More Stuff About Mennonites & Beer

Sometimes I’m afraid this blog is turning into a food blog. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love food. Like, I really really LOVE food. But, I want to talk about more than just food. I want to talk about this weird people group and the things they do and the sometimes (often times?) messy stuff they fight about. Those are more difficult things to write about though… requiring nuance, tact, and a lot of research. Honestly, it’s just a lot easier and faster to post about food. And, people are less likely to argue about it. And hence, a great many food-related posts.

But not this one.

It’s about BEER!

This’ll be my second post about Mennonites making beer. (In case you missed it, the first one was here.)

It’s interesting to think that prior to today’s craft beer-loving Mennonite hipsters, Mennonites really did have a rich (if not still somewhat hidden) history of brewing beer. Or, at least, I imagine it was a rich history.

After I posted that story, I heard from the Archivist at the Mennonite Heritage Archives in Winnipeg, Conrad Stoesz. He had found several mentions of beer in the diaries of Mennonites from the 1800’s! For example:

The diary of Chortitzer Bishop David Stoesz (1842-1903) includes a recipe for making beer. (He was the second Chortitzer Bishop after Gerhard Wiebe.)

Being allowed to brew beer was part of what enticed the Mennonites to settle in Russia.

The Jacob Epp diary notes negative issues related to alcohol abuse.

The Jacob Wall diary mentions beer being brewed: “Oct.11, 1849, Mr. Berg begins to brew beer / Dec.13, 1849, Redekop begins to brew beer”. There are references to beer in entries made on April 7, 1853, and February 1854.

It’s just interesting to note that Mennonites weren’t always teetotalers, nor did they always feel the need to hide their alcohol consumption.

It’s interesting to note, because of Steinbach’s longstanding reputation for being a dry town. Everyone had assumed this was a Mennonite thing… but I’m not so sure. Seems to me that many Mennonites were fine with alcohol. However, revival meetings and evangelical zeal did result in tighter alcohol laws… an advent of the 1970’s, I think I heard someone say. (I’m mentioning this here and now, totally assuming that someone will correct me 🙂

This all reminds me of that time that Hanover businesses assumed that because Steinbach was dry, that meant Hanover was too. What an amusing surprise to realize, just a few years ago, that Hanover never had restricted alcohol sales. (!)

(featured photo: Andrew and Conrad at the Mennonite Heritage Archives in Winnipeg)