US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Drink intentionally this St. Patrick's Day

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For better or worse, drinking is a part of Catholic culture, particularly around Saint Patrick's Day when everyone is suddenly Irish.

Regular readers know that I am very interested in food and in particular food systems--how food gets from the fields to our plates, in other words. Particularly since writing Greener Pastures for U.S. Catholic magazine, I have tried to support local farmers by shopping at farmers markets whenever possible.

But until this weekend, I never thought about my drinking habits in this context. At Chicago's FamilyFarmed EXPO on Saturday, I learned that drinking locally also means supporting local farmers.

By getting to know your local brewer or distiller, you can also get to know where their raw ingredients come from. Often the barley, wheat, and other ingredients come from not far away. Illinois even has some good wines, I learned.

Adam Seger, the creator of Hum (a botanic spirit that tastes amazing with Goose Island's Matilda, for those of you in Chicago), said that buying locally often means supporting local wine stores as well. Seger, who works at a restaurant and knows how many bottles are recycled (hopefully) or thrown out every night, is also asking his bars to return the bottles for reuse, just like bars do with Goose Island kegs, making the process more environmentally friendly. This can only happen on a local scale though.

One key is that people find out what they can get locally and ask for it by name. We could call it "drinking intentionally"--as if that were possible on St. Patty's Day weekend, or any weekend really, in a city like Chicago.

For most young people, alcohol is a means to an end: drunkenness. Take a quote from This American Life on Penn State, named the No. 1 party school: A student said that he wishes there was a "drunk button" so that he could achieve that goal without having to choke down Natty Light. I can't throw any stones, but that's just sad.

I imagine that vast majority of green-clothed young adults in Chicago were drinking green-dyed Miller Lite, and not even in Guinness, last weekend. I am part Irish (that part grows this time of year), and I will enjoy a Smithwick's (my favorite beer) with my corned beef and cabbage (I give up my Lenten fast from meat just for the feast day) on Wednesday.

But most of the time, you'll find me enjoying a good, local beer and at least trying to drink intentionally. Thankfully in Chicago I have plenty of options (Goose Island, Piece, Three Floyds, Two Brothers, Half Acre, Revolution, Metropolis, and Bells).

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