Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
does craft beer have to do with spiritual life? Is there any real
connection at all?
We may hear this as a philosophical
question. Some of us have been taught it is wrong to drink beer,
work to drink alcohol. We may be wary of drinking too much or not
being able to stop. Some of us are nervous about spending too much
time enjoying life.
Other people look at craft beer and
spiritual life as a sociological question. Some of us assume beer is
a working class drink, especially compared to fine wine or liquors.
We enjoy drinking beer while we watch a sporting event, but prefer
drinking something more exclusive with dinner.
Some of us do not mind drinking industrial
beers but view craft beers as unnecessarily fussy. We do not want to
need to worry about all those special ingredients and flavors.
There are people who assume wine is more
spiritually significant than beer because they have Communion wine
but never drink beer in church.
Beer is spiritual for some of us because its
beginnings are shrouded in the mists of history. No one knows who
produced the first beer, or when they produced it.
People have been drinking beer for longer
than we can remember. Our desire for beer has shaped our history and
our story as people.
People who built the pyramids in Egypt were
paid partly in beer. The earliest example of written communication
we have is a recipe for brewing beer. Some people believe human
beings chose to stop hunting and gathering and begin growing crops
in a particular place so they could produce beer.
There are Trappist monasteries in Europe
where monks have been brewing beer for hundreds of years. Many
people believe the best beer in the world is brewed by Belgian
monks. The monks may have originally chosen to brew beer for their
own consumption and to offer hospitality to pilgrims and other
Drinking beer saved thousands of lives in
Europe at a point in history when drinking water was unsafe.
Monks also found brewing beer to be a
practice which was contemplative and allowed them to raise needed
revenue. Producing beer is a process which includes creativity and
discovery, patience and stillness, and a dependence on the gifts of
the earth. It is a good metaphor of spiritual life.
Many of us find craft beer to be a spiritual
experience which encourages us to take time, listen, and engage in
meaningful conversations. My favorite craft tasting rooms and
breweries offer opportunities for people to relax and talk to each
other. We make new friends, try new tastes, and learn more about
ourselves as we sit and talk over a beer.
I have had particularly insightful and open
spiritual conversations while sharing and comparing craft beer.
It is challenging for me to separate life
into different categories. I do not believe we live spiritual life
apart from everyday life, personal life divided from professional
life. We sit, listening and sharing our stories, with the help of a
good craft ale.
I believe craft beer is a very good metaphor
for spiritual life. Its roots go deeper than we know. Beer has
improved and saved civilization in more ways than we usually
recognize. It combines naturally good ingredients into something
new, something creative. Beer can breathe new life into tired
Spiritual life, like beer, gross stronger in
community. Our insights and conversation is strengthened by it.
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. 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 Contemplativechannel