According to records of a letter penned by Franklin in 1779, he once wrote something similar to this, but it was specifically about wine, not beer.
Since at least the late 1990s, a questionable quote has been shared online attributing to Benjamin Franklin the words, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." We soon found in our research that while there's no record of him saying this about beer, he did pen a letter with similar thoughts about wine.
The quote has been shared so far and wide that even Anheuser-Busch shared it in 2006, in its press release for the company's 300th anniversary.
The Franklin Beer Quote
A search of Google Images showed a wall of memes with Franklin's face, mugs of beer, and the fake quote about God. They had all been created in honor of the quote. Some of them appeared to be posters or signs for sale that could be displayed inside homes and bars:
The fabricated Franklin quote said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." According to blogger Barry Popik's website, it first made the rounds as early as 1997 or 1998. We looked to find out where it came from. That process took us more than two centuries back in time.
Wine, Not Beer
A blog on the Suffolk University website published that research on Franklin showed he was a lover of wine, not beer. It called the beer quote "false."
The article also said that much of the fake quote about God, beer, and being happy came from one of Franklin's letters to "his friend André Morellet." That letter mentioned wine, not beer.
The website franklinpapers.org reprinted the letter in question, which appears to have been written in 1779. Here's a part of the letter which has been translated from French to English:
We speak of the conversion of water into wine, at the wedding of Cana, as a miracle. But this conversion is done daily by the goodness of God before our eyes. This is the water that falls from the heavens on our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines to be changed into wine; constant proof that God loves us, and that he loves to see us happy. The particular miracle was done only to hasten the operation, in a circumstance of sudden need which demanded it.
It is true that God also taught men to reduce wine to water. But what kind of water? -Eau-de-vie; and this, so that they may themselves perform the miracle of Cana if need be, and convert the common water into that excellent kind of wine called punch. My Christian brother, be benevolent and beneficent like him, and do not spoil his good drink.
He made wine to make us happy. When you see your neighbor at the table pouring wine into his glass, do not rush to pour water into it. Why do you want to drown out the truth? It is likely that your neighbor knows better than you what suits him. Maybe he doesn't like water: maybe he only wants to put a few drops of it out of convenience for fashion: maybe he doesn't want anyone else to notice how little he puts in his glass. So only offer water to children. It is a false complacency and very inconvenient. I say this to you as a man of the world; but I will end as I began, as a good Christian, by making a very important religious observation to you, and drawn from Holy Scripture, namely, that the apostle Paul very seriously advised Timothy to put wine in his water to health; but that not one of the apostles, nor any of the holy fathers, ever advised putting water in the wine.
This letter from Franklin made no mention of beer, standing in opposition to the popular and false quote in question.
Aside from the fake beer quote, Brittanica.com published that Franklin was perhaps one of the most noteworthy of all the Founding Fathers, especially when it comes to a very important historical document:
Benjamin Franklin, also called Ben Franklin, pseudonym Richard Saunders, (born January 17 [January 6, Old Style], 1706, Boston, Massachusetts [U.S.]—died April 17, 1790, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.), American printer and publisher, author, inventor and scientist, and diplomat.
One of the foremost of the Founding Fathers, Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence and was one of its signers, represented the United States in France during the American Revolution, and was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.
He made important contributions to science, especially in the understanding of electricity, and is remembered for the wit, wisdom, and elegance of his writing.
In sum, the quote mentioning beer that was attributed to Franklin looked to have been spun out of a genuine letter that was about God, wine, and being happy. While it's true that Franklin said this about wine, we rated the claim as "False" that he said the same about beer. No record confirms this, and it's likely that the quote simply became popular because it kind of sounded cool.