Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

February is the month when we celebrate the most significant relationships in our lives.

The shortest month of the year is also the month of Saint Valentine’s Day.

We have very little information about the person, Valentine, for whom the day is named. It is not even clear which Valentine is the one celebrated as a saint on Saint Valentine’s Day. We know very little which connects any of the several potential candidates for the “real” Saint Valentine to the idea of romance. The stories we have today contain elements of legend.

The one thing which the three strongest candidates to be the “real” Saint Valentine have in common is a connection to February 14.

It appears the idea of Saint Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate romantic love began with the writer Geoffrey Chaucer hundreds of years after any of the possible Saint Valentines who lived during the Roman Empire.

Despite a serious lack of background information we have come to celebrate what we love on February 14.

Many of us spend time with the people we love most in February. We make plans to go out to dinner or celebrate in other ways. Some of us choose to exchange gifts, like candy or flowers.

We may be inspired by couples and relationships we know in our own experience. Some of them are people we have read about or seen movies in which they are characters.

It can be helpful for us to identify some of the essential qualities which make those relationships possible. We may choose to include, for example, both people’s favorite colors or favorite flavors as we recognize and celebrate strong loving relationships.

In addition to the loving relationships I have with other people there are a lot of other couples and pairings I love.

One pairing I am celebrating this February is the relationship between spiritual life and craft beer.

I talk to people often who ask me about the connections between spiritual life and beer. Many people see significant obstacles to that relationship. They see different kinds of people attracted to spiritual life and beer.

We may see beer as not particularly spiritual. Beer seems like something which is especially everyday, especially secular. We can believe spiritual people drink fine wines, but probably not beer.

For me, craft beer reinforces the practical, down-to-earth aspects of spiritual life.

There is something deeply spiritual about tasting an excellent craft brew for the first time. Great beer has the power to help us transcend distractions and interruptions. We can set aside our regrets about the past and our anxieties about the future. Beer helps us savor the present moment.

Beer is a beverage with a long history and spiritual life is woven throughout that history. Most of us recognize the role of monks and monasteries in the history of beer.

Names and logos drawn from spiritual life are particularly popular with craft breweries.

Brewing beer is a fairly contemplative process. There is usually enough time to reflect about other things as beer ferments.

Once the beer has fermented it encourages and supports spiritual life in other ways. Drinking beer together facilitates conversations about spiritual life. We take time to sit together and reflect on spiritual questions.

When I read the slogan Drink Responsibly I think about the spiritual life conversations I have had over a few beers. Talking and listening, taking time to reflect, are essential aspects of spiritual life. It is almost as if drinking beer without a good, honest conversation is irresponsible.

I believe the relationship of spiritual life and craft beer is something we can celebrate this month. With the facts about the history of Saint Valentine less than clear we have the freedom to recognize the loving relationships which work for us.

Please take the opportunity February offers to celebrate loving relationships. Visit a local tasting room with someone you love, share some great beer and some honest talk.

You will love it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Greg Richardson is a 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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