Monday, July 2, 2012

If Theologians Were Beers... A Selection

“In Catholicism, the pint, the pipe and the Cross can all fit together.” 
-G.K Chesterton
Yesterday, my good friend and I were joking lightheartedly about theology and beer, and it occured to me, in all this posting on theology and prayer, that it might do me and anyone else who even happens to read this blog a bit of good to post something lighter in nature.  Hence, since I am a beer connossieur of sorts, I wish to offer my list of which theologians would be which beers and ales.  Obviously, I mean no irreverence by it all.  Here we go:

1.  St. Thomas Aquinas
We must say without hesitation that St. Thomas Aquinas would be Guinness Stout.  This is proved:
Firstly, we must say that, since Guinness is the greatest beer the world over and is unquestioned in its championship of flavorful orthodoxy, that it rightly stands as the representative of the Catholic Church's Doctor par excellence.  It is the Doctor Angelicus of the beer world - like Aquinas himself, it is imposing and yet simple, complex and yet infinitely approachable.  The taste of Guinness is perfectly balanced, reasonable, and delicious beyond reason, but the actual substance of the drink itself is also most nourishing for the health.  And hence, we also see the same properties in Aquinas - the doctor of common sense who took truth where he found it, who built a cathedral of theological flavor that is still unmatched in its purity and reasonableness, and one urged to be studied and meditated upon by the Church herself. 
2.  Tertullian
Tertullian's biting invectives and savage polemics warrant him his own beer representative in the world to be the India Pale Ale, though this comes in many varieties.  One cannot read a single word of Tertullian without almost feeling a slight bit of sympathy for those he minces in his tirades, and we find this too in the drinking world, wherein an unwary person imbibes an IPA and recoils from the sudden stab of its rapier flavor.  The bitterness of the hops completely encapsulate the nasty rhetoric of Tertullian in every way.  Hence, though Tertullian is worthy of study, and IPA's are preferred at times by many a beer drinker, they should both always be approached with caution.
3.  Bl. John Duns Scotus
After several minutes of intense pondering, it has occurred to me that Duns Scotus would warrant the comparison to Smithwick's Irish Ale.  With a goodly Smithwick's, one must often succumb to having only one with a dinner of some kind, as it is full-flavored and quite filling.  Indeed, a single pint of Smithwick's is often enough to suffice one for some time.  This is much like the reading of Scotus, whose ridiculously complex theological mazes are almost impossible to wade in for any length of time longer than an hour.  Just so with Smithwick's - a good drink from time to time, but unwise to imbibe often.
4.  St. Hildegard Von Bingen
It has come to my attention that St. Hildegard, a soon to be declared Doctor of the Church and medieval mystic, should be compared to Fraoch Heather Ale.  Fraoch boasts an ancient flavor brought to one's palate by the addition of heather into the 4000 year-old brewing process, and I find the particularly subtle sweetness and complex flavorings to be found also in St. Hildegard's theology, as well as her botanical studies too.  Each sip of St. Hildegard's theology and Fraoch Heather Ale resemble each other in their apocalyptic rolling thunderstorms of mystical flavor and depth. 
5.  Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, an oft-maligned and yet supremely adept disciple of St. Thomas Aquinas, would have to be said to be an Oatmeal Stout.  A different take on the orthodoxy of Guinness, and yet retaining the orthodox foundation of the latter drink, oatmeal stouts are often harsher and more serious in taste, lacking the simplicity of Guinness in favor of a more complex bite.  Still, they are good to drink, and much like Garrigou-Lagrange's theology, it stands against waves of imitators and impoverished theologians, though it can never reach the heights of flavorful orthodoxy found in St. Thomas. 
6.  Soren Kierkegaard
The great Christian existentialist and forever-tormented-in-angst Lutheran, Soren Kierkegaard, must be said to be compared to Faxe Royal Strong.  A Danish beer (for a Danish man), this particular drink hits with unparalleled force, much like a Viking Berserker's axe smashing into the skull of a foe and leaving splinters behind.  It is penetrating, powerful, and unforgettably pungent, and this all only serves to mirror the deeply-impacting lines scribbled out by this influential philosopher.
7.  Karl Barth
Karl Barth, often cited as the greatest Christian theologian of the 20th century, hits with the same force as Tucher Pilsner.  I had this particular drink whilst waltzing through Germany with my wife on our honeymoon in Europe, and its bitter punch we have never forgotten.  Just like Barth's theology, servings of Tucher are in massive litre-size steins - to approach one of these is a most daunting task, and so it is also when approaching a work like Barth's 15-volume Church Dogmatics.  

50 comments:

  1. Karl Rahner would be PBR (Pabst). Unless you live in a trailer park, you only drink it ironically.

    Scott Hahn would be Bud Lite. Only American idiots would call it beer.

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    1. Maybe Sam Adams? Bud lite is swill no matter what. SH is a little better than that

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    2. How unfair to Scott Hahn! He is the gateway theologian for lots and lots of people, because he is affable and friendly and readable when you're at the opening wedge of faith.

      I'd identify him with a nice, accessible beer, good quality, not pricey, not snooty. But I don't drink beer. Someone pick one for me.

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    3. I think Scott Hahn as Bud Light is perfect actually. It's not bad, it's just there. Refreshing on a hot day, when one just needs to cool off a little.

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    4. Blue Moon. It's a beer, but it's straight forward and everyone likes it.

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    5. No, not Bud Lite. Diet Coke because it's not beer and prots don't drink

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    6. What are your theological credentials, Nikkolai, that would give you the standing to make such a snarky and adolescent comment about Scott Hahn? Does that fact that he is also able to communicate on a popular level disqualify him as a theologian? Have you read his tome Kinship by Covenant published by Yale University? I have three graduate degrees in theology, including a Ph.D. from Notre Dame where I was a Presidential Fellow, I've published in the top journals and with Brill Academic, and yet I know I don't hold a candle to Scott Hahn. Think before you speak, and show some humility.

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    7. Wow! Talk about a snarky lack of humility! (Not to mention a lack of humor...)

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  2. Sorry this is 'off beer' topic...will you please tell me the name of the artist and title of your background image? It is SO beautiful!!

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    1. Hi Anastasia,
      Honestly, I cannot for the life of me remember...I was pretty sure I found it in a search for artwork on St. Catherine of Siena, but I can't remember anymore. If anyone does know, please let me know as well...now I'm paranoid that I accidentally took someone's artwork without credit and I don't want to do that...

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    2. You can find it again using Google Images! (I would do it for you but I can't access the image file even though I looked through your source code).
      Blessed feast of the Dedication of St John Lateran!

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  3. I suppose Hans Küng would be Natty Light.

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    1. Actually, I had him originally listed as Colt 45 Malt Liquor, but in the interest of charity...

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    2. He's obviously O'Douls.

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  4. So, what you're saying is that Aquinas is the only REAL theologian?

    ;-)

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  5. Jason, my dear friend. You have probably never tasted a brew called The Reverend James (or even heard of it).

    It is, what we Brits call a 'bitter' beer, flat and not too cold.

    I am not sure which theologian I would associate with it, probably, St David of Wales as it's a Welsh ale.

    But, in my book, it's the best beer this side of Heaven. (Guinness comes a close second).
    Thanks for this post, excellent.

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    1. Interesting - my wife and I like to travel the world in beers, so to speak - so we might try it. Though if it is like those cask ales in Scotland, I might have to pass. Tooooooo bitter....

      Thanks for your compliment!

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  6. Thank you for such a wonderful post. I am a native drinker of Guinness from County Cork. I got a link to your blog on my editor Luke Coppen's Must Reads on The Catholic Herald.

