What does beer have to do with God? Not even a graduate degree in theology ensures access to a spiritual path, and for the better part of a decade, I have been chasing crumbs of pure spiritual enlightenment.
And then, I had a beer.
And sure enough….God showed up.
But this wasn’t just any beer. And it wasn’t just any God. This was MY beer. And MY God.
The tradition of beer making is a production that serves to achieve economic stability, but also reflects a spiritual purpose behind the endeavor.
Perhaps you are the rare type that has never had a spiritual experience when biting into chocolate chip cookie, or maybe you never held up a glass in appreciation for not only its taste, but its representation as well: comfort, celebration, connection.
Living in Europe brings you nose to nose with the awareness that roots support what you see. Me, the “consumer” of the sight, isn’t as grand or as prominent figure as the product, or history, itself.
There is more an emphasis on small productions emphasizing quality, family affiliation, reputation, a legacy of being known in a community…made by people who know the people who are consuming it.
Whether its France, Italy, Spain, Belgium or Germany, drinking is not going to transform your life. You aren’t going to be winning the adoration of good looking women or replicate the high of winning a Super Bowl through the ingestion of 2 liters of Bitburger. But what you will get is connection. Connection to the season, drinking lighter brews or styles when the days are longer. Connection to the other flavors presents in your meal. Connection to a legacy.
Europeans aren’t so jittery or reactive. If something is good, then they lay down constant pursuit of more more more and pay homage to the perfection that exists.
Really…what is it all about? Is about attaining something, about getting something only few other people possess? In some sense, yes. I receive some sort of validation from being selective, and from being “special.”
I feel as if my life isn’t “normal.” In fact, I describe my life as phenomenal, as a-mazing, as exceptional. And at one time, I think maybe I ascribed that to the fact that my circumstances were rare. Now, however, I realize that all seasons, all aspects of nature, contain the illusion of generalities, and that even in the most urbane moments, I am going to cultivate stimulation and exceptionality. Special doesn’t need to be rare.
Which leads me to this beer. This birthday beer.
The Westvleteren brewery retains its name and emblem from Sixtus, one a pope and another the martyr. In the past 100 years, the leadership of the abbey has made calculated decisions to preserve only a small area, about 4800 hectoliters. It is the smallest of the 6 Trappist breweries (compared to Westvleteren, with its 160,000 hectoliters). A person can only pick up the beer personally at the Abbey, and it cannot be re-sold (although, you can taste is in select Brugge watering holes).
There are 4 central values the beer makers breath into each of their actions:
They make no money. They disregard validation. They have no desire to continue their accolades. They just want to make something with their hands, and they want that product to support their community.
And in the humility of a job well done, repeated actions planted hundreds of years ago and performed in repetitious perfection, this beer tastes truly both in the world and not of it. Perhaps it was the familiarity of the small group around the table, the manner in which we entered the whole experience with a sense of being graced, of receiving something rare and salient, perhaps it was the fact that my heart had been wielded open months ago and I was now ready to receive…the moment felt truly sacred to me.
A baptism of beer.
There was a moment when the spokesperson for the abbey, who had spent a year living the life of a monk spoke his wisdom: “God eventually guides people…he lead you here.”
Ever have a moment where you felt as if you completely “belonged” “arrived” and had “no other place to go?”
For me, always on a journey of some sort, yearning, striving, hoping, shaping…these minutes of complete arrival were spiritually redemptive.
“People look for God, but always meet themselves first.” And yes, in that moment, I met my special K self, and shared it, and perhaps…tasted God as well.