Friday, May 02, 2008

The Beers of Martin Luther

Kihm Winship has a very nice article from 2005 on The Beers of Luther. The article delights with some great details only a beer lover could love.

Thus, the beers of Luther's era would have been complex, highly flavored, possibly a tad sour and/or cloudy, and would have varied in color, flavor, strength and quality.

The author discusses the different qualities of beer based on their place of brewing. Especially interesting is the connection between the monastery and brewing. There are some wonderful quotes from Luther.

As for the use of beer as an aid to Lenten discipline, Luther noted, "Under the papacy everything was pleasant and without annoyances. Fasting then was easier than eating is to us now. To every day of fasting belonged three days of gorging. For a collation one got two pots of good beer, one small jug of wine, and some ginger cake or salted bread to stimulate the thirst. The poor brothers then left like fiery angels, so red were they in the face."

Here we see yet another reason to re-consider the practice of a lenten fast.

Kihm also writes about "Luther's Favorite." "Luther's fondness for beer is well known..." He writes, and apparently on the day of Luther's famous stand he was fortified not only with God's Word, but also his favorite commercial brew.

Because he traveled, Luther could have had many of these beers, but there is only one with claims to the effect that it was his favorite. Frederick Salem, in his Beer, Its History and Its Economic Value as a National Beverage (1880) notes, "Luther's fondness for beer is well known, and on the evening of that eventful day at Worms, April 18, 1521, the Duke Erich von Braunschweig sent him a pot of Eimbecker (Einbecker) beer, to which he was specially addicted."

As I have also been known to say, Beer makes good gifts. I have often given mead as a wedding gift. Kim quotes "The Beer Hunter" Michael Jackson on just one such gift to Luther and Katie on their nuptials.

Also, Michael Jackson, in his New World Guide to Beer (1988), notes that Luther received a gift of Einbeck beer on the occasion of his wedding. Luther scholar Luther Peterson recalls a visit to a restaurant in Einbeck where he found a beer coaster with portraits of Martin and Katie on one side and a tale about their receiving a barrel of Einbeck beer as a wedding present. Although he adds, "How authoritative a beer coaster can be is another question."

A delightful addition to the article.

My favorite part of the article however, is the section where the author speaks about not only Martin's beer but his relationship with Katie. She was a faithful wife, fulfilling her God-given vocation with grace and favor. Kihm writes:

Luther much preferred homebrew. After Luther married, his wife Katie brewed beer as the lay brothers had brewed it in days gone by. Luther Peterson notes that Martin often began his written invitations to friends with the note that Katie had made him another barrel of beer. Once in 1535, while away from home, he wrote to her about some bad beer he had drunk 'which did not agree with me... I said to myself what good wine and beer I have at home, and also what a pretty lady, or lord.' Here's an endorsement of homebrew, and very diplomatically put as well.

And I must comment on Luther's mug:

He enjoyed his beer and had a great mug with three rings on it, one 'the Ten Commandments', the next 'the Creed' and third 'the Lord's Prayer'. He boasted that he could encompass all three with ease.

A friend of mine gave me a very nice (read large) stein in this tradition. Beer is especially tasty poured over theology.

I end my review with Kihm's final quote with which I, Luther, and all good Lutherans can agree...

And so we have Martin Luther's permission to enjoy a light buzz, especially at home with family and friends, but his stern admonition to refrain from piggishness.

Pastor Watt.

Thanks to Stanley Matthews for pointing out this article.

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