Beer and Barron

Apr 9th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts, Catholic Life and Devotion

Reformed Christians have a special relationship with beer. I discovered this my junior year in college after spending my first two years at LSU exploring nearly every other Christian faith tradition on campus.  The combination of rich fellowship, deep theological discussion, and high quality beer, while sitting outside on a Louisiana front porch on a humid night, always seemed like a taste of heaven.  Reformed Christians understand that beer is good. Like any other inherent good it can and has been abused, but Reformed Christians are right to point out that the real problem is not beer, but the human heart. Catholics share this appreciation for good beer consumed in moderation.

        (Shiner Bock –  the only beer always present at our Beer and Barron meetings)

Reformed Christians also love good theology and good teaching. The giants of the Reformed faith, men like Calvin, Bucer, Hodge, and Warfield, were not just men of profound learning, but men who were also remarkably gifted teachers of the faith. The Reformed faith gave me a love for solid, biblical, and theologically rich teaching. Fr. Robert is likewise a master teacher of the faith.  Since founding Word on Fire Catholic Ministries in 2000, Fr. Barron has become known worldwide as one of the most articulate and insightful teachers of the Catholic Fath. Here is an example of his teaching where he discusses the Council of Trent.

These two loves, for good teaching and good beer, which I inherited from my formation in the Reformed faith, have made me deeply appreciative of a men’s fellowship group a member of my own parish (St. Andrew by the Bay) started in the spring of 2013. Tim Feist, a graduate and former Professor of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, began Beer and Barron because he shares these loves as well.

Our group meets every other Thursday night. We begin with lighthearted discussion, followed by an opening prayer where the whole group comes together. Apart from this distinctly Catholic prayer time the group has the feel of a home group Bible study. After prayer we watch a Fr. Barron video as a group which we follow up with a time of discussion. The evening concludes with a closing prayer and usually a fridge full of leftover beer for the lucky host.

In a span of just over a year God has richly blessed the group. In addition to impressive growth in numbers, members of our parish who were formally unengaged have been drawn closer to Christ through both fellowship and the excellent teaching of Fr. Robert Barron. Other Beer and Barron chapters are in the process of being formed in Maryland and even out of the state. Just yesterday Fr. Barron’s blog, Word on Fire, posted a short article about Beer and Barron as an expression of the New Evangelization. In the post Tim Feist describes the vision for the ministry. Beer and Barron is just one example of the many exciting ways in which the vision of the New Evangelization is coming into fruition.

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  1. Perhaps this is the case with American Reformed Christians but for Northern Irish Presbyterians it’s the opposite. Our “special relationship with beer” is a long history of abstinence and teetotal movements. As for an evening of beer drinking and Bible study, that would be a bizarre and contradictory concept to most Northern Irish Presbyterians.

  2. I contest this! For three of the twenty years that I was Reformed, my pastor, another member of the church that we started (Pukekohe Reformed Church), and I got, each of those years, about 400Kg of wine grapes (under the counter, as it were, from a grower who was supposed, by contract, to sell his whole crop to one of the vintners up north – a venial sin, perhaps?), crushed them by the time-honoured method of treading in the barrel (the pastor, who was tallest of the three of us, did it), fermenting the must, bottling it (in 2-litre bottles), and splitting it three ways amongst ourselves.

    The other two told me it was very nice once aged for a year. I, alas, never found that out. My share didn’t last a year :-)

    Though not a beer-drinker, a love Father Barron’s talks and wish I could come to meetings – perhaps they would make an exception and give me wine. Since becoming a Catholic, I have had to go to the modern method of actually purchasing my wine.


  3. Irish Protestant (#1),

    No beer for Northern Irish Protestants?!? For shame! A very long story, that I will try and briefly condense: It involves myself and two other people, studying abroad in Dublin, when I was a Reformed Protestant myself. We took a bus for a hike in Donegal one weekend, only to find that the bus that went from the hostel to the Slieve League didn’t run that day. We put up our fingers to hitchhike, and an evangelical convert and his wife, on their way to the beach for a Saturday morning walk, picked us up and dropped us off at the foot of the hike. Then we had to hitchhike again, picked up this time by a devout Catholic, who drove us to a bus, that took us to Derry and then onwards to Belfast. We were supposed to meet a cousin of a coworker of my father who had relatives in Belfast who at the last moment agreed to put us up. The taxi driver didn’t know the neighborhood, dropping us off God knows where, and we didn’t find their house until maybe 10 pm. I was only 20, and very unfamiliar with beer, but the wife of the house put out a big Irish spread in front of us, and placed a cold, frothy Harp lager in front of me. I had spent the day hiking and trekking along many Irish roads, with barely any water, and I tell you, that was the best beer of my life. Hence began my love affair with beer, and I suppose more particularly, Irish beer. We actually did attend a Presbyterian church the next morning, though I have no idea in what part of the city. I suppose I’m glad my ancestors are from Cork, since the beer and whiskey flow quite freely there! God bless, Casey

  4. I read the WOF article yesterday about Beer and Barron and immediately liked the idea. Thanks for this post.

  5. Good Evening Irish Protestant,

    I cannot speak from first hand knowledge about Irish Protestantism as Casey did, but I do know that beer/wine have their place in Reformation history. John Calvin’s salary included “two tubs of wine”. I’m not sure how large a tub would have been, but it sounds larger than a glass. Luther converted one of his homes into a brewery and the early Puritans to America completed their first brewery long before the first Church was built. I think your experience may be the exception rather than the norm.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  6. A pioneer of the Temperance movement in Ireland was Presbyterian minister, Rev. John Edgar, 1798-1866. Rev. Edgar was renowned for two things: a) founding and promoting the “Temperance Reformation,” and b) turning Irish Roman Catholics into Presbyterians.

