Editor’s note: Today, we’re thrilled to share an excerpt from the fantastic new book The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Home-Brewed Evangelism by vibrant and talented young Catholic author Sarah Vabulas. In my endorsement of this one-of-a-kind book, I said the following:
“Cheers to Sarah Vabulas, the saintly genius behind the fabulous “Catholic Drinkie” apostolate, for penning a book which reminds us that faith, life a great beer, is meant to be savored and shared. Packed full of history, spirituality, and–yes!–homebrew pointers too, The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Home-brewed Evangelism calls us each to embrace our own unique role in the New Evangelization. Buy two! This book, like your favorite brew, is too great to keep to yourself!”
Check out the book and Sarah’s fantastic blog, follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, and be sure to share this one! Your friends will thank you, and maybe also treat you to some homebrew! Lisa Hendey
For a quart of Ale is a dish for a King.
William Shakespeare, A Winter’s Tale
What a history of beer and wine we have in the Catholic Church. The traditions have been around for hundreds of years. How are we to ever live up to them? Some of the best beers in the world are made by monks, so let’s carry on their traditions in the best way I know how: pray and work.
I love that the monks live their Benedictine spirituality by doing their work in the breweries and wineries. The Rule of St. Benedict lays the foundation for a particular way of life, a life that is rooted in the Gospel and grounded in the scriptural virtues of charity, humility, and faithfulness. The Rule (as it is commonly referred to) outlines Christian discipleship, drawing from the Gospels and the stories from Jesus’ ministry during his time on earth. The basic call of the Benedictine life is to answer the call to follow Christ, allow the Holy Spirit to transform you, and to become a living witness to God’s grace in this world.
This might seem similar to the call of each Christian, but the monks, while still living a life in common with the current cultural conditions, use the Rule as the base for which their community lives. The four most common pillars for a life under the Rule are:
4. Spiritual life
I think these can also be applied to our daily lives—whether we choose to become a layperson active in the Benedictine way of life or simply choosing to adopt some of the Benedictine ideals to help us live as better Christians in today’s society.
So what does this have to do with beer? I’ve found in learning how to homebrew that the facets of the Benedictine rule are essential to creating the best batches of beer.
Creating and brewing the “perfect” beer takes discipline. From creating the recipe to the brew process to fermentation to carbonation, brewing beer takes time. In our culture, I believe that discipline is waning more each day. We live in a hurry-up-and-get-it society that expects instant gratification. When life doesn’t live up to that, frustration and anger ensue. Brewing beer takes time. And practice. You won’t get it right the first couple of times. But that’s why you keep brewing.
The size of the batches brewed can lead to a lot of beer sitting around. As I discussed in the previous section, it is important to drink moderately, not frequently. For this reason, many of the monastic
breweries brew a separate noncommercial beer that contains a lower ABV rating than those they send to market. The monks recognize their calling to the virtue of temperance, and it is for this reason they drink beers with low alcohol content, even on feast days. So while they create some of the best beers in the world, they don’t indulge in them. When I brew beer, I prefer to keep one for me and give the rest away. I spend time, treasure, and love on each batch and would rather share with my friends than keep it all for me. This helps me to stay disciplined in my homebrewing.
When I first began to brew, I assumed I would be the best at it from the start. My beers would be perfect and everyone would want me to start a brewery immediately. While some of this was true, the perfect part wasn’t. I struggled to figure out why I was having low attenuation (when the yeast converts the sugar to alcohol) and I wondered what was wrong in my process. I followed all the rules. I refused to tell anyone I was struggling because I was too proud to admit that my beer-tasting expertise was not saving me from frustrations in homebrewing.
When I finally got off my high horse and asked some experienced homebrew friends for some advice, I was able to solve the problems and make better beer. One thing I’ve learned about any hobby, but most especially about homebrew, is to never be afraid to ask for help. You read all these books, taste all these beers, and
watch tons of videos that lead you to think you’re an instant expert.
Even commercial breweries brew bad batches of beer. Approach your homebrewing hobby with a sense of adventure and a sense of humor and you’ll find quick success.
Work. One of those four-letter words. Hard work and manual labor are shunned by some in our society. Homebrewing is hard work, so don’t do it unless you’re willing to work. I am always cleaning something. Or monitoring something. Or cleaning something. Or adding something. Or cleaning something. Seriously,
homebrewing is one part brewing to three parts cleaning. But it’s all so worth it.
I find that when I am feeling anything is tedious, whether it is homebrew-related or not, if I make my work into a prayer as the Rule calls for, it becomes easier. If you pray while working, you reach a different level of spirituality and you understand the fruits of your labor more. I am often reminded as I am working
with grain that instead of this grain becoming bread that could be used in the celebration of the Mass, this grain will yield beer, another fruit of the earth. I think about the Preparation of the Gifts in the Order of the Mass as the priest prays over the gifts:
Blessed are you, lord God of all creation,
for through your goodness we have received
the bread we offer you:
fruit of the earth and work of human hands,
it will become for us the bread of life.
The yeast and the grain are the work of human hands—and you are using your hands to turn it into something else. Emulate St. Benedict and make work holy.
The spiritual life. Perhaps this is where most of us struggle. We live such busy lives, and trying to find a few minutes for God isn’t always a priority. When I brew, whether alone or with friends, I enjoy discussing theology and current events in the Church.
This is the integral life of a beer-brewing monk, so we certainly cannot skip over this important piece of monastic living. While the monks must work to raise the money for maintenance and charity, they wake early to spend time in both silent, individual prayer and in community prayer at Mass or meals.
One of the most common practices is spiritual reading, or lectio divina, during mealtime. Even if you were to visit a Benedictine monastery today, you would likely participate in this ancient tradition. A designated monk reads a selected text while the others eat in silence. They eat and drink by passing their food around
the table so that no one need ask for anything verbally—they communicate silently through signs. The books are selected by the abbot of the monastery and while not necessarily spiritual, they are always an opportunity for learning.
The Rule of St. Benedict provides many opportunities for lay and religious alike to delve deeper into a relationship with God through hard work and prayer. So take a page from their book and use your time homebrewing to improve your relationship with your heavenly Father—while also making some delicious drink.
Beer that is not drunk has missed its vocation.
From The Catholic Drinkie’s Guide to Home-Brewed Evangelism. Text and images Copyright Liguori Publications, 2015. Liguori.org.