When I was growing up, it was considered sinful for Christians to drink beer, and so, when I dedicated my life to the Lord, I became a teetotaller. However, I noted that the Bible does not condemn drinking per se, but drunkenness and out-of-control intoxication. Solomon in the Proverbs warns against the dangers of mixed drinks and strong liquor. Paul writes to the Ephesians to avoid being drunk with wine, which he describes as "dissipation."
On the other hand, we have a clear example of Jesus turning water into very good wine at a wedding feast, and the same Paul advises Timothy to drink a bit of wine now and then for health reasons. It does not appear that alcohol was considered sinful by the Biblical writers in the same way as my peers in a small Colorado farming community. But beer seems to gain no mention at all.
At least that's what I would have thought before I read a fascinating article in Biblical Archaeology Review
for September/October 2010 (Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?
by Michael M. Homan). It would appear that the lack of prominent mentions of beer in the Bible are due far more to the inadequacies of translation than lack of mention by the Bible itself.
In the article, Mr. Homan cites several mentions of beer, brewing and a popular beer culture in ancient times, which are reflected in the Biblical record. He even gives a recipe for ancient beer as brewed in Bible times. Apparently, they made barley into cakes, which were soaked in water and fermented. The similarities to bread-making have obscured the references to beer in most modern translations.
I found especially fascinating his take on the popular quote from Ecclesiastes, “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.” Ecclesiastes 11:1, 2, KJV.
Mr. Homan's take on this passage is:
Throw your bread upon the face of the water, because in many days you will acquire it. Give a serving to seven and also eight, because you do not know what evil will be upon the land.
I believe this is a reference to the cakes of bread used in ancient beer production, as noted earlier. Cast your bread upon the water and it will return as beer. Much like the phrase carpe diem, the author advises making beer and drinking it with friends, because you don’t know what evil might be coming.
I realize not all of the members of this forum are Christians or usually interested in the Bible, but this article is still interesting for its historical value and its commentary on contemporary religion, especially prohibitions against the use of alcohol in any form. Check it out at: http://tinyurl.com/34rtncc
BTW, I've long since made peace with the responsible enjoyment of alcohol and I enjoy brewing and imbibing a large variety of beer, and the occasional whiskey without a worry that it is inconsistent with my Christian testimony. If any of you run across friends or acquaintances who feel as I used to, you might refer them to this article.