Brewers long ago, and I’m not talking in the early days of craft like Anchor’s Fritz Maytag and John Carpenter but hundreds of years prior, referred to the fermenting agent as “God is good.” Today we call it yeast, but the sentiment and sediment remain the same. From the Romans gorging themselves on strong brews during Saturnalia to the Vikings drinking themselves blotto during Yule where even in death you were admitted to the most epic tap house known as Valhalla, pre-Christians took their intoxication—so as to commune with deities and supernatural spirits—seriously.
Jews are commanded to drink until the brain goes foggy on Purim (as well as dress up, which is why I can’t understand why this sort of Hebrew Halloween isn’t as mainstream as St. Patty’s Day) and one Rabbi recently blogged about keeping a keg of cold, fresh, locally produced, artisinal beer in his synagogue for the holiday of Shavuot.
Most recently and famously, blogger J. Wilson spent the 46 days of Lent on an all-Dopplebock diet, in part to experience “spiritually-thrust enlightenment” and he did so with the assistance of a “spiritual advisor.”
But forget about religions and religious-based practices and beliefs. Booze leads to buzz leads to a sense of spirituality, does it not? If you’ve ever been inspired to do something while quaffing, the answer is yes, since the same root word, spirare, instills the air of the divine in the/a holy spirit as it does when we experience a bit of “divine inspiration.” When you belly up to the bar and down a few pints with friends or even complete strangers, you get the sense you’re connecting with that individual or group on an altered plane.
Sure, we have breweries like Saint Arnold and Ninkasi and Shmaltz’s He’Brew. But there’s a deep-rooted aspect and ingredient of beer we rarely/never discuss. It’s not Western or Eastern, PacNorthwestern or Midwestern. Not monotheistic nor polytheistic. When we appreciate great beer, we might talk about the toastiness of the malt, the spiciness of the hops, or the earthiness (or cattiness) of the yeast, but don’t forget the holiness of the “God is good.” Isn’t that what opens our mind holes the way it did for the Sumerians, Visigoths, and Romans did? Maybe it even helps us see the divine in each other.
See All About Beer Magazine‘s current issue by Matt Stinchfield’s feature on religion and beer.