Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man
To justify God's ways to man
A. E. Housman
Housman's rather cynical appraisal of the relative merit's of poetry and beer may, or may not, be the appropriate verse to introduce readers to "The Catholic Beer Review." Now, it may not be immediately apparent why a beer review ought to be Catholic, since the pleasures of beer are available to pagan and Christian alike. Yet, as G. K. Chesterton noted, "Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism." And since the Pagans were kind enough to discover the genuine pleasures of beer, it is up to good Christians to preserve that pleasure and pass it along. Hence a "Catholic" beer review may indeed be appropriate.
The point of Housman's poem is that beer is a false justification of God's ways. He continues:
Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.
And faith, 'tis pleasant till 'tis past:
The mischief is that 'twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I've lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.
And yet, I can offer something about beer-brewing that proves, to my pagan mind, why malt does indeed offer convincing proof that God does indeed love us. In the process of brewing beer, there is a critical temperature. It is the temperature of the "sparge" water, the water used to wash the sugars out of the barley malt, and it must be 167 degrees. A few degrees lower, and you won't get all the sugars, a few degrees higher and you will get unpleasant tannins along with the sugars.
Yet, in the days before thermometers, which include most of the days during which mankind, Christian and pagan alike, have brewed beer, how did they possibly know when the water had reached that critical number? Boiling point is easy to find, but boiling water will ruin the wort. So how did they know? As it turns out, there is a sudden change in the reflectivity of water just at this critical temperature; that is to say, you can detect the change in temperature just by looking at the water, no thermometer required. Now, one can invoke mere coincidence to explain this. But to invoke coincidence is to reject not just God but science. For if we can attribute such miracles to coincidence, then we never need look for the cause of anything. And I think it quite reasonable, nay, quite scientific, to attribute such an amazing "coincidence" to the care and concern of God for his creation.
If you have wasted your life drinking the tasteless products of Budweiser and Coors, I suggest the Catholic Beer Review as an introduction to some new pleasures of the palate, and a new lesson in the love of God.