Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
Beer & Hymns is not a complicated concept. It is, as the
name suggests, a gathering of people who enjoy drinking beer and
There is strong history in Christian
tradition of converting drinking songs into hymns. People have been
known to take popular drinking songs and rewrite the words to create
hymns which are easy to remember. John and Charles Wesley who
sparked the Methodist church and Salvation Army bands turned
attractive melodies into popular hymns.
Even the music of the "Star Spangled
Banner," amazingly enough, was based on a traditional drinking tune.
Beer & Hymns builds
on the traditional relationship between drinking beer and singing
Like porters and stouts and many other
enjoyable things in life, it began in England.
The first Beer & Hymns started its life at a
Greenbelt Festival in England in 2006. People attending the festival
were invited to raise their pints and join in singing some hymns.
Beer & Hymns spread to the United States in 2012 and began gathering
in Hong Kong last year.
It is not complicated to start a Beer &
Hymns group. Most groups meet each month. The key things to include
are a location which is welcoming to both beer and hymns, a group of
musicians to accompany the singing without overpowering it, a
standard format or structure to guide people, a strong selection of
hymns, and plenty of communication to encourage people to
Many groups plan a special gathering in
December for Beer & Carols.
I have attended a couple of Beer & Hymns
events, but do not have a great deal of personal experience with
them. I asked a friend, Pastor Keith Anderson, a few questions.
Keith is a pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church near Philadelphia
and has written books I appreciate, including The
Digital Cathedral and
co-written Click2Save with
Elizabeth Drescher. You can reach Keith at his website.
I started out asking Keith about the
spiritual significance of beer. I agree with him that the most
spiritually significant thing about beer can be the conversations it
engenders. In the time it takes to sip a pint of beer, good and
meaningful conversations can happen, relationships can be
strengthened, and community formed. In a culture that is always
running from one thing to the next, sitting down and sipping a good
brew can open up the space simply to be and to be together.
Keith’s church hosts a Beer & Carols night
each year. When I asked him why beer and hymns, or carols, work well
together, he said, for him, they contribute together to a feeling of
community and celebration. He explained they lift their pints high
and swing them when they sing. They clink them together after a
song. He believes the beer may encourage some who do not usually
sing to do so with gusto. An important part of their Beer and Carol
experience is the location— the local pub. Usually we only sing
those songs in church, at home, or caroling. It is unique experience
to sing those carols in such a public space, where we might
typically have dinner or hang out with friends. It reminds them God
is everywhere— and that we can have fun too!
Finally, I asked Keith about his own
personal favorite beer and carol pairing.
He explained his
favorite pairing for Christmas would be his favorite Christmas
carol, Good King Wenceslas,
and Christmas beer, Samuel Adams’ Old Fezziwig.
Wenceslas is based on a real life
person, Wenceslaus the First, the Duke (not king) of Bohemia who
lived in the early 900s, who was known for his kindness and charity
and faith, so much so that he was later beatified and made a
saint. One of the verses goes like this:
“In his master's steps he trod, where the
snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had
Therefore, Christian folk, be sure, wealth
or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall
yourselves find blessing.”
It is his favorite carol because it is about
showing mercy and caring for poor people. Keith loves how the Good
King’s footprints left warmth in ground, in which his page could
follow. Old Fezziwig, which is a rare find, even around Christmas
time, has spices including cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel, which
warm body and soul.
There are two Beer & Hymns groups in
Southern California hosting Beer & Carols this year. All four of
them will begin at 7:00 PM.
Beer & Hymns
Orange County will host three Beer
& Carols events this year. On Sunday,
December 2 the first will be held
at Slidebar in
Fullerton. The second will be held on Sunday,
December 9 at Knuckleheads in
San Clemente. Their third Beer &
Carols will be on Sunday,
December 16 at The
Wayfarer in Costa Mesa. There is
more information at the Beer
& Hymns Orange County website.
Beer & Carols in
Temecula will be held at The
Bridge on Third in Temecula on
Sunday, December 16.
I encourage you to, no matter how you choose
to do it, enjoy your favorite beer and carols 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 StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com,
and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel