I: What Is Beer?

Tony Sig

I: What Is Beer? II.1: British Pale Ales II.2: British Dark Ales III: Belgians
IV: Coming Soon

Considering that James just wrote our first post on Pipe-tobacco smoking, I figured that it was about time to write our first post on the glories of Beer.  We have posted a little thing here or there, but for the most part we have not done anything approaching our typical post; too long, too much information, too much blowing smoke up our own asses.  A conversation the other night at a Hooka-bar revealed that even some Theophiliacs still need a crash course on that malted alchoholic goodness, the king of all beverages…Beer

This series will be divided into multiple parts, todays post will discuss how beer drinking fits into our Christian faith, and will finish with a simple explanation of what beer is.  The next post will move onto a description of beer kinds and styles.  I am not yet sure if a third post will be necessary.

Turn with me in your Bibles to John chapter 2, verse 10.  We here have the host of the Wedding in Cana complimenting Jesus on account of the excellent wine which he just made from some water.  Most translations wuss out and have him say something like “once the guests have had too much to drink.” But the verb μεθυσθωσιν  , refers to being drunk, a woodenly literal translation would read “[after] having been made drunk.”(3rd plu, aor,pas,subj.)  So we see here, Jesus making wine for some wedding guests who are already a bit off.  In fact, the speech by the host seems almost exactly like the tipsy speech of a best man if one were to take away years of Wesleyan/Puritan reading of the passage.  By my reading then, and taking into account the whole Gospel tradition, Jesus blessed wine at the wedding, he drank it frequently with sinners, and passed it on in command via the blessed Sacrament of his blood.  Ergo, we are commanded by Jesus to drink wine; and beer has about half the alcohol content, so we should drink twice as much beer as we do wine.

So too, The Apostolic Canons (51) say: “If any overseer, priest or deacon, or anyone on the priestly list, abstains from marriage and flesh and wine, not on the ground of asceticism (that is, for the sake of discipline), but through abhorrence of them as evil in themselves, forgetting that all things are very good, and that God made man male and female, but blaspheming and slandering the workmanship of God, either let him amend, or be deposed and cast out of the Church.  Likewise a layman also

So there it is, Scripture and Tradition, plus my own Reason and Exstensive experience demand that we drink beer.  And if one should insist that beer is bad, they are blasphemers whose eternal salvation is at risk and they should be cast out of the People of God in order that they may amend.

Beer Exodus

Now it may be that when you started drinking beer you did so at a young age under peer pressure.  You likely only drank beer to get drunk and that beer was probably a domestic lager.  I could name them, but it really doesn’t matter; they are essentially the same exact yellow bubbly poor tasting water posing as a beer, just sealed in different twist-toppy bottles.  It is possible that from years of use you have been able to convince yourself that you actually like Miller Lite.

Much like someone with an addiction issue, the first step is recognizing that you have a problem.  What you need is a transition beer.  You need a beer which is well crafted and mildly complex which will not terrify you so as to take your taste buds to the next level.  Now, since I do not know where all of you live, it is absolutely imperative that you ask your beer snob friend to point you in the right direction.  A bartender can work as a backup.  If you live in the Midwest I would recommend what has become a standard “transition” beer for countless people of Scandinavian or German descent, Summit Extra Pale Ale.  Any Pale Ale, Extra Pale Ale, or Brown Ale usually works quite nicely.

What is Beer again?

Beer can encompass many different forms of fermented beverages, but at its foundation it is malted barley, hops, yeast and water.


The primary grain used in the making of beer is malted barley.  To malt the grain is just to soak the grain in water until it begins to germinate.  This releases certain sugars hidden in the grain which will be food for the yeast to turn into alcohol.

The malted grain is then roasted.  These various kinds of roasts give the beers their unique colors and flavors.  They can go from very light to pitch black.

There are several other grains that are used for different kinds of flavors and feels.  Oatmeal, Rye and Corn are just a few.


Hops are a flower which is dried and added at different points in the boil to add flavor, aroma and bitterness.  Some Scottish beers will substitute heather for hops.


These little guys take all the lovely sugars in the boiled beer and converts them to alcohol.  They make the magic happen.  Yeasts themselves have unique flavors and so even the right choice of this humble ingredient can drastically affect the final taste.

How it happens:

First, milled grain, or grist, is soaked by water of one or various temperatures until the water is a sort of malty syrup.  This process is called “mashing” and the now sugar-laden liquid is called the “wort.”

The wort is then separated from the spent grains and is moved into a vessel for the boil.  While the wort is boiling, hops are added.  Different kinds are put in at different times to yeild the desired results.  Various additions of spice, orange peel, or fruit can also be added, depending on the syle.

Once the boil is accomplished the wort is chilled to whatever temperature is appropriate for fermentation.  Once cooled and in a fermenting container, yeast is added and the beer will ferment for about one month.  When that time is over many beers are filtered, or at least the yeast is separated, and the beer may age for another secondary fermenting period or it may be bottled.  Many craft beers, once bottled are infused with another bit of yeast and the beer will age and even carbonate in the bottle.  This is called “bottle conditioning.”  Crappy beers will often simply be bottled and pasturized, thus rendering the beer much crappier than it could have been.  But at least it can sit around until a frat party can make some sad use of it.  Now some craft beers are pasturized, but they will expire and must be drunk before they go bad.

Continue to Part II



  1. Tony,

    You wrote:

    “By my reading then, and taking into account the whole Gospel tradition, Jesus blessed wine at the wedding, he drank it frequently with sinners, and passed it on in command via the blessed Sacrament of his blood. Ergo, we are commanded by Jesus to drink wine; and beer has about half the alcohol content, so we should drink twice as much beer as we do wine.”

    One can only hope that our Great Reductionist (George P.) rises to the occassion for this one. I am giddy with anticipation.

    Great post, BTW


  2. George,

    For one, I am no more naughty than Jesus himself. Well, that’s certainly wrong, but at least in regards to alcohol. Having abstained from alcohol for 20 years, I approached it gingerly with due care and have been a model of restraint. 🙂

    Secondly, I think that given my differing views on Spirit Baptism (as in secondary and subsequent) and eschatology you are correct, I am not a “pentecostal” in the classical brand. But I am a tongue-talking charismatic Anglican and I most certainly affirm the active working of the Spirit in ecstatic ways!


  3. You did great until you got to the invention of distillation.

    I think it would be better to figure out now much the body produces naturally. The conversion of sugar to alcohol occurs in every person.

    4 cups of wine at Passover (the four expressions of redemption) from hebrew tradition based on Exodus 6:6-7.

    On the grape juice issue As far as I know the Concord grape itself didn’t exist until 1849 not to mention the pasteurization process.

    So I would say that best guess of 2.5% alcohol content by volumne and 16oz of wine.

    That’s if I supported Sola scriptura.

    And being Irish I’m sure there is an exception for us somewhere, if not I’ll take up the bible code for support;>)


  4. After a truly crappy day at work (mostly because teenagers are rude and teenagers whose parents are republicans seem ruder [at least today]), your post was a breath of spring to this day’s emotional, spiritual and intellectual tundra. It took me back to my days in Minneapolis, to my first beer, sitting alone in Brit’s pub with a Romeo y Julieta Corona (for those not in the “know” I’m talking about a shape and size of cigar) and a pint of, what I think was, McEwan’s Scottish Ale (but not McEwan’s Scotch Ale). Ah, memories (for all you NCUers just know that I was also skipping chapel at the time! Ha!). Now, I demand that all those living in the Twin Cities (and as far away as Duluth) who read this post go immediately to Brit’s Pub between 11th and 12th Streets on Nicollet Mall across from Orchestra Hall, approxamately 12 blocks (if memory serves right) from NCU. Raise a pint in my stead, but give a toast in honor of Tony and his excellent post. Have the fish and chips, too. God I love that place.


  5. But there’s no lawn bowling in the winter! Ah, the first beer, mine was a Guiness, I hope it will also be my last.


  6. This passage has earned me the ire of many protestant pastors over the years. Deuteronomy 14:22-27

    “22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own”

    I have used it to throw many a wrench into tithing and abstinence discussions. The LORD’s command seems to be that we should consume our tithe in whatever form pleases us (food or booze) in a celebratory feast with the Lord, and don’t forget to include the neighborhood priests. Go in the name of the Lord and be blessed.


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