In case you were not aware alcohol has a had a long history in the Church. Originally brewed by monks out of necessity for something safe to drink, beer has become a beverage well-suited for comradery and evangelization. R. Jared Staudt takes readers on a journey through the history of brewing, and the impact beer has had on our culture in his book The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture, Yesterday & Today.
To lead this review off, I must say this is one FUN book. If you have any interest in beer or the recent wave of microbrewing you are going to love this book. There’s a lot to learn about the history of brews and the impact the Catholic Church has had on its development. Buckle up because this book is quite the ride.
Jared begins his book by suggesting that is an extension of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. For those unfamiliar with this title, I suggest you grab that one as well. Rod looks at the Rule of Benedict and how it can impact our view on politics, church, family, community, education, sexuality, and technology. Jared views The Beer Option as focusing on one aspect and that being cultural renewal. “For over twenty years I have been fascinated by beer’s role in Western culture. Beer opens a door to many elements of Catholic culture: its history, social and economic influences, and even its spirituality. Catholicism has a rich sacramental culture, which recognizes how physical things mediate spiritual realities.”
Looking at the three pillars of feasting, fasting, and friendship Jared shows how beer can lead to a spiritual experience leading to opportunities of evangelism. “We will look at how drinking forms an integral part of festivity and friendship, but also how it is moderated by the Christian tradition of fasting.” One of the greatest things about gathering around a table and sharing in a drink is the communal aspect of the occasion. We enjoy that time spent together and so have people throughout the ages. Beer, when properly consumed, leads to experiences of fellowship like no other. It is important to note that abusing beer to the point of alcoholism causes one to retreat into themselves and the addiction thus losing the benefits of communal fellowship.
This book is a fun and informative read for anyone with interest in beer as a socially responsible way to join in community and evangelize. There was much I learned in this book regarding the history of brewing in Europe, the rise and fall and rise again of the brewing industry within the Catholic Church and America, the spiritual aspect of beer, and Jared’s patron saints of beer. Of particular interest to the beer connoisseur will be the tour of thirty monastic beers which will keep one busy chasing each of them down. In closing as we wrap this review let’s lift a glass in fellowship and recite the following blessing:
Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, which thou hast deigned to produce from the fat of grain: that it may be a salutary remedy to the human race, and grant, through the invocation of thy holy name, that whoever shall drink it may gain health in body and peace in soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.