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For Lent, can man live by brew alone?
J. Wilson (right) is only drinking beer for lent. Eric Sorensen (left) a brewmaster helped make the beer.
April 6th, 2011
08:42 AM ET

For Lent, can man live by brew alone?

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - For the 46 days of Lent, J. Wilson is forgoing solid food and only drinking beer and water - just as Bavarian monks did hundreds of years ago.

Wilson is a husband, father, newspaper editor and beer enthusiast. The 38-year-old is the proprietor of the beer blog brewvana, where the motto is, "An ideal condition of harmony, beer and joy."

"That pretty much sums up our lifestyle," Wilson told CNN.

Wilson is not a suds-soaked frat boy, but a careful home brewer with an eye for history and a hope for a spiritual breakthrough.

He is a nondenominational Christian who said he doesn't like to get hung up on religious labels.

He is practicing a Lenten fast with Christians throughout the centuries who typically give something up from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday (April 24 this year) to remind them of the sacrifice they believe Jesus made on the cross for them. Typically, Christians give up something such as alcohol or sweets.

Wilson knows his sacrifice is bit extreme. He said his wife, Michelle, has been completely supportive. In his experiments as a home brewer in Iowa, he said Michelle "puts up with a yeast blow up on the ceiling."

There are doctor's visits during the fast, and he did copious research before he began. He even bulked up beforehand, knowing he would lose weight. "I wasn't running into this half-cocked," he said. "I didn't wake up on Ash Wednesday and think, 'Wow this would be a great idea.' "

It helps that his boss at the Adams County Free Press is on board, because he keeps a keg at the office. Each morning, Wilson pours himself a 12-ounce Illuminator Doppelbock for breakfast. Then another at lunch, a 3:15 p.m. snack and finally a beer around 7:15 p.m., once he is home and settled in with the family. Each beer has about 288 calories and is about 6.7% alcohol he said.

His brew of choice pays homage to the monks he's emulating. It was made at Rock Bottom Brewery in Des Moines, Iowa, with the help of senior brewer Eric Sorensen.

"It's got that flavor of malt, the flavor of bread, the flavor of toast and a certain amount of creaminess. It's like drinking bread - dark, good bread," Sorensen said.

Sorensen said the idea of a beer fast has long roots and he was very familiar with the idea when Wilson brought it up at a beer festival.

"Three hundred or four hundred years ago, a group of Paulaner monks in a Bavarian region had made a stronger beer in a town called Einbeck and they called it bock. The monks started making a stronger beer, a double beer, called doppelbock," Sorensen said. "The story goes the monks would give up eating and literally would drink this 'liquid bread' to sustain them through their Lenten fast."

In January, he and Wilson slightly altered one of Wilson's home brew recipes to create the Illuminator Doppelbock. They brewed 279 gallons of the beer, a typical batch for the brewery and restaurant.

The publicity around Wilson's fast ended up being a boon for business at the Rock Bottom Brewery. They were packed on Fat Tuesday when Wilson ate his last solid food, boiled crayfish and corn on the cob. Sorensen gave Wilson four kegs, which is about 20 gallons of beer, for the fast.

"He didn't actually pay for the beer; I kinda paid for it myself. It went a long way in terms of advertising," Sorensen said.

Wilson is blogging about his fast at Diary of a Part-time monk and hopes to write a book about his experience.

He is over the halfway mark on the fast, which he'll break on Easter Sunday in keeping with Christian tradition. One thing he has learned early on was "the difference between hunger and desire."

The media attention got a bit overwhelming. He was doing three or four radio interviews day but has decided he, "just had to retire from morning radio."

He said has been reading through the Old Testament book of Psalms, meeting with a pastor and tried to increase his prayer life as part of the spiritual elements of the fast. He also spent last weekend visiting an group of monks at Conception Abbey in Missouri.

He said there have been many little spiritual breakthroughs living like a fasting monk in the modern world.

"I think in the first few days there were lots of little tidbits of enlightenment. I felt like I was in a tunnel and really focused. You could live among the craziness in the world and be a focused Christian."

The hunger stopped during the first week, he said, and he has no designs to break his fast.

