For the first time since 1945, Valentine’s Day in 2018 coincides with Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Christian penitential season of Lent. Easter Sunday, which represents the culmination of Lent, is the most important day of the Christian calendar. In 2018, again for the first time since 1945, it falls on April Fool’s Day.After graduating from The College of New Jersey, Tommy enrolled at The University of Virginia Law School, where he apparently decided that his given name of Thomas (aka Tommy) wasn’t sufficiently dignified. At the time, “Tommy” was a generic slang term for British soldiers, roughly analogous to “G.I. Joe” in contemporary American parlance. It was later the title of a poetic tribute by Rudyard Kipling to the under-appreciated fighting man. By the time I was a senior in college, the best known fictional Tommy was “the deaf, dumb and blind kid who sure played a mean pinball.” Excerpts from the rock opera “Tommy” were performed by The Who on November 2, 1969 on the campus of Georgetown University, where I was diligently pursuing my studies at the time.The implication that Easter is in any way a product of April Fool’s Day raises theological questions that are far beyond the scope of this column. I can, however, reconcile Valentine’s Day, when sweethearts traditionally give each other chocolates and roses, with Ash Wednesday, which is characterized by self-denial. “How so?” some alert readers (ARs) might ask. Easy. As with many of life’s conundra, the answer can be found in beer.
In Germany during the 17th century, Lenten observance was far more stringent than it is today in the United States. Extreme fasting was commonplace for pious Christians. Forgoing meals, however, meant depriving oneself of vital nutrients, often to the detriment of one’s health. Confronting this problem, the resourceful monks of St. Francis of Paula figured out a way for the faithful to observe their Lenten fasts without suffering from malnutrition. They developed a style of beer called Doppelbock, that was both nutritious and filling. The monks named their beer Salvator in honor of the Savior who would rise on Easter Sunday.
Some ARs will remember that in the past Schlafly has brewed Doppelbock for Lent. We have not done so this year, but we have brewed a beer with a similar-sounding name: Double Bean Blonde. In many ways, this style is even more appropriate for Lent in 2018 than Doppelbock would have been. The double beans, as some ARs already know, are coffee and cocoa. Considering that chocolate is considered a sine qua non on both Valentine’s Day and Easter, what better beer with which to begin and end this particular Lent than one containing a bean from which chocolate is derived?
While penitents and lovers are respectively observing Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, sports fans around the world will be focusing their attention on the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. As many ARs know, the Olympic Games pre-date Christianity by almost 800 years. After a run of 12 centuries the games were banned in 393 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius, who considered them a pagan cult. They were revived 15 centuries later in 1896. Twenty-eight years later, in 1924, the Winter Olympics were inaugurated.
One of the longstanding Olympic traditions was the Sacred Olympic Truce. All hostilities were suspended to allow athletes to travel to and from the games in safety. Russian Premier Vladimir Putin apparently never got the memo about this Sacred Olympic Truce. When Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014 and the eyes of the world were on Sochi, Putin used the games as a diversion and ordered the invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The world community was nearly unanimous in condemning Russia’s actions as a gross violation of international law, not to mention the spirit of the Olympics. Putin didn’t care.
As heinous as this violation of the spirit of the Olympic Truce was, it was not the reason the Russian team was barred from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. No, the Russian team was stripped of 51 Olympic medals and banned from taking part in 2018 games because of egregious and widespread doping. This doping program involved not only thousands of athletes, but virtually the entire Russian Athletics Federation, as well as other government officials, probably including Putin himself.
Lucy Hamm was 16 years old when the first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France in 1924, and celebrated her 110th birthday last month. I was pleased that Schlafly Beer was invited to be part of the celebration and composed a poem in Lucy’s honor, some excerpts from which may help put her life in perspective:
Lucy Hamm was born on this date in nineteen eight
Two months after Oklahoma had become a state.
Roosevelt was the President, not Franklin, but TR.
Henry Ford had not yet built his first Model T car.
She’s lived through twenty presidents. Lucy can look back
On foreign troop deployments from Flanders to Iraq.
She’s lived through World War One and raids by Pancho Villa.
She’s lived through nine-eleven and threats from North Korea.
Unlike a lot of Russian Olympic athletes, Lucy has never used performance-enhancing drugs. Rather, she attributes her good health in large part to a diet that includes Schlafly Beer, which she did not discover until she was in her 80s. Her incredible longevity is an undeniable fact. It is not an April Fool’s joke.
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery