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St Arnold day Celebration in St Arnaud

Our town of St Arnaud is named after French Crimean War hero Jacques Leroy de Saint Arnaud. He was championed by the local people who rejected the authorities’ choice of ‘New Bendigo’ as the name for the new Goldfields town.

Further investigation reveals that St Arnaud is the French form of St Arnold, the patron saint of Brewers, so at St Arnaud Anglican Parish we decided it was appropriate to celebrate.

St Arnold (1040-87), abbot of a monastery in Oudenburg, Flanders, brewed beer, and recommended to the people there to drink beer rather than water during an outbreak of illness. The water in the area was not safe to drink and the process of making beer killed the offending microbes. By listening to him many lives were saved. The beer he brewed, called small beer or breakfast beer, would have had a very low alcohol content.

The Sunday Gospel Reading was on Jesus as the bread of life, a good link as the process and tools used for bread making and beer making are similar and the drinking of beer in the Middle East was very widespread. Although ‘beer’ doesn’t appear in the NRSV Bible translation the word translated as strong drink could arguably mean beer. How amazing it is that Jesus was able to use the action of microbes, tiny creatures that were only discovered and understood after the invention of the microscope, as a symbol of how the good or evil spiritual forces work in our lives.

Microbes produce some of our best loved food and drink, and are essential to our health and well-being and yet can cause us illness and death. Both the symbols of the Eucharist, the bread and the wine are produced by the action of the tiny yeast microbe.

St Arnold of Soissons whose feast day is August 14th ministered mostly in Belgium so our feast included Brussel sprouts followed by Belgium waffles with ice-cream and chocolate sauce. As well as beer we had kombucha and ginger beer to taste.

Two parishioners spoke to us about beer. Robert told us about his great grandfather Thomas Cooper who emigrated from England.

Cooper is an Old English name meaning maker of beer barrels, however Thomas Cooper started off as a shoemaker. When he migrated from England to Australia in 1862 he found work in Adelaide as a stonemason and then as a dairy man distributing milk around Adelaide. He is said to have brewed stout using an English recipe out of concern for his wife’s health, but moved on to a sugarless light ale that doctors at that time were recommending for their patients. In 1862 he obtained a license to sell beer. He did so well at this occupation that he sold his dairy and moved on to a large establishment. In 1872 his wife who bore 11 children died and in 1875 he married again and his second wife bore 8 children.

The Cooper family kept up the brewing tradition that became Cooper’s Beer, still today producing DIY kits as well as a selection of Ales and Stout. Robert enjoys keeping the tradition by brewing his own beer.

Colin Fraser who also brews his own beer, showed us his craft beer collection, a birthday gift. It included a banana bread flavoured beer.

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