The sentiment is right, but the quote is wrong. I know it’s popular, and I’m really trying to inform rather than criticize, but:

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. — Ben Franklin

He never said it. I’m sorry. I know that this flies in the face of half of the t-shirts you’re going to walk by at the next beer festival you’re at, and even disagrees with the myriad of posters, signs, banners, inscriptions, murals, and frescoes you’ll see at breweries across the country, but it’s just not right.

What he said is basically the same sentiment, but Ben Franklin, as near as I can tell, wasn’t much of a beer drinker (not that I’m much of a historian). You can go read it for yourself, if you need to, but here’s the correct quote, in full:

We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain, which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy. The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation, under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.

See? No beer. I mean, sure.. you can put “grain” in there instead of “grapes”, “fields” instead of “vineyards” and change “wine” to “beer”, but if you’re really looking for heavenly beer miracles, the wedding at Cana ain’t it. Instead, look for St. Brigid of Ireland who turned her bathwater into beer to nourish a leper colony. Fun, if disgusting.

Here’s another interesting excerpt from Ben Franklin’s autobiography (in fact, one of the only spots in his autobiography that mentions beer at all, thank you Google Books), in which he’s discussing working at a printing house in London:

At my first Admission into this Printing House, I took to working at the Press, imagining I felt a Want of Bodily Exercise I had been us’d to in America, where Presswork is mix’d with Composing. I drank only Water; the other Workmen, near 50 in number, were great Guzzlers of Beer. On occasion I carried up & down Stairs a large Form of Types in each hand, when others carried but one in both Hands. They wonder’d to see from this & several Instances that the water-American as they call’d me was stronger than themsleves who drank strong Beer. We had an Alehouse Boy who attended always in the House to supply the Workmen. My Companion at the Press, drank every day a Pint before Breakfast, a Pint at Breakfast with his Bread and Cheese; a Pint between Breakfast and Dinner, a Pint at Dinner, a Pint in the Afternoon about Six o’Clock, and another when he had done his Day’s-Work. I thought it a detestable Custom.

Not to say that ol’ Ben was a teetotaler by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t get the impression that he was necessarily waxing eloquent about beer in any great length. Given the time that he spent in France, wine certainly seems much more his speed.

So, there. Now you can live in the joy of the sentiment (God provides rain which naturally turns into wonderful fermented beverages for us), without living in ignorance (Ben was a CHUGGAH! It’s all about the Benjamin’s bayy-beeeee!). You’re welcome.

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Categories: history, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 27 Jan 2010 @ 04 04 PM

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