Beer was a recurring theme in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who at one point said: "Yes. Yes, we drank beer. My friends and I. Boys and girls. Yes, we drank beer. I liked beer. Still like beer. We drank beer. The drinking age, as I noted, was 18. So the seniors were legal senior year in high school. People were legal to drink and we drink, yeah, we drank beer. And I said sometimes — sometimes we probably had too many beers, and sometimes other people had too many beers. We drank beer. We liked beer.”
Kavanaugh’s beer-drinking habits became the fodder of a "Saturday Night Live" opening skit in which Kavanaugh (played by Matt Damon) declares, "I'm usually an optimist: I'm a keg-is-half-full kind of guy." The line prompted the skit’s largest laugh from the audience.
Aside from his admission of overdoing it and the probably less-than-wholesome environment in which he and his buddies wet their whistles, Kavanaugh is in good company. Ever since Christianity spread to beer-drinking lands, suds and saintliness have been seen as compatible. Consider the following:
Beer may have been invented by the ancient Babylonians, but it was perfected by the medieval monasteries that gave us modern brewing as we know it. To this day, the world’s finest beer is still made within the cloister (and I am, of course, referring to Trappist beer).
Saint Arnold of Metz (580-640) saved his flock from the plague by telling them to drink beer instead of water, assuring them that “from man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.”
When Arnold’s parishioners went to collect his remains after his death, they grew weary on the way and ran out of provisions. Tempted to turn around, one devout fellow prayed: “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.” Immediately the little amount of beer left at the bottom of a pot “multiplied in such amounts that the pilgrims’ thirst was quenched and they had enough to enjoy the next evening when they arrived in Metz.” Not surprisingly, Arnold became a patron saint of brewers.
Another Saint Arnold (1040-1087) — this one from Soissons, France — became the patron saint of Belgian brewers and hop-pickers because he also admonished the people to drink pathogen-free beer instead of disease-infested water. It is said that, during the height of the plague in Flanders, he plunged his staff into a brew kettle and that those who drank from the kettle were miraculously cured. Some folks even credit him with being the inventor of filtration in the brewing process. One of St. Arnold’s symbols in Christian art is a brewer’s mash rake.
But first prize goes to St. Brigid of Ireland (451-525), who allegedly composed a prayer entitled “The Lake of Beer”:
I should like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I should like the angels of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.
I should like excellent meats of belief and pure piety.
I should like the men of Heaven at my house.
I should like barrels of peace at their disposal.
I should like for them cellars of mercy.
I should like cheerfulness to be their drinking.
I should like Jesus to be there among them.
I should like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I should like the people of Heaven, the poor, to be gathered around from all parts.
It almost makes Paradise sound like a high school kegger.
Michael P. Foley, a professor of theology at Baylor University, is the author of Drinking with Saint Nick: Christmas Cocktails for Sinners and Saints and Drinking with The Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour.