Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
is the month when we celebrate the most significant relationships in
The shortest month of the year is also the
month of Saint Valentine’s Day.
We have very little information about the
person, Valentine, for whom the day is named. It is not even clear
which Valentine is the one celebrated as a saint on Saint
Valentine’s Day. We know very little which connects any of the
several potential candidates for the “real” Saint Valentine to the
idea of romance. The stories we have today contain elements of
The one thing which the three strongest
candidates to be the “real” Saint Valentine have in common is a
connection to February 14.
It appears the idea of Saint Valentine’s Day
as an opportunity to celebrate romantic love began with the writer
Geoffrey Chaucer hundreds of years after any of the possible Saint
Valentines who lived during the Roman Empire.
Despite a serious lack of background
information we have come to celebrate what we love on February 14.
Many of us spend time with the people we love
most in February. We make plans to go out to dinner or celebrate in
other ways. Some of us choose to exchange gifts, like candy or
We may be inspired by couples and
relationships we know in our own experience. Some of them are people
we have read about or seen movies in which they are characters.
It can be helpful for us to identify some of
the essential qualities which make those relationships possible. We
may choose to include, for example, both people’s favorite colors or
favorite flavors as we recognize and celebrate strong loving
In addition to the loving relationships I
have with other people there are a lot of other couples and pairings
One pairing I am celebrating this February is
the relationship between spiritual life and craft beer.
I talk to people often who ask me about the
connections between spiritual life and beer. Many people see
significant obstacles to that relationship. They see different kinds
of people attracted to spiritual life and beer.
We may see beer as not particularly
spiritual. Beer seems like something which is especially everyday,
especially secular. We can believe spiritual people drink fine
wines, but probably not beer.
For me, craft beer reinforces the practical,
down-to-earth aspects of spiritual life.
There is something deeply spiritual about
tasting an excellent craft brew for the first time. Great beer has
the power to help us transcend distractions and interruptions. We
can set aside our regrets about the past and our anxieties about the
future. Beer helps us savor the present moment.
Beer is a beverage with a long history and
spiritual life is woven throughout that history. Most of us
recognize the role of monks and monasteries in the history of beer.
Names and logos drawn from spiritual life are
particularly popular with craft breweries.
Brewing beer is a fairly contemplative
process. There is usually enough time to reflect about other things
as beer ferments.
Once the beer has fermented it encourages and
supports spiritual life in other ways. Drinking beer together
facilitates conversations about spiritual life. We take time to sit
together and reflect on spiritual questions.
When I read the slogan Drink Responsibly I
think about the spiritual life conversations I have had over a few
beers. Talking and listening, taking time to reflect, are essential
aspects of spiritual life. It is almost as if drinking beer without
a good, honest conversation is irresponsible.
I believe the relationship of spiritual life
and craft beer is something we can celebrate this month. With the
facts about the history of Saint Valentine less than clear we have
the freedom to recognize the loving relationships which work for us.
Please take the opportunity February offers
to celebrate loving relationships. Visit a local tasting room with
someone you love, share some great beer and some honest talk.
You will love it.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
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