Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Beer and Faith for the 4th of July

Today is a holiday in the USA, the 4th of July. And many who celebrate this day, myself included, will enjoy a cold beer. As some of you know I am a home brewer and enjoy trying a variety of beers. I just returned from Turkey where I drank Efes, which is the Ephesian beer of modern Turkey.

Some will wonder about the connection between faith and beer. How can one do both? Over at the Deeper Story blog  Mason Slater has a short piece about the historical connection between faith and beer. It is worth a read. Here is a brief part of what he says.

The monks of the middle ages often relied on their skills as brewers to support their ministry – to this day Trappist beers are some of the most sought after for their complexity and uniqueness – and the Reformers likewise celebrated beer, with both Calvin and Luther speaking well of it, indulging often (though in moderation), and even requiring part of their salaries to be paid in barrels of beer.
And it wasn’t just the theologians who celebrated the connection between faith and beer, brewers were often in the employ of the church (directly or indirectly), and they spoke of their task in the language of faith. Yeast for example, the role of which was not fully understood, could be taken from off the top of one new batch of beer and used in the next – the discovery of this miracle led brewers to term the substance “God-is-good”.
I share this little lesson in history – and there is far more to tell than the space I have will allow – because this connection was something I entirely missed growing up in the Church. In the circles in which I was raised beer was looked on with suspicion, people who were known to indulge were assumed to be backsliding or “carnal Christians,” and it was generally agreed that if you were serious about your faith you would of course not be drinking.

Part of me understands that impulse, the abuse of alcohol has ruined many lives and torn apart many families. But the fact that beer can be used wrongly does not mean it cannot be used to honor God as well. As Luther once said “Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”
Beer can be abused, but it can also be a cherished blessing. I cherish beer because beer connects us to the harvest and the land, to each other in all our little communities, and to our history as a people and a Church.

Happy 4th!


  1. I had the idea (I don't know where from at the moment) that in the OT period beer was pretty much a Philistine beverage, whereas wine was favoured in Israel.

  2. Peter,

    I am not sure. I do know that there are times that some English translations translate the Hebrew word for "strong drink" as "beer." The Philistine were beer drinkers as were the Egyptians and the other surrounding peoples. Thus, considering how much contact there was between Israel and others I suspect they drank beer too.