Beer at Thanksgiving? Why the Pilgrims would love it!

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It’s the start of winter in 1620. The Pilgrims have left the Mayflower to set forth on land. But what (other than Providence) led them to choose this time and place to leave the Mayflower?


They were out of beer.

And the crew of Mayflower wasn’t going to share their brew because they needed it to survive the winter and their voyage back to England.

William Bradford mentioned their need for beer when he recalled the day they set out for what would be known as Plymouth:

So in the morning, after we had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution — to go presently ashore again and to take a better view of the two places which we thought most fitting for us; for we could not now take much time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer.

Out of beer, the Pilgrims were forced to live off water. Beer was viewed as a health drink. It was fairly low on alcohol and didn’t make one sick like the water from many streams and wells in Europe.

Stephen Mansfield talks in detail about the Pilgrims and beer in his book The Search for God and Guinness. Mansfield says that the need for beer often caused the Pilgrims and other colonists to do things “because it was a source of the health and the nourishment and the purity that our ancestors needed at the time.”

When the Pilgrims began building their settlement, they prioritized. The first building? You guessed it: a brewery.

But perhaps the strangest incident involving beer happened in March 1621 when the Pilgrims were approached by Somoset. Here is how Mansfield describes the scene:

As startling as this Indian was to the Pilgrims, it was what happened next that shocked them most of all. The man neared, paused, and then shouted “Welcome!” in clear, perfect English. And then, most astonishing still, he asked — again, flawlessly in the Pilgrim’s own tongue — if they had some beer.

Yes. Beer.

… [Somoset] had grown fond of the Englishmen, had become accustomed to their ways, and apparently developed a taste for English beer.

So, when sitting around this Thanksgiving, you may want to give thanks for beer. Without it, the Pilgrims may have never survived to give thanks. And it’s a good bet that beer held a prominent place on the tables at the first Thanksgiving.

If you want to celebrate in true Pilgrim style, however, you should look for a pumpkin beer. Barley didn’t grow well in the New World. Corn was often used, but Pilgrims used pumpkin and other ingredients. A Pilgrims poem from the time spoke of how they made the beer:

If Barley be wanting to make into Malt,

We must be contented and think it no Fault,

For we can make liquor to sweeten our

Lips Of Pumpkins and Parsnips and Walnut-Tree Chips

Mmmm. Pumpkin-Parsnip-Walnut beer! Be thankful you don’t need to live off that.


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  • Karla

    Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk and 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that all
    drunkards go to hell including people who get drunk on strong wine cause
    the wine Jesus made was new wine/diluted/made for symbolic reasons not
    to get drunk plus the Bible says don’t get drunk with wine it’s debauchery!

  • Bill

    Oh Karla.. You quite scripture.. but, if you read it correctly.. you will see that the wine Jesus made had to fIrst pass the tasting of the wine steward at the wedding. The question posed by the steward was “why did you save the best until last?” Also, the scripture says to not get drunk. It does not say to not drink. In fact, read 1 Tim 5:23. Unfortunately, your narrow view is very common in some Christian churches. They read into part of the scriptures and/or read out of context.

  • Karla

    Bill-Most people who drink/get drunk so that’s why it’s better not to drink
    and best for last does not mean/refer to getting drunk or that the wine
    was strong wine just the opposite so you need to do some more Bible
    studying/research because sinful man always wants to twist things to
    justify their sin. Most people that drink can’t just have one beer or just
    one glass of wine so that’s why it’s better not to drink plus what kind of
    witness is it for a Christian to be drinkin alcohol? Not a great example
    to drink or a great way to witness to people cause if someone is seeing
    a Christian drinking they will think it’s okay to drink. Bible is very clear
    that all drunkards go to hell/getting drunk is wrong so why even drink
    at all when it causes other people to stumble/fall into sin! God bless.

  • Karla

    Bill- Do you really think if people had been drinking all day/were drunk
    that Jesus would make strong wine so they could get even more drunk?
    You really need to do some more research/not twist the Bible Scripture!

  • Bill

    Sorry Karla. No longer worth replying to. I don’t know who you are around when you say “most” people who drink get drunk. The Bible says to drink but not get drunk. The “new” wine goes out the window when scripture says to not put new wine in an old wineskin. Wny? Fermentation takes place and the gasses generated would burst the inflexible skin. I realize this is just s simile.. but the truth remains. Most all cultures drink alcoholic beverages w/o getting drunk as it is the ONLY source of non-contaminated water for hydration. Do you think all these folks are walking around drunk. Sorry, but your argument holds NO merit. Get some good commentaries and read up on it. I don’t twist scripture.. Nor do I look at it from a narrow sectarian viewpoint.

  • Buddy Chappell

    it is great hear solid theology from a fellow baptist on this topic!
    I believe that this concept of running in fear from anything that could conceivably
    be taken so far as to become sin comes from an old baptist attitude when I was you that banned just about anything that was fun as it could lead to sin, well being born human definitely leads to sin, we are not supposed to deney ourselves every good thing to avoid sin which is an extreme and in Ecclesiastes extremes are comdemed as sin, we are instructed instead to exercise self control which is a form of witness in itself!

