I used this column last October to write about wine, but I probably should have used it to write about its amber cousin, beer.
October, after all, is the eponymous month of Europe’s largest beer party, Oktoberfest, when more than 6 million people flood into Munich to drink more than 1.5 million gallons of suds.
Such a column also would have been a fitting tribute to the first Bavarian pope in 1,000 years. One Stuttgart brewery appreciated the significance of having a beer-loving pope and sent 185 gallons of its brew to Benedict XVI. Another German company brewed “Pabst Bier” (“Pope Beer”) and put a picture of the Holy Father at the top.
Beer’s popularity obviously isn’t limited to the Pope or Europe. A 2007 Gallup poll says it’s America’s favorite alcoholic drink, with 25% of Americans drinking it (wine scores a bit less than 20%). Home-brewing is one of America’s fastest-rising hobbies, and beer blogging is one of the fastest-growing niches on the Web.
Suds in St. Blog’s
A few years ago, I started surfing the Internet for beer news. The pickings were scant, and there were virtually no blogs dedicated to beer. Now I have too many sites to choose from. The Beerinator (beerinator.com) provides feeds from more than 120 beer-loving blogs.
In my beer blog surfing, I’ve come to appreciate a recurring feature that you wouldn’t expect: pictures. Close-ups of frosty mugs, bottles, and beer labels; telephotos of bars and pubs. The UK BarBlogger (barblog.lastminuteliving.com) is “on a mission to visit and rate every pub, club and bar in the UK,” and he’s doing it with a digital camera. Its scores of pictures make me want to read Chaucer and daydream about Merrie Olde England.
I visit a lot of beer blogs, but I rarely see a reference to the bloggers’ religious proclivities. When I search St. Blog’s for Catholic beer blogs, nothing comes up. I wonder what the Church’s 12 patron saints of beer brewing (including heavyweights like Sts. Luke and Augustine) think about that.
Fortunately, one Catholic blogger is trying to fill this cyber hole: Catholic Beer Review (catholic-beer-review.blogspot.com). It got off to a rocky start (only two posts in its first 30 days), but things look promising: Postings have picked up, it has a good niche and readers appear to be flocking.
Although only one Catholic blog is dedicated to beer, there are plenty of Catholic bloggers who like their suds. A search for “beer” at CatholicBlogs.com reveals more than 400 references since March 2007. Based on my scan and sampling, none of the posts were negative. They mostly dealt with things like the theology of beer drinking (in particular, the joy), the economics of beer drinking (the price of water in some restaurants now exceeds that of beer) and the practicalities of beer drinking (getting home responsibly after a night of unwinding).
I have also found a handful of Catholic bloggers who write frequently about beer. If you’re interested in Catholics and beer, you can try my blog, The Daily Eudemon (ericscheske.com/blog), which dedicates every Friday to the stuff. There’s also Video Meliora (poncer.blogspot.com) and The Real Life Rosary Weblog (jamesmhahn.blogspot.com).
I also highly recommend a new blog by Sean Dailey, The Blue Boar (theblueboar.blogspot.com). Sean is a passionate Catholic, the editor of Gilbert Magazine and a home-brewer who waxes religious about his favorite drink.
“All time belongs to Christ,” he writes, “and just as the Church reminds us of this with regular liturgical feast days, so also did brewers once observe this with the brewing of seasonal beers: beers for Christmas, beers for winter, beers for Lent (yes, at one time, beer was consumed during Lent as a bread substitute), beers for spring, beers for summer (extra strong to prevent spoilage during the hot summer months) and beers for fall and harvest.”
Most every well-read Christian has heard of the Inklings, the literary group that counted J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis among its members. The professors spent ample hours in an establishment called the Eagle and Child, drinking beer and critiquing one another’s writings.
I’ve always been struck by one Inkling fact that is often overlooked: Many of their meetings took place on Tuesday mornings. And they weren’t merely enjoying the pub’s pretzels.
In an e-mail, biographer Joseph Pearce told me, “It’s certainly safe to assume that Tolkien, Lewis, et al drank ale during the morning gatherings at the Eagle and Child. This is clear from the memories of others who joined them at these gatherings and is also clear from at least one of Tolkien’s letters.”
Today, of course, morning imbibing would be considered a sure sign of alcoholism. No exceptions. Why the different attitudes between the Inklings and us? Part of it is the gap of space and time: pre-WWII England isn’t post-9/11 United States. But there’s more to it.
In America, we tend to put “beer” and “wild,” “beer” and “loud,” “beer” and “obnoxious” in the same sentences.
“Beer” and “Tuesday mornings” has an entirely different ring. But I think it’s a better juxtaposition. Beer, viewed properly, is not wild, loud or obnoxious. It’s as normal as a weekday morning. Unfortunately, America and its maze of licensing requirements and liquor laws treat it as something exceptional, thereby increasing its allure and its abuse.
The Inklings considered beer a normal drink, an ordinary thing to be enjoyed at any time — in moderation, of course.
Maybe that’s why I found nearly no Catholic beer bloggers but hundreds of references to beer in the Catholic search engine catholicblogs.com.
Beer to a good Catholic is normal. It’s nothing exceptional and nothing to occupy one’s devotion or entire literary attention.
Beer, in other words, is just another blessing among the dozens or hundreds of blessings we receive every day. Is beer to be enjoyed? Sure. Obsessed over? Never.
Eric Scheske’s beer-friendly blog,
The Daily Eudemon (ericscheske.com/blog),
has been described as both “dry” and “sober.”