Husband celebrates wife's ordination by making her bitter

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YESTERDAY WAS a double victory for Sue Sheppard. Not only was she ordained as a deacon, but she was able to toast her holy orders with a pint of a special brew bearing her image.

Curate's Choice, a new premium-strength bitter that has been brewed by Guy Sheppard to celebrate his wife's ordination, is the humble clergy's alternative to more elevated ecclesiastical tipples such as Bishop's Finger and Abbot's Ale.

"The beer has been tailored to suit Sue's tastes," said Mr Sheppard, who co-owns Exe Valley Brewery in Silverton, near Exeter, the neighbouring parish to that of his wife. "It's strong - 4.8 per cent - which suits her palate, and it's got a full-bodied taste to it.

"We used the finest Devon malt, English hops and our own spring water. I hope we've got what she wanted."

The Sheppards dreamt up the name with various clergy over a few drinks. "It seemed appropriate, really," Mr Sheppard said. "We went through all the other ecclesiastical beers - Bishop's Tipple, Bishop's Finger, Abbot's Ale, even deacon is already the name of a beer brewed by Gibbs Mew - so we came down to curates."

Mrs Sheppard, who was on retreat over the weekend, was ordained yesterday at St Peter's, Tiverton, by the Bishop of Exeter as a non-stipendiary curate serving the parish of Rewe. The party afterwards was held at Tiverton Football Club.

But there is a godly element to the Curate's Choice. During her three- year training for the priesthood Mrs Sheppard had to undertake various practical assignments, one of which was working as part of the chaplaincy team at the Exeter Hospice.

Exe Valley Brewery has decided to donate 5p from every pounds 2 pint of Curate's Choice sold to the charity Hospicare.

Curate's Choice, which is launched today, will be available throughout Devon and in selected pubs across the country.

So far Mr Sheppard has brewed 1,000 gallons and hopes to continue brewing that amount every month for the next year.

However, this time next year his wife will graduate from being a deacon to a priest, so Mr Sheppard is working on an appropriate name for her accompanying beer.