"No question, I'd have to get hit by a bus to stop." From here on out he said it would be, "just an exercise in discipline."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Europe • Germany • Holidays • Lent • United States

soundoff (333 Responses)
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  2. Avser Bastian

    DICTATOR OBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNION....LEARN WHO, HOW, AND WHY RUINED YOU…FROM 911 TO WHITE AMERICAN REFUGEES IN EXILE SEEKING ASYLUM RIGHT NOW http://avsecbostjan.wordpress.com/ or http://avsecbostjan.blogspot.com WHO/WHY//HOW CREATED SCHOOL SHOOTINGS(Arizona incl.) – HAARP AUSTRALIAN FLOODS(Incl. deliberately busted oil pipe in gulf of Mexico) – LEARN ABOUT REAL HUMAN FLASH EATING MACHINE – WIKILEAKS is CIA – BREAST FEEDING INSANITY PROTESTS – FACEBOOK or CIABOOTH !!? - ESKIMO SARAH PALIN'S "BRIDGE TO NOWHERE" – NWO MULTICULTURALISM SWINE/PIG FLUE SYNDROME – NEWS/MEDIA OR SIMPLY BIG FAT VACUUM WORLD OF LIES !!?? – THE REAL DON'T ASK DON'T TELL, BUT DIE !!! – OBAMINATOR'S FREE HEALTH CARE PLANE or GENOCIDE BASED ON FORGIVE AND FORGET – UN-chef Ban Ki-moon or CHINESE BAN KEY MONKEY(who is he in reality) !!? – NEW WORLD ORDER POLITICAL PARTIES(not there for you, but instead to seal your faith for their own parliament pay$$ scale !!!) EURO DIC TRAITORS vs DICTATORS or what is worse !!? LEARN WHAT DO LIBYA AND EUROPE OR USA HAVE IN-COMMON !! AND FINALLY.....COMMUNISM IN EASTERN EUROPE TODAY IN 2011 !!! "SLOVENIA" TODAY, WHERE COMMUNIST GENOCIDE GOES ON 24/7 FOR CREATION OF GREATER BYZANTINE SERBIA UNDER RUSSIAN FLAG http://sloveniatoday.blogspot.com "SLOVENIA" WHERE GERMANS(also Croatians in Croatia) ARE GETTING WIPED OUT 66 YEARS AFTER WWII OR 20 YEARS SINCE THEIR "INDEPENDENCE"(independence on paper only). Is Merkel truly great diplomat or is simply trading our lives behind our backs with worst enemies(LIBERALISM = RETARDISM = COMMUNISM = IDIOTISM = CRIME = ZIONISM) !!?

    July 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  3. Avser Bastian

    COMMUNISM IN EASTERN EUROPE TODAY(2011) !!! http://sloveniatoday.blogspot.com or http://easterneuropetoday.wordpress.com/ OR COMMUNIST GENOCIDE IN "SLOVENIA" WHERE GERMANS(also Croatians in Croatia) ARE GETTING WIPED OUT TODAY IN 2011 UNDER RUSSIAN FLAG AND GREATER BYZANTINE SERBIAN(new Yugoslavia) AGENDA 66 YEARS AFTER WWII OR 20 YEARS SINCE THEIR "INDEPENDENCE"(independence on paper only) JUST AS PREVIOUSLY IN VOJVODINA. Is Merkel truly great diplomat or is simply trading our lives behind our backs with worst enemies(LIBERALISM = RETARDISM = COMMUNISM = IDIOTISM = ZIONISM = CRIME) !!? Visit also DICTATOR OBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNION http://avsecbostjan.blogspot.com/ or http://avsecbostjan.wordpress.com/ ...TO LEARN WHO, HOW, AND WHY RUINED YOU…FROM 911 TO WHITE AMERICAN REFUGEES IN EXILE SEEKING ASYLUM RIGHT NOW !!! TIME TO DETERMINE WHOSE INDEPENDENCE/AMERICA, WE CELEBRATE TODAY(who want to erase us and denies us the right to exist) !!!

    July 9, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  4. fred

    Fasting is known to be good for the majority of the population. I tried it twice during some critical points in my life and combined wiith constant prayer during that period I was overwhelmed with the positive results. It was a total fast not a beer fast as in the article yet I still hit a spiritual "high" and found great clearity.

    July 6, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Tricia B.

      Thats awesome Fred!! So many people want "proof" that God exists and that the bible is not fiction, well it looks like to me you just got your proof. For they wont find any physical proof nor will God come down and rattle their brains for them. The truth is there when one seeks to find him. I did this one time in my life when I didnt know where to turn I didnt fast but I did do constant prayer and did just what he asks for us to do which is to seek him and put our troubles on his shoulders and have faith and I couldnt believe the results I got, the speediness of the resolved issue was facinating while it would have took someone else months to resolve the issue that I had!! There is proof in God if one wishes to really know!!

      July 6, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  5. confused by comments.

    I'm extremely confused by some of these comments.

    First, this man will be fine to drive. He's drinking 4-5 beers per day, only 3 of those at work over a 9 hour period. For those BAC calculations you MUST take time into account. Also, this man does not weigh under 130 lbs, if my estimations are correct from the photo. He will be perfectly fine to drive.

    Second, why are you criticizing his decision to do this for Lent? Giving up something for Lent is meant to be personal. It is up to this man to decide what is right for him. And you say that he's not giving anything up? He's only drinking beer– that means he's giving up food, soda, candy, among a thousand other things that Christians give up every Lent. Also, he is doing what the Monks used to do.

