Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

November is a month which elegantly combines beer and spiritual life.

The spiritual practice most closely identified with November is gratitude. We actually celebrate a holiday dedicated to thanksgiving in November.

No matter who we are or where we live, we fill our lives with people and things for which we are thankful. It may be only one person in a crowd of others we wish would leave us alone. It may be the one moment surrounded by a schedule of things we are required to do.

November is the month when we recognize how significant gratitude is for us. While being thanked can make some people uncomfortable, being thankful shapes us and helps us see our potential. Appreciation and gratefulness help us become better people.

Some people try to follow practices which help deepen their gratitude. They may have a practice to help them remember the people for whom they are thankful or find gratitude in new places.

I know some people who decide to choose one thing or person each day in November and remember to be grateful for it.

There are many things for which I am thankful, many people to whom I am grateful. The more gratitude I experience, the more grateful I become. I am thankful for the examples of people who have gone before me, for those who inspire me each day.

One of the things for which we can give true thanks is craft beer.

We are grateful for the taste of excellent craft beer, how it rolls on our tongues and fills our noses. We can be thankful for the way it relaxes us, helping us tell the truths we need to tell. Craft beer helps us make new friends and warms our hearts.

We can also thankful for the examples of people who have gone before us. The monks who have taught us to brew better beer. The teachers who taught us valuable lessons. Our ancestors, who  began new traditions to celebrate gratitude.

For example, the Puritan pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving in what would become the United States had more of an appreciation for beer than we might realize. In many ways beer was central to that first Thanksgiving celebration in Plymouth

Those sailing aboard the Mayflower sighted Cape Cod in November, 1620, after 64 days at sea.  On the ship, they ate bread, biscuits, pudding, cheese, crackers, and dried meats and fruits. Instead of water, they brought barrels of beer -- a standard practice in the days before refrigeration, because beer remained potable longer than water.

Cape Cod was not the destination they had when they set out from England. They attempted to sail south toward their destination in Virginia, but contrary winds and shoals kept them where they were.

The people on the Mayflower decided to land at Plymouth because their supply of beer was getting dangerously low.

In December, a scouting party went ashore, fearing a possible confrontation with unfriendly Native Americans. They soon discovered that the local population had been decimated by smallpox.

That first winter they suffered from cold, starvation and disease; half of them had died by spring. Those who survived the winter were still in danger of suffering the same fate.

Everything changed one spring day in 1621 when a lone Native American walked into the settlement and said, in English, which he had learned from the sailors who had brought the smallpox:

"Welcome, English. I am Samoset. Do you have beer?"

The Pilgrims were astonished. Of all the places they could have come ashore, they had been found by someone who was friendly and somehow spoke their language, and knew about beer.

He showed them how to grow food, catch fish, and sustain themselves. After their first harvest the remaining Pilgrims from the Mayflower shared a feast for three days with their Native American neighbors to thank them and thank God for preserving them.

Even today, many years later and many miles from the Plymouth colony, thirsty pilgrims in Southern California prepare to set out for the next stop on their own personal craft brewery pilgrimages.

What are you most thankful for this month?

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

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