Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

Art of CraftI realized the other day I spend quite bit of my time thinking and writing. As I thought about it, it seems to me there are two things I think, and write, about more than anything else.

First, I write a blog on the Contemplative channel of patheos.com. Three times a week, most weeks, I write about exploring and practicing spiritual life and spiritual leadership.

Second, I write this column on craft beer and brewing in DaBelly.

I love craft beer and brewing. There is nothing quite like visiting a brewery or  tasting room for the first time. Meeting and talking with brewers and other people with a passion for craft beer is a blast. Even sorting out all the ins and outs of where craft brewing is going can be fascinating.

As I thought about it, I began to wonder why these two subjects were so important to me.

People have asked me how and why I wrote about both of these things. It was a challenge for them to see the connections between spiritual life and brewing beer.

I have written about the monastic contributions to the history and current practices of brewing. There have been times when I pointed to craft brewers as examples of entrepreneurial, pioneering leadership. Of course, I also take a great deal of joy from both spiritual life and beer.

As I spent some time reflecting I began to remember what had drawn me into my love for craft beer in the first place.

I am passionate about an excellent porter or stout and appreciate a good IPA. It is not, thought, primarily about the taste of the beer for me.

The people who share my enjoyment of craft beer also draw me in, but my commitment is not essentially even about them.

For me, loving craft beer is about where craft brewing coincides with spiritual life.

There is something deeply spiritual about drinking great beer with close friends. The beer helps us slow down and take time to reflect. We can stop rushing to analyze and categorize everything we see. Deep friendship allows us to be honest with each other.

We sit drinking together and we tell each other the truth. No individual among us is required to answer all the questions or take responsibility. We share what we have experienced, telling our stories and rolling great tasting beer over our tongues.

What is the spiritual life of beer, the soul of brewing?

How are spiritual life and enjoying great beer connected?

Those are the kinds of questions I want to be thinking and writing about here.

I decided to take a step forward in this direction by taking a step back. I interviewed Rev. Brian O’Rourke three years ago in the June, 2015 issue of DaBelly. Brian is an Episcopal priest who enjoys brewing and drinking great beer.

When we talked a few years ago we touched on how he came to appreciate craft beer and brewing at home. We even thought about churches in financial need brewing beer the same way monasteries have.

Brian and I talked again recently about some of the insights and questions we have gained over the last few years. I learned Brian has not increased the amount of beer he is brewing, as he expected, but is brewing less.

Our conversation covered many aspects of the relationship between spiritual communities and beer. We talked about what “drinking responsibly” really means, especially in the context of community.

What responsibility do those of us who enjoy great beer have to other member of a community who may deal with addiction? How can we drink responsibly?

What are the differences between drinking responsibly and refraining from drinking altogether?

We talked about how members of monastic communities, for example, can live honorably with other members who may not be able to drink responsibly.

It is not that Brian appreciates beer less, but actually that he appreciates it more.

Brian has taken conscious, intentional steps to clarify the ways spiritual life for him relates to drinking beer. He has focused his attention on drinking beer he loves, drinking less beer which is outside his attention. His approach to beer has become like a spiritual discipline for him.

Brian is letting go of some beers so he can deepen his enjoyment of beer he really loves.

There are many ways beer can connect to spiritual life for us. I look forward to exploring how beer can deepen and strengthen the spiritual life in us.

Greg Richardson is a spiritual leadership coach and 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 StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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