Croydon minster revives the ancient tradition of blessing the beer

By - Monday 25th July, 2016

God is the giver of all good things… and that includes beer, says Croydon minster’s Associate Vicar, Lee Taylor

Photo by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission.

On Thursday 4th August at 7:00pm I will be reviving an ancient tradition in the heart of Croydon Old Town. I will be blessing the beer at our local pub in the parish of Croydon minster.

It is quite a quirky and fun thing to be doing. But it’s also a custom which goes back hundreds of years and something which I don’t think has been done in this country for a very long time.

So why bless beer? Well, a distinguished professor of theology once said: “To bless something is to say something nice to God about it.” God is the author of our beautiful world and the giver of all good things… which includes beer. I believe that whatever ministers to our human need should be the object of a blessing.

The church has a long tradition of blessing people, places, events and objects. By blessing something, we praise God for all that is good and take pleasure in what he gives us.

The ritual of blessing beer probably goes back to the monasteries in the medieval period. European monasteries, many of which were brewhouses, prided themselves on being centres of hospitality, and beer would have been readily available to visitors and pilgrims. The monks of Rochefort Abbey in Belgium still brew and bless their beer today.

We can bless things designated for ordinary use: cheese, salt, tools… and of course, beer

A church manual dated 1614 contains special blessings for things used on a daily basis. ‘Blessings of things designated for ordinary use, contains blessings for cheese, for seeds, for salt or oats, for animals, fishing boats, tools used by mountain climbers and, of course, for beer.

The Dog and Bull pub stands on Surrey Street in the middle of Croydon’s historic fruit and vegetable market, the oldest of its kind in England, which was granted its royal charter in 1276. The pub has been there since at least 1595, making it the oldest in Croydon, and it was formerly known as the Bell. We think it’s a most appropriate place to revive such a piece of history.

On Thursday 4th August at 7:00pm I will be blessing the beer there with a small group from our congregation. A mass will be offered beforehand at Croydon minster at 6:30pm for The Dog and Bull’s licensees, Mark and Lesley Knight, and from there a small procession will make its way to the pub where I will bless the beer (barrels in the cellar and the pumps upstairs). We will all enjoy fellowship over a pint afterwards.

I think it’s a great way of connecting the church to the local community. If you would like to join us, you are most welcome, although please bear in mind that space will be limited.

Lee Taylor

Lee Taylor

Father Lee Taylor is Associate Vicar of Croydon Minster. Bolton-born, he has lived in the south for many years and has a keen interest in the liturgy and music of the church. No stranger to inns, his mother ran two pubs in Wigan and Lee used to help out by pulling pints and chatting to the regulars. He worked at a local working men’s club in Bolton where he served behind the bar and played a few old-time songs on the organ before the bingo session.

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  • Graeme Dutton

    Hi Lee, cracking idea. We did the same at our pub church movement @StArnolds in Bradford a couple of years ago when Bradfird Brewery opened. We regularly hold Beer and Hymn nights and ‘bless the beer’ each Easter Sunday