  • Karla

    Bill-Bible says don’t get drunk on strong wine! The Bible also says
    don’t get drunk with/on wine for it’s debauchery! I don’t know who
    you are around but it’s not a very good witness for a Christian to be
    drinking alcohol. Getting drunk/drunkeness is the sin but most of
    the people who start to drink get drunk/drink too much! It’s better
    not to drink at all. Look what alcohol does to people. How can you be a witness to someone if they’re gettin drunk if you are drinking?
    Jesus made diluted wine for symbolic reasons not to get drunk!

  • Karla

    Buddy-Just another person tryin to justify their actions. What kind of a witness
    is it to be drinking alcohol? Not a very good one! I meet people on a regular
    basis that get drunk. What about pride,coveting/greed,jealousy,being mean, premarital sex,taking the Lords name in vain,gambling,gossip/slander/lying
    and other sins that people do then try to justify it because it’s not abortion
    or gay marriage which so many focus on so their sin doesn’t seem so bad.
    Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-12 and 1 Corinthians 5 the whole chapter. Jesus
    said many will say to Me Lord,Lord and not enter heaven! We must Repent!

  • John

    Benjamin Franklin said it best – “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Amen.

  • Karla

    John-The Bible/Word of God says in Ephesians 5:18 don’t get drunk and
    also in 1 Corinthians 6:10 it says that all drunkards go to hell. Read the
    Bible. 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 the whole chapters are a very good start.

  • Bill

    Karla.. you need to drop this. You are not speaking to Christians here (in general) This creates hostilities.. Remember… “don’t cast your pearls..” Also, you are doing more damage than good. I’d suggest backing off. Think about it.

  • Karla

    Bill-Preaching against sin is what we are called to do. We are to love but
    in Truth. Thank you for the feedback. We can agree to disagree but as
    a fellow Christian I respect you and appreciate your input. God bless.

  • Karen

    Try to reason with someone who loves their beer. It is a no win situation for now the Pilgrims are used as “symbolic heroes” for drinking….when will the insanity stop! With one drink/one beer, the human body begins to let its guard down and more often than not, one beer deserves another…….and so it goes with wine, wine coolers, what have you. And to be a stumbling block to others regarding consuming alcohol, well, as a born again believer, it just it not wise, period for Paul addresses this in his letters.

    As a parent, I have witnessed the effects of alcohol consumption in our small rural area with many deaths amongst our high school aged youth, and we grieve for a short time. But the parents grieve a lifetime over their losses.

    And as the Christian community promotes alcohol consumption more and more using whatever means necessary to ease their consciences, the only safe place that a non-drinker is respected these days is at the Driver’s Examiners Office……they don’t like drinking drivers very well.

    If I need edification in continuing to not drink, I call up unchurched believers and ask for prayer and strength in not touching the bottle…..if I want to go back to my drinking ways…well that’s easy, I can simply call up “the churched” and they would be happy to have me back in the alcoholic saddle again. I will not cast my pearls before the churched in my area again, but will rely on God, the Holy Spirit to lead me into all truth……Be sober…..for satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking those whom he may devour.

    Stay sober, be safe. God protect all of us who abide in Him.

  • Karla

    Karen-Amen/very well said!

  • Fr. John Morris

    You are taking the Holy Scriptures completely out of context. We would have less problems with alcohol abuse if parents would teach their children he correct use of alcoholic beverages. Your attitude only contributes to alcohol abuse. It also makes a mockery of Christians.

    Fr. John W. Morris

  • Karla

    Fr. John Morris-You are way off base! It’s really shocking how you and
    other people would endorse drinking. The only people that are making a
    mockery of Christianity are you and these other people on here that are
    endorsing drinking. The only people taking Scripture out of the context
    are you/these other people on here that are trying to justify their actions.
    Jesus made new wine which was diluted/from the fruit of the vine for a
    symbolic reason not to get drunk! People should be taught not to drink
    at all because most people who drink end up getting drunk. God bless.

  • John

    Careful with your legalism and your erroneous literal interpretations. No one here is talking about drunkenness or overindulgence. You read too much into the words. You have no more case to forbid all drinking than you do to absurdly claim that Jesus made watered down wine. So why did the master of the banquet in John 2 complement the best wine being saved until last? It certainly wasn’t because it was watered down.

  • Karla

    John- Best for last was always the poorer watered down/diluted wine
    because they had been drinking freely all day. Do you really think that
    Jesus would make strong wine so people could get even more drunk?
    Bible is clear that getting drunk with/on wine is debauchery and once
    again I agree that drunkeness/gettin drunk is the sin so that’s why it is
    better not to drink because most who drink end up getting drunk. The
    Lord Jesus hung out with the drunkards but never endorsed it. He told
    the woman caught in adultery to go sin no more! He told her to change
    all her/the behavior. It’s not a very good example for a Christian to be
    drinking even if they don’t get drunk because other people will then
    think it’s okay to drink then stumble into sin because most people who
    drink then end up getting drunk which is why it’s better not to drink!

