Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

I was born and raised in a home state where beer is an essential part of the culture.

Home to at least one of the major industrial brewing companies and a large number of local breweries, beer is part of life in Wisconsin. I remember, when I lived there, the state traditionally had the highest per capita consumption of both beer and brandy in the United States.

It can be a challenge to explain to people who are not from Wisconsin how the culture shapes us. Beer is its own category, somewhere between soft drinks and alcohol.

The student union at the University of Wisconsin, of which I am a proud graduate, boasts a room with a mural depicting the battle between beer and wine. 

My appreciation for beer and passion for craft brewing were shaped by growing up in a beer culture.

Another significant influence on my understanding of beer and spiritual life was being raised in a church with a conservative theology.

My church pushed against the tide of beer. I can remember people telling me, more than once, it was impossible to be a “good Christian witness” while wearing a T-shirt with a brewery label on it.

I recently talked about this cultural tension with Jan Lynn, a friend of mine, over a few beers. Jan, who helps churches learn to communicate more effectively, was raised in a church similar to mine. Her experience, though, was not in Wisconsin and not in a state with a strong beer culture.

In the church in Jan’s background, like mine, spiritual people did not drink alcohol at all. Many people considered drinking a sin, or at least a temptation for others.

She grew up with the perception beer had a reputation as “common,” which meant people only drank it to get drunk. Her concept of wine, however, was it was higher class and a little more justifiable. After all, wine is referenced quite a few times in the Bible and Jesus miraculously transformed water into wine.

Jan’s understanding of beer and its spiritual life began to shift in the 1990s. Beer became more of an artisanal beverage with careful crafting which harkens back to its spiritual heritage.

Jan tells me she honestly had never thought about the spiritual life of beer before we started talking about beer and monasteries a few years ago.

I met Jan through one of the Craft Brewery Pilgrimages I did a few years ago. We get together every so often to talk about the similarities, and differences, between beer and wine.

Not every conversation we have is a reenactment of the battle between beer and wine. 

Jan’s appreciation for beer and its spiritual side, particularly in building community, has grown. She would probably still say, if pressed, wine is more spiritual than beer, which has a more earthy spirituality. Cocktails are probably still sinful, though.

While my tastes differ from Jan’s, I appreciate what she has to say about beer’s earthy spirituality and how it strengthens community.

It can be easy for us to take beer, and its spiritual side, for granted. One great place to go for some introductory background is an hour-long documentary from the Discovery Channel about How Beer Saved the World which is available on YouTube and Vimeo. Another good introduction is The Comic Book Story of Beer by Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith.

I have come to see the spiritual life of beer more deeply as I continue to explore.

Thank you for joining me on my journey of discovery.

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 and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at, and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel on

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