Monday, February 8, 2010

The Catholic Church Did What?

A while ago a reader alerted me to a strange sentence in the Wikipedia article on "Lager". Now by way of background, speaking very generally beer is divided into two broad categories: ales and lagers. Ales are fermented with what are known as "top fermenting" yeasts, which ferment at warmer temperatures and generally exhibit at least a certain amount of yeast-induced flavor characteristics. Lagers are fermented cooler, using different, "bottom fermenting" yeast strains which throw fewer flavor compounds; thus lager beers are considered "cleaner" tasting. Lager beers are also typically aged at very cold temperatures for a time to further smooth out the beer.

The need for mechanical refrigeration to achieve these colder temperatures, at least for year-round brewing, meant that commercial production of lagers became widespread only in the late ninteenth century. "By the 1870s breweries had become the largest users of commercial refrigeration units, though some still relied on harvested ice" ("Refrigeration").

Back to the Wikipedia article on Lager, a reader asked me about this curious sentence: "As a new variety of beer, its production faced opposition from established brewers as well as the Catholic Church" (my emphasis).

Huh? Why the heck would the Catholic Church be opposed to the brewing of lager beers? Well, there's no knowing exactly why the original author put that in, but I suspect that this is just an example of free-floating anti-Catholic bias out there—we all know that the Catholic Church is the great enemy of free scientific inquiry and technological progress. Right? Don't we?
(Well, lots of people might "know" it, but that doesn't make it so. For the other side of that coin, see How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, at least for starters.)

Thanks to the editing feature on Wikipedia, the sentence now reads: "As a new variety of beer, its production faced opposition from established brewers." Because the Catholic Church doesn't have a dog in this hunt. Drink all the lagers you want—pilsner, bock, doppelbock, schwartzbier, long as they're not just the "tinted waters" that pass for beer here in the United States. (You know, we really should see if we can get our beer-loving German Pope to oppose those, just on principle.)


Titus said...

Here's a statement I might believe: "The introduction of lagers was opposed by abbeys and other ecclesiastical institutions that were heavily invested in the production of ales." You can't really expect the average Wikipedia author to know the difference between the actions of individual ecclesiastical entities and the official acts of the entire Church, of course. They're sort of like CNN in that regard.

ThePalmHQ said...

Yeah, Titus, I agree with you that if there is any basis in fact whatever in the statement, that's probably the lines along which it runs.

Badger Catholic said...

There should be a Cathlopedia that requires truth in articles. I was wondering if Catholic Answers was trying to do something like that here

Titus I agree with your take.

Nod said...

The Catholic Church might even be said to have encouraged (or at least allowed) beer drinking.

"When the monks of St Francis of Paula came to Munich to withstand the flow of Protestanism sweeping Germany, they fasted for extended periods of time-during Lent and Advent.

The most interesting story about dopplebock comes from the time the Pope in Rome got word that these monks in Munich might have been breaking their Lenten vows by drinking dopplebock.

He ordered them to send him a barrel so that he might decide the issue. The barrel was sent from Munich but it soured on the long journey.

The Pope, having tasted the now foul brew decreed that indeed they were breaking no such vows of Lent and willingly let them continue to drink it."

JOB said...


Coincidentally, the latest issue of Fine Cooking has a feature on Lagers.


cctv karachi said...

This is not the first of your posts I've read, and you never cease to amaze me. Thank you, and I look forward to reading more.