    More biographical details on this fine Christian here:

  7. Irish Protestant,

    Jesus’ first miracle consisted in adding, not removing, alcohol from a party. Even if you subscribe to the idea that wine in ancient times only consisted of 4 or 5% alcohol it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus’ miracle brought more alcohol to a party, not less.

    In light of this I’m not sure how supportive Christ would’ve been of John Edgar’s temperance movement. A ministry like Beer and Barron not only exposes people to the truth of Christ, It also demonstrates the difference between worshiping the creation (alcoholism) and enjoying it.

    I’ve seen firsthand how horrible alcoholism is and so I want to be sensitive to your argument. It has destroyed countless lives. But sexual addiction is also deadly and I doubt you want to argue the we should all stop consummating our marriages because some have abused God’s gift of sexuality.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  8. Irish Protestant (#7),

    Forgive me if my previous comment led you to think that I or anyone at CTC is encouraging approaching the Word of God in anything but sobriety! I think all at CTC would agree that getting drunk is always sinful, and that if alcohol is promoted in scripture, it is promoted only in moderation. blessings, Casey

  9. It is amazing how often Colossians 2 is leveled against Catholics who voluntarily abstain from things they do not believe to be immoral. The “temperance” movement within Protestantism, nonetheless, represents to me a more clear violation of Colossians 2.

    Chesterton had a few words to say about “Temperance” in his day.

    Shiner Bock is the best. Full Stop.

  10. Brent,

    You wrote:

    “Shiner Bock is the best. Full Stop.”

    That’s just an assertion; where is your argument? :>)

    I must insist on table-pounding here. Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout beats the Bock!

    Pax Christi,


  11. Ray,

    Sigh. No table-pounding needed. There’s room on the table for both. It’s the both/and Catholic paradigm working at its best.


    Your poet is a great advocate for good. All our duty as far as we can,
    Is to love and respect our fellow-man;
    Rush to do him good, that’s if we can;
    Whether Greek, Gentile, or a Jew,
    We are in duty bound to help him through.
    It’s not the church of any kind
    Can destroy the peace of your poet’s mind;
    He’s a true believer every day,
    Lives as happy as the flowers in May.
    Anything for good that we can see
    We should turn out and help like that busy bee;
    Those are a guide for our fellow-man,
    Doing good is their every day’s plan;
    All through the day all do their best,
    When night comes on they take their rest.
    All insects have their cunning ways;
    All those are of one mind
    To make their homes so neat and fine.
    Oh, if man could only see,
    And live as happy as that bee;
    Cast off bad thoughts of any kind,
    The world very soon would be of one mind.
    Live on this earth in love and peace,
    And not to act as brutes and beasts.
    Let temperance be our guide while on this earth we stay;
    With good of all kinds
    Be on our minds.
    And throw all our grog bottles away,
    Like J. Gay.

    By James Gay, Canadian poet, 1810-1891

  13. My lcms parish had “theo-pub” every wed night! There was something special about enjoying a beer with your pastor and discussing theology. As a native Texan I second the vote for Shiner as a must-have!

  14. I have favorite beers for different occasions.

    Pool Side Summer – Dos Equis Lager with a lime wedge

    Just Mowed the Lawn – Lone Star

    Cool Evening Patio – Shiner Bock

    Tailgating SEC Football – Coors Light

  15. Irish Protestant,

    Nobody at Called to Communion has suggested that drunkenness is acceptable at any time. There’s a difference between having a cold beer after mowing the yard and drinking a six pack on a regular night. It’s similar to the difference between a couple coming together in union verses a man sleeping around. Just because a gift of God has been abused doesn’t mean it’s no longer a gift in the right context. Nearly all sin is misusing or perverting a good and holy gift from our heavenly father and this is the case with alcohol. Notice your Reformed friends have been silent in supporting your arguments. It’s just not possible to argue for a total abstinence from alcohol without calling into question the habits of nearly every giant in the Reformed tradition.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  16. The easiest part about going from Reformed Presbyterian to Catholic was that I didn’t have to adjust what was in my refrigerator and liquor cabinet.

  17. I salute this post–liquid ecumenism. Looks like you Romanist
    s could appreciate Belgian abbey ales.

  18. I recall being told that Cornelius Van Til of Westminster Seminary would drink one beer a year so as to demonstrate his Christian freedom regarding alcoholic beverages.

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