Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

What does craft beer have to do with spiritual life? Is there any real connection at all?

We may hear this as a philosophical question. Some of us have been taught it is wrong to drink beer, work to drink alcohol. We may be wary of drinking too much or not being able to stop. Some of us are nervous about spending too much time enjoying life.

Other people look at craft beer and spiritual life as a sociological question. Some of us assume beer is a working class drink, especially compared to fine wine or liquors. We enjoy drinking beer while we watch a sporting event, but prefer drinking something more exclusive with dinner.

Some of us do not mind drinking industrial beers but view craft beers as unnecessarily fussy. We do not want to need to worry about all those special ingredients and flavors.

There are people who assume wine is more spiritually significant than beer because they have Communion wine but never drink beer in church.

Beer is spiritual for some of us because its beginnings are shrouded in the mists of history. No one knows who produced the first beer, or when they produced it.

People have been drinking beer for longer than we can remember. Our desire for beer has shaped our history and our story as people.

People who built the pyramids in Egypt were paid partly in beer. The earliest example of written communication we have is a recipe for brewing beer. Some people believe human beings chose to stop hunting and gathering and begin growing crops in a particular place so they could produce beer.

There are Trappist monasteries in Europe where monks have been brewing beer for hundreds of years. Many people believe the best beer in the world is brewed by Belgian monks. The monks may have originally chosen to brew beer for their own consumption and to offer hospitality to pilgrims and other travelers.

Drinking beer saved thousands of lives in Europe at a point in history when drinking water was unsafe.

Monks also found brewing beer to be a practice which was contemplative and allowed them to raise needed revenue. Producing beer is a process which includes creativity and discovery, patience and stillness, and a dependence on the gifts of the earth. It is a good metaphor of spiritual life.

Many of us find craft beer to be a spiritual experience which encourages us to take time, listen, and engage in meaningful conversations. My favorite craft tasting rooms and breweries offer opportunities for people to relax and talk to each other. We make new friends, try new tastes, and learn more about ourselves as we sit and talk over a beer.

I have had particularly insightful and open spiritual conversations while sharing and comparing craft beer.

It is challenging for me to separate life into different categories. I do not believe we live spiritual life apart from everyday life, personal life divided from professional life. We sit, listening and sharing our stories, with the help of a good craft ale.

I believe craft beer is a very good metaphor for spiritual life. Its roots go deeper than we know. Beer has improved and saved civilization in more ways than we usually recognize. It combines naturally good ingredients into something new, something creative. Beer can breathe new life into tired routines.

Spiritual life, like beer, gross stronger in community. Our insights and conversation is strengthened by it.

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. Greg’s website is and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at, and he writes a blog for the Contemplativechannel on

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