While reading the Rodenbach section in the book The Great Beers of Belgium Michael Jackson mentions a relation of beer to Saint George. Saint George is the patron saint of England but also much more than that. The myth protrays him as the slayer of the dragon. This is a story that many of us grew up with; stead fast knight saving the damsel. A plot that many stories find as their base.
Saint George became a hero of the Christian faith during the time of the Roman Empire. He was a Christian soldier in the Roman army, who eventually led a rebellion against Roman persecution of Christians. As is normal myths and legends tie together with reality in new and interesting ways.
Many of the knights who followed the Crusades took the mantel of St George. In the Christian faith the Dragon makes reference to the devil. Just as Saint George fought against persecution from the Romans, the Crusaders were charged with freeing the Holy Land from the Devils who were encroaching.
I know what you are thinking right now “Great history and stuff, but what does this have to do with beer?” Religion and myth aside, we should look for ties to fermented beverages. The Romans were wine drinkers, viewing beer as a foul, a drink of barbarians. As the Roman empire expanded through Europe grapes were planted, creating quite a few of the great wine regions we know today. Is it possible that St George encouraged the drinking of beer as part of the rebellion against the Romans? That seems a bit far fetched and out there, but at the same time if you look at protests of today it is not uncommon to boycott products from a company or items that represent a culture.
On the other side of the coin we find beers and breweries that embrace the word dragon. I have to wonder with these if they in some way are poking fun at the Temperance movement and Prohibition. The Temperance movement made claims of devil whiskey and alcohol being evil. Are we now thumbing our nose at these claims?
Today, we find quite a number of beers and breweries with names that pay homage to George and the Dragon. Whether or not these exist because of the myths and legends is up to the individual breweries.
I think its time for a pint