    Warmest Wishes and I look forward to your future posts,

    Mary

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    1. Shouldn't you be a Murphy's or at least Beamish drinker?

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  7. Great I love this - I am not agree that Guinness is the best beer in the world (Timothy Taylors Landlord?) but nice analogy. As a Jesuit I have to appeal on behalf of Karl Rahner... a pilsner? bit lightweight.... and a bitter punch? refreshing tingle more like it. You may wish to know that one of my ex-students has started a micro-brewery in York (UK) and every Advent he produces a special Christmas beer 'Ale Mary' he calls it. He even made a special beer for my ordination!

    Keep up the good work!

    Tim SJ

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    1. Timothy Taylor Landlord is a great beer and better than Guiness.

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  8. Ha Ha - just realised it was Karl barth - not Rahner.... take it all back. And I haven't even supped a beer today! Where is Rahner and what beer would he be?

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  9. Although I am not a lover of beer, this was a great post and I love your choice of Theologians! It gave me a good laugh.

    Great music choices, BTW!

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  10. I enjoyed this post. Good job. Gives me pause for thought. Especially liked the Tertullian interpretation. Some of those beers I've not tried, but all those theologians I have. I will keep your thoughts in mind when I next go to the theologian, I am mean beer, store.

    But what about Augustine? Something so sweet and so deep... may I suggest a solid contender like Heineken or Stella Artois?

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    1. It seems I will have to write another post! There's of course so many to choose from, both theologians and beers, but I will do my best.

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    2. If you want sweet and deep may I suggest a Belgian beer. Trappiste rochefort 6 (or 8?) would be a great fit.

      -beer lovin mama

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  11. As a fan of Guinness and Aquinas I am in great agreement. I do think popular theologians are in a different category. I love Scott Hahn but comparing him to the doctors of the church is a bit strange. Even a guy like Fulton Sheen is just too easy on the pallet. Maybe they can be compared to soft drinks. Easier for children to consume and adults can enjoy them as well. Always in moderation though. Too much pop theology makes you grow fat and lazy. Too much of the strong stuff makes you go batty.

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  12. SH would be more of an American craft beer like a New Belgium, he is learning his craft as a latecomer to the game, but is Orthodox and digestible by those who lately discovered their faith and need a starting point. People who criticize other faithful Catholics are petty and leave a bad aftertaste like a Cincinnati corn beer.

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    1. Scott Hahn to me is not really a theologian but more of an apologist...

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    2. Then you haven't read his theological works, like Kinship and Covenant.

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  13. Other than your opening assertion -- that Guinness is the world's greatest beer -- you are doing quite well with this tongue in cheek article. Your lack of Belgian trappist ales shows your ignorance of beer. That notwithstanding, keep up the good work!

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    1. Actually, I do drink trappist ales as well - I would put Chimay as being St. Bernard of Clairvaux actually.
      But this is for another post.

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  14. I read this article early this morning and all day have found myself aggravated, nay pissed (in the American angry sense of the word not the British drunk sense) ever since I read the unjust, irresponsible and misleading remarks describing Smithwick's Ale! I'm not at all familiar with Bl. John Duns Scotus work, but I am familiar with Smithwick's Ale. It's possibly the most satisfying medium bodied, creamy, smooth, rich, sweetly fragranced brew I've ever had the good fortune to delight in.

    I'll never forget my Irish cousins' gasps of horror and dismay when I ordered it for myself standing at the bar of a very small town Catholic pub in N. Ireland. I thought I had done something unforgivably and dangerously Protestant. It wasn't until later I learned that, first, they would be buying the drinks not me. Second, it was pronounced Smiddick's not Smith-wick's, and third, it was a traditional 'old man' drink and totally uncool for someone of our age group, at the time, to be seen drinking in public.

    GRRRR, since Smiddy's is unavailable to me here, now I'll have to try and fill the void caused by the recall of it's delightful memory spawned by the unfair remarks found in this article and explore Bl. John Duns Scotus' work to see if it in way compares to the very real delight and satisfaction of Smithwick's Ale.

