops, jalapeno, and Mosaic hops. A few days later, they had added The Three-Body Problem, a sour-kettled gose ripe with 20 pounds of kelp that painted the beer a cloudy green and resembled a nostalgic Ecto Cooler.
Crime & Punishment, located a stone’s throw from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, also invites artists in on the first Friday of every month to sell and talk about their wares. You can purchase thought-provoking art pieces hanging from their walls, including outlandish illustrations like “The Grod Inquisitor” – a Russian czar sitting upon a throne of skeletons, designed by Michael P. Heneghan. The goal is to house an eclectic array of art, not to necessarily pocket a profit.
“I’m usually more interested in the person and finding out what inspired them,” said Wambolt. “What’s most important to me is to be able to provide a space for artists who otherwise may not have as easy an opportunity to showcase their work.”
When asked whom he would most like to collaborate with – aside from black hippie rapper Kendrick Lamar – Wambolt points to Dany Prignon, head brewer and inner artist at Brasserie Fantome in Belgium.
“He rarely brews the same beer twice and brews with a spontaneity that I think lacks in much of today’s brewing culture,” said Wambolt, a self-taught homebrewer who opened Crime & Punishment with six friends in July 2015. “It would be a lot of fun to just throw whatever you’ve got laying around and see if it sticks, much like impressionistic art.”
Lke Dostoyevsky was getting it in his beautiful dark twisted fantasy, it’s about attracting attention on sight, before any words have been uttered.
“The people that come here certainly notice that there is first and foremost a warm and inviting atmosphere,” Wambolt said. “I find just taking time to notice your surroundings and find things you never would have paid attention to can be quite inspiring.”