  • Bill

    John.. there is NO sense trying to argue with a closed minded legalist who does not know what she is talking about. If she would take the time to understand truth rather than “Do you think Jesus would..” we would not be having this crazy discussion. The only time in scripture we really see something relating to STRONG drink is when those who were to be raised as a Nazarite were told to not consume it. The ‘new’ wine is a made up term by southern baptists and other protectionists. The Hebrew priests were great at expanding the fences of what God’s ordinances were in order to keep the people from getting near to stumbling. They themselves… stumbled and were called out by Jesus.

    Yes, Jesus made the best wine. Not poor quality. There is NOTHING said about ‘new’ wine or weak diluted wine. Kara needs to get off her pedestal and check scripture.. not here SECT’S teachings. or her narrow mined interpretations of scripture.

    I didn’t think I’d get back into this crazy “discussion” but.. I’m now done. More harm caused than silence… Oh, there is a scripture about that. Keep your silence lest you be found to be a fool.. even a well intentioned one.

  • Karla

    Bill- Once again you need to do some more research because the wine was
    not strong/the best for last does not refer to strong wine…. it actually means
    just the opposite so you can try to justify drinking all you want but the bottom
    line is it’s better not to drink/not a very good example for a Christian to drink!

  • Bill

    Kara.. for once. Provide me with a source for this ridiculous statement. THEN I might have some faith in your words. WHERE are your sources for this. Nowhere does it state what you are saying.

    One thing you say I might agree with. If your drinking causes someone a problem (you for instance).. do not drink in that person’s presence. Wait until you get home. You keep citing EXAMPLES.. but, examples are not part of that scripture of turning water into wine. It is what your teaching has caused you to read into it.. and you are simply parroting what your erroneous teaching has filled you with.

  • Bill

    Head banging against the wall of Karla’s lack of biblical teaching. Do your thing Karla and allow the rest of the world to move on.

  • Karla

    Bill-John 2:10…Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the
    cheaper wine after the guests have had too much too drink!

  • Bill

    Duh.. Karla.. that is what I mentioned much earlier.. but your mind is so closed you won’t see anything other than what YOU WANT TO SEE. That is why the wine steward asked the host why he saved the Best for last.

    You still haven’t cited where you KNOW the wine was diluted. New wine turns into full strength stuff. That is why you don’t put new wine into old wine skins. Of course that is a bit of a parable for those with ears can hear/understand.

    Bye.. no more trying to educate you.

  • Karla

    Bill-We can agree to disagree.Do some research but for the last time
    best for last is known to be the poorer/diluted wine which means that
    it was not strong! The only person that needs educated is you and
    the rest of the people on here that refuse to see/hear the Truth!
    Bible says don’t get drunk on strong wine for it’s debauchery so
    that means the wine was diluted because it’s against Scripture to
    get drunk on strong wine! The best for last refers to diluted wine!
    Not a very good example for a Christian to be drinking alcohol.

  • John

    I think I need a cold brew to get my head over this insane discussion centered on legalism and poor exegesis.

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  • rob

    no where does the bible say the wine Jesus made was diluted no where does the bible state new wine had less alcohol than old wine…. .. stop adding to scripture please .. Jesus made wine not Welch’s grape juice ..

  • Karla

    rob-Bible says don’t get drunk on strong wine so you need to read the
    Bible plus the best for last always means it was the poorer wine so you
    need to do some research! If they had been drinking all day/were drunk
    do you think that Jesus would make strong wine so they could get even
    more drunk? The Bible says don’t get drunk with/on wine it’s debauchery!
    The wine that Jesus made was from the fruit of the vine/diluted. God bless.

  • wade

    People like you are why I left the church! You focus on every minute detail of the law by brow beating others into submitting to your foolish ideologies while failing to bring up the weightier matters of the law like justice, mercy, and faithfulness. While I do agree with you that drunkenness has many negative consequences in this life and should be avoided at all cost, you simply cannot make a good claim that any consumption of alcohol is sinful. Read Deuteronomy 14. I think what God expects from is is to be vigilant and sober minded. To have self control. Im not even a drinker due to liver problems, but your pharisaiacle attitude toward this author’s beautifully written historical article is down right hipocrytical and it paints an ugly picture of true Christianity. You need to repent!

  • Bill

    AMEN to that.. but she will not see that. She is stuck on only one thing. There were Nazarites who were forbidden strong drink. So there was both strong and weak. Everyone else was allowed the strong drink. She will not see it because she has been blinded as the Pharisees.

  • Karla

    Wade-What are you talking about? I agree that getting drunk is the sin but
    it’s not a very good witness for a Christian to be drinking……Period! If a
    Christian is drinking alcohol and someone sees them drinking it’s not a
    very good example. I had a bar ministry while I lived in Los Angeles and
    was wtinessing to people and some “Christians” overheard us talking
    and they were getting drunk but of course they all had to chime in then
    try to justify their actions. The non-Christians there had no respect them
    and didn’t listen to them at all. Why? It’s because they were all getting drunk
    and mean/not a very good example. Not a good example to drink aclohol!!!!
    I agree that drunkeness is when it becomes sin so that’s why it’s better not
    to drink at all because most people who drink then fall into sin. God bless.