“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. ”
Many a t-shirt attributes these words to Benjamin Franklin, however, the accuracy of the quote is doubtful. Nonetheless, I believe it to be true. Not that Ben said exactly these words but that He does love us, wants us to be happy and so He gave us beer.
Beer makes us happy, there is no debate. I can call witness, after witness, after witness, after witness. That the Almighty loves us is also well documented. But beer a divine gift? The evidence is incontrovertible, some anecdotal perhaps, but there is a mountain of it!
The Sumerians of Mesopotamia were one of the world’s first civilizations and our first known ancient brewers. Living in the “Fertile Crescent” of present day southern Iraq, they started making beer 5000 years ago.
To the Sumers, the goddess Ninkasi was the brewer of beer. Their song of praise to her, our oldest beer recipe, was recorded on clay tablets as “The Hymn to Ninkasi”.
Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort,
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
More famous ancient brewers were the Egyptians. Taught their craft by the god Osiris, it’s said they perfected the art of brewing. The Egyptians loved their beer. An inscription from 2200 BCE reads:
The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer.
The Czechs, and we know they like to drink beer, have Radegast to thank for his creation.
The Zulus believe Mbaba Mwana Waresa made the first beer for them. And she also makes rainbows!
To the people of Mali, Yasigi is nothing but fun. The well endowed African goddess always has her beer ladle and loves to dance late into the night.
If you’ve got Viking blood, and yes I do, you want an invitation to Aegir’s house. In Norse mythology, Thor gave Aegir a giant pot in which he brewed ale with the help of his nine daughters. Aegir’s Hall hosted parties for the Gods where the mugs magically refilled as soon as they were emptied.
Even holy men believe in beer as a blessed gift. Exhibit ‘A’: Doppelbock. Almost 400 years ago, Italian monks from the order of St. Francis of Paula crossed the Alps into Bavaria. The Paulaner monks were a devout group who took their fasting at Lent seriously. Because “liquid bread” would not break the rules, in 1634 they created a strong, dark, malty lager to sustain them. The first double-bock, it was called “Salvator” from Sankt Vater or Holy Father beer. Still brewed today, Paulaner Salvator (the saviour) is known as one of the world’s best beers.
Fun fact: Paulaner is one of six breweries who provide the beer for Oktoberfest in Munich.
Surely God’s greatest gift is the reward of eternal happiness in heaven. What would bring this happiness? St. Brigid of Kildare, a patron saint of Ireland and brewers, gives us the answer in her poem “The Great Lake of Beer”.
I’d sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer,
We’d be drinking good health forever,
And every drop would be a prayer.
Now that’s the heaven I want to go to!
It’s a great day for a beer. Cheers!
Thanks to Mario Zucca for the illustration (mariozucca.com).