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    1. Friend, first calm thyself - I love Smithwick's ale, and if it somehow came through that I didn't, this was not the intention. It is next to Guinness in my opinion, and I have loved it for years. The comparison is that Smithwick's is a more filling ale than most - it is meaty and heavier than others in terms of flavor most certainly. So is Scotus, and I like Scotus. My point was that I would not have several at once, but enjoy one with a fine meal.
      This is coming from someone, by the way, who has been jokingly referred to as Scotistic in thought too.
      Rest easy sir.

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    2. I'm sorry to say this to you both Smithwick's is rank, I love ale but this was the worst I've tasted, maybe a bit of Irish nostalgia? There are many new Irish microbreweries which offer a vastly superior ale, see
      http://goodforwhatalesyou-beer.blogspot.ie/2009/12/kilkenny-cat.html, reviewed under Kilkenny, its just slightly better on draft

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  15. Laughing out loud, that was calm. I suppose we're all just lucky I waited and didn't comment early this morning. Thanks for the fond memories and longing this has produced, I'm very much looking forward to attempting to familiarize myself with Scotus. I can enjoy several Smiddy's with or without food, where Guinness on the other hand, I can only enjoy one maybe two and never with food. Although they both appear as the same accident of beer, I find them totally dissimiliar and their body and flavor mostly incomparable. Fun stuff, thanks.

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    1. Well yes, Scotus and Aquinas are very different. And for the record, my record for Guinness in a day is 8, which is, I think a sin actually...
      Thanks for the comments, and good luck reading Scotus...he's a mite heavy.

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  16. But Guinness is secretly Protestant. So you're really saying...

    HEY-O. Scotus points.

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  17. May I suggest that Pope Benedict XVI could be a Paulaner Weissbier?

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    1. Or a Weihenstephaner http://goodforwhatalesyou-beer.blogspot.ie/2009/10/bravo-bavaria.html, sorry for shamelessly using reviews I wrote back in the day but what a coincidence.

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  18. This post is awesome! As a beer geek, I really appreciated it. However, I must digress from your views on Guinness, as others have. It's highly overrated. A nice, big Imperial Stout will blow that stuff out of the water. Something like Founders' KBS...

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  19. Chimay (blue label) for Augustine? A great beer for a great theologian.

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  20. This is such an important matter that I must break my rule and enter a blog. I thoroughly agree with associating Aquinas and Guinness -- although it would have to be clear that the Guinness is prior to its export, when it becomes a bit bitter. I suppose one could argue that disciples of Thomas outside Ireland are also somewhat bitter -- but the distinction between original and image is worth making in both cases.

    I ponder with whom to associate Resurrection -- a U.S. mid-Atlantic beer that has recently, God help us, appeared in cans. But I can't decide if the beer is orthodox or gnostic -- I hope for the former but fear the latter.

    Finally, once consensus emerges on the communion of beers, perhaps we can turn to wines and hard liquors. I know this will offend some beer drinkers. But perhaps we need to develop something like a theology of other reigions.

    JB

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  21. Hi Jason, I've referred to you in my blog http://goodforwhatalesyou-beer.blogspot.ie/2012/07/hooch-and-holiness.html, it you've any problems with it, I'll change or delete, no problems

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    1. Hi Chingers,
      No problems in the least!
      Thanks for the compliments too. :)

      Slainte!

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  22. As a Hildegard scholar, I offer my thanks for the suggestion of Fraoch Heather Ale -- I've never heard of it before, and must now find some!

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  23. .thanks for sharing

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  24. Bishop Fulton Sheen reminds me of Anchor Steam Beer. It's American, accessible, and bursting with flavor. Some note a pleasing tartness; and it's easy to acquire a taste for it. Most Americans don't recognize that it's brewed in the classical European tradition .

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