Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson


November is the month when we recognize the power of darkness. We give up any notion of long, sunny evenings and stop saving daylight until next spring.

In the hemisphere where I live our daylight hours grow shorter and our days grow cooler, even here in sunny Southern California.

Several spiritual traditions, including Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists practice a four or five day festival of lights called Diwali at the end of October or the beginning of November. It symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance. Part of practicing Diwali is illuminating the interior and exterior of our homes with lamps or candles.

For many of us, darkness and light illustrate the dualistic way we understand spiritual life. We tend to identify light with goodness and darkness with evil. Some of us talk about things like “seeing the light,” “shedding light” on a situation, “being in the dark,” or “hiding our light.”

It is easy for us to assume the world is divided into light and dark, good and evil, like the Force.

I see darkness and light differently. Spiritual life is not a matter of categorizing people as either good or bad, light or darkness. Each of us carries both aspects of these dualities within ourselves.

As one writer has pointed out, “the greater the circle of light, the greater the perimeter of darkness.”

November is an excellent opportunity to put our nondualistic understanding into practice, particularly when it comes to craft beer.

I have written before I prefer to swim in the dark end of the craft beer pool. November is a great month for us to explore our dark side.

Two specific events this month give us opportunities to experience the implications of our dark side.

The earliest is on Thursday, November 7, which is International Stout Day.

International Stout Day celebrates stout ale.

The description “stout” originally meant proud or brave, and later gained the meaning strong. What we now understand as stout ale is closely connected to porters.

Porter was first brewed in the early 1700s and became a favorite of street and river porters, as well as other laborers. Stronger porters brewed in London became known as stout porters, and eventually the term stout became associated with dark porters.

The differences between porters and stouts are subtle. Some see the difference as porters are brewed with malted barley while stouts use unsalted barley. Even beer experts do not agree on what the differences really are.

International Stout Day was first observed in November, 2011. It has been on the first Thursday of November since 2014.

Many craft breweries recognize and celebrate International Stout Day. I encourage you to visit a brewery near you and ask for the stout they are highlighting.

The second event is on Friday the day following Thanksgiving Day. Known to many retailers as Black Friday, Stone Brewery tasting rooms celebrate Black(ened) Friday

Each Stone tasting room offers a list of beers in the dark end of the pool on Friday, November 29.

Whether you choose to celebrate Black(ened) Friday as a way to escape the turbulent retail experiences of Black Friday, or as a temporary respite during your shopping, please visit the Stone tasting room near you.

Last year I was the first person in line at my closest Stone facility. I enjoyed my experience there far more than I would have shopping and carrying purchases.

November is a month for us to pay attention to the play of light and darkness in our lives. Please join me for a soak in the dark end of the craft brewing pool.

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 Contemplative channel on

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