Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
A year ago I wrote an April
It was funny, and made a few people
laugh. I got to thinking about writing another this year, until I
realized things which used to be April Fool’s jokes have become
it would be better to be serious.
Some people think it is unusual for me to
be serious about brewing craft beer. When I show them my column they
have quite a few questions about it. Some of them are confused, or
concerned, because they do not think it fits with the serious
spiritual work I do. There are people who are not sure I am serious
about craft beer at all. Other people are not serious about brewing
or beer, and think writing about it is a waste of my time.
Significance of Beer
Beer has been part of my life for as long
as I can remember. Born and raised in the state of Wisconsin, beer
was always there. The state was home to many local breweries, though
the beer they produced had similar qualities. Almost everything was
based on German pilsner.
I have learned that German immigrants
brought their brewing experience and skills with them to Wisconsin,
and other states. They were free to experiment with innovative
ingredients, and corn was more plentiful than wheat or barley. They
created the American pilsner which has become the standard for
large, industrial breweries.
There was an attraction and romance to
beer because it was, if not completely forbidden, at least tightly
controlled. Beer and brewing were a strong commercial presence
everywhere I looked, though some people viewed them as disreputable.
remember when, before I was a teenager, an adult at church saw one
of my friends wearing a t-shirt advertising a beer company. This
adult told my friend that it was not possible to be a “good
Christian witness” while wearing a beer company T-shirt.
Growing up and leaving home, I went to
school in Wisconsin, so beer remained present. While I had
never been a big beer drinker, I came to the realization I did not
really like the beer with which I was familiar. I did not stop
drinking beer completely, but I was definitely not passionate about
A visit to England opened my eyes. I knew
there were different kinds of beer in Britain, and wanted to try
some of the exotic sounding options. I ordered my first “bitter” and
woke up to the possibilities of beer unlike the American pilsners of
Aspects of Beer
I work and write about spirituality and
spiritual practices. My blog is on the Spirituality channel at patheos.com.
People bring their questions about spirituality and leadership to
me, and we work together to find solutions.
My own spirituality has been shaped by my
relationships to people in monastic communities. Monks have taught
me a great deal about spirituality and about leading organizations.
I have also learned a good deal from monks about beer and brewing.
There are reasons beer many believe is
some of the best in the world is brewed by monasteries. There are
long historic associations between brewing and monks, so they have
had plenty of time to discover new insights and develop innovative
Beer also has a great deal to do with
monastic hospitality. In addition, brewing is a contemplative way of
Monks practice paying attention, being
aware. The process of brewing is not complicated. Brewers combine
ingredients with creativity and patience, paying attention to what
happens. It includes periods of waiting to see.
The Belgian Trappist monasteries which
produce some of the best beer in the world limit the time and effort
they put into brewing. Their brewing work must fit into the rhythm
of their days, which include reflection, prayer, and rest. They do
not exert themselves to make as much beer as they could, do not
strain against monastic time. While they could generate greater
profits, the balance of their days is a higher priority for them.
Brewing beer has spiritual lessons to
Craft Beer Community
The community which exists around craft
brewing and craft beer draws me.
While not every visit or each
conversation is the greatest I have ever had, I cannot remember
having an unpleasant experience in a craft beer tasting room. Though
I enjoy some beers more than others, each time I have tried a new
brew or a new brewery I have learned something.
Craft breweries are places I can bring
friends together and talk honestly. Tasting rooms are opportunities
to spend time with friends of longstanding and make new ones.
People ask me questions when we visit
craft breweries, and not all of them are about beer. They seem to be
places where people can relax, reflect, and take deep breaths. A
tasting room in a good brewery is like a comfortable rocking chair
or watching a fire in a fireplace. People may laugh or cry, ask
insightful questions, take a new look at what is important to them.
April is an excellent month for a serious
visit to a new tasting room.
Greg Richardson is a leadership and
organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena,
California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and
monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney,
executive, and university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at