Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

As I explained last month, I realized the other day I spend quite a bit of my time thinking and writing about two things more than anything else.

Several times a week I write a blog on the Contemplative channel of patheos.com about exploring and practicing spiritual life and spiritual leadership. I also write this column on craft beer and brewing in DaBelly.

That got me thinking about what the two things have in common. Both are important and interesting to me. My passion for both craft beer and spiritual life grow from my love. I decided to go a little deeper in reflecting on the spiritual life of beer.

There is something satisfyingly spiritual about drinking great beer with good friends. The beer helps us slow down and take our time to appreciate life. We stop rushing to analyze and categorize everything we experience. Beer can help us develop a reflective approach to life. Strong friendship allows us to be more deeply honest with ourselves and with each other.

We sit drinking together and we tell each other our truths. No one person is required to answer all the questions or take all the responsibility. We share what we have learned, telling our stories and rolling great tasting beer over our tongues.

What is the spiritual life of beer, the soul of brewing?

Are spiritual life and enjoying great beer connected?

One of the first people I talked to when I began writing this column was Rev. Bryan Berghoef. I wrote about talking with Bryan five years ago in the July, 2013 issue of DaBelly. Bryan is the pastor of the United Church of Christ congregation in Holland, Michigan. He lives in Holland, Michigan with his wife and four children.

Bryan has also pastored communities Traverse City, Michigan and Washington, DC. 

As I mentioned five years ago, I first met Bryan through his books. Bryan’s book, Pub Theology: Beer, Conversation, and God, tells the story of how he came upon the idea of Pub Theology and how his initial group started, as well as a number of stories and actual conversations at the pub, and how the experience has shifted his own theological perspectives. His ebook, Pub Theology 101: A Guide to Cultivating Meaningful Conversations at the Pub, is a how-to resource that helps people walk through the steps of getting their own group started, and includes hundreds and hundreds of discussion topics that he has used in over five years’ worth of gatherings.

Bryan told me the diversity of responses to a given question one night at a pub reflected as much about people’s varying beer selections as it did their theological experiences. There is something about a craft brew which displays multiple layers, texture, and nuance, and helps create a new experience each time you try it. Good theology should aspire to the same.

Bryan's goal for Pub Theology remains to create conversations where people from diverse perspectives and traditions can come together and share their thoughts on what matters to them. He finds that the more we engage each other, the more we realize we have far more in common as fellow human beings that we may have realized. Many of our stereotypes about what is spiritual are simply just that: stereotypes that do not hold much water when we get to know someone face to face.

When we talked five years ago, Bryan had moved from Michigan to Washington, DC. He returned to Michigan about four years ago.

Bryan continues to believe a craft brewery or bar is a great setting for good conversations on life, spirituality, and meaning. He has been facilitating pub conversations for nearly ten years and they continue to be incredibly meaningful and needed gatherings, especially in these divisive times.

When I asked Bryan how he would describe the spiritual life of beer, he replied that “brewing a good beer takes time. You have to choose the ingredients carefully and in the right proportion, and brew in very deliberate, consistent steps in order to get the desired result. And of course - experimentation is welcome! After the appropriate time of brewing and fermenting, the beer is ready to be enjoyed. Enjoyment, delight and surprise is the purpose of a good beer, and these are also spiritual qualities.”

I asked Bryan if beer brewed by monks were more spiritually significant than that of other brewers. He told me all beer is sacred, but he would say monks tend to brew some fo the tastiest stuff.

Pub Theology is a spiritual practice for Bryan. The opportunity to sit around a table with someone who believes different things about God, humanity, and some of the big questions is always a gift. Pub Theology gives us the opportunity to learn what someone else cares about, how they envision goodness expanding in our world, and hear some of their story.

When I asked Bryan what the most spiritually rewarding beer he has ever had, he could not remember the actual beer or brewery. It was the beer he had the night his daughter was born, which was also the night he held the very first Pub Theology session. Even though he cannot remember the beer, he knows it was divine.

Bryan has also been doing a Pub Theology podcast for the past couple of years, and is approaching its 100th episode! pubtheology.com/ptlive.

Cheers!

Greg Richardson is a spiritual leadership coach and spiritual life mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney, executive, and university professor. 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 Contemplative channel on http://www.patheos.com.

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