    Finally, beer has plenty of nutrients. He probably won't want to drink beer for a while afterwards, but physically, he will be fine. He's not doing keg stands of Bud Light... he's drinking a dark beer that has significantly more carbs and nutrients, and he's keeping it in check so that he doesn't get too drunk.

    Personally, I might not do this, but I'm confused by all the criticisms.

    April 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  6. avsecbostjan

    WHAT DO EUROPE, USA, CANADA, AUSTRALIA ETC. HAVE COMMON WITH LIBYA !!? DICTATORS vs DIC TRAITORS !!! What is worse !!!? LEARN TRUTH ABOUT LIBYA AND ARAB WORLD CIVIL RIOTS WHICH NEWS/MEDIA DOESN'T WANT YOU KNOW ABOUT OR SEE AND THEREFORE LIE JUST AS ORDERED BY USA FOREIGN DPT. OF AFFAIRS http://dictatorsvsdictraitors.wordpress.com/ – http://dictraitorsvsdictators.blogspot.com/ OR CONTINUE FOR FULL VERSION OF "DICTATOR OBAMA = STALIN = BUSH – USA = SOVIET UNION"..TO LEARN WHO, HOW, AND WHY RUINED YOU…FROM 911 TO WHITE AMERICAN REFUGEES IN EXILE SEEKING ASYLUM RIGHT NOW – WHO/WHY//HOW CREATED SCHOOL SHOOTINGS(Arizona incl.) – AUSTRALIAN FLOODS – BREAST FEEDING INSANITY PROTESTS – WIKILEAKS is CIA – HUMAN FLASH EATING MACHINE – TRUTH BEHIND COLD WAR CURTAIN – MULTICULTURALISM AND SWINE/PIG FLUE SYNDROME BROTHERHOOD – TRUTH ABOUT FACEBOOK(Facebooth) – EUROPEAN NATIONALIST PARTIES OR HEAVILY LOADED WITH LIES SINKING WRECKS – ESKIMO SARAH PALIN'S "BRIDGE TO NOWHERE" – NEWS/MEDIA OR SIMPLY BIG FAT VACUUM WORLD OF LIES/DEMENTIA !!? – THE REAL DON'T ASK DON'T TELL, BUT DIE !!! NWO POLITICAL PARTIES <- not there for you, but to seal your faith for their parliament pay$$ scale !!! http://avsecbostjan.wordpress.com/

    April 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  7. fighting swede

    All of this is making me VERY thirsty. You teetoalers - give it up - go be uptight and think you're holier than thou. As for me, I'm a homebrewer, proud of it and actually have a dopplebock in the frig now that may help me forget some of the narrow views expressed here.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  8. Ha!

    "No question, I'd have to get hit by a bus to stop." From here on out he said it would be, "just an exercise in discipline.

    Yeah and I'm sure ending up in the hospital with 10k medical bills will be a most rewarding for this act. *sarcasm*

    April 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  9. Ha!

    I won't be surprised if he hospitalized for CIRROSIS OF THE LIVER after this....
    This guy is obriously after attention. Putting his health at risk.

    April 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  10. BookWriter

    A beer blogger who decides to live on beer alone? For Lent? As a fellow Catholic (and recovering alcoholic), my guess is Mr. Wilson would discover far more about himself than he bargained for on his Lenten journey if he tried to give up alcohol.

    April 8, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  11. Frederica

    Can't CNN feature on those who are carrying out authentic Lent? I feel mockery here.

    April 7, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • Nick

      Mockery? He's doing his Lent in the style of the medieval Catholic monks. What could be more authentic? Relax.

      April 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Kutulhu

      What you are feeling is ignorance, not mockery.

      April 9, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • derp

      You believe that by not doing something for 40 odd days, that you are somehow more holy.

      How do you NOT mock that?

      April 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  12. Leah Hokmah

    I bet a dollar that Wilson will hate beer by the end, if he doesn't already.

    April 7, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  13. Eric

    Someone needs to do a better job editing this, it was terrible. The story might be good but I can't get over the fact that you call yourself an editor.

    April 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  14. HeavenSent

    HeavenSent is certainly not when she espouses and condones infanticide (Psalm 137:8-9).

    Oh snap!

    April 7, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  15. DanHughes

    That's hilarious he's going to be sicker than poo poo when he's done with that. LMAO

    April 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  16. JohnR

    So any and all, I did do a little internet research and did indeed confirm that Lent has pre-Christian pagan origins, as does most of the Christian holidy calendar and much of Christian ritual.

    April 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • John Jones

      Find it on Wikipedia?

      April 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • JohnR

      No, some websites dedicated to investigating the pagan origins of Christian traditions.

      April 8, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Jacko

      Don't believe everything you read on the web, even if authored by an "expert". Did you check sources, and then check the sources of the sources (it should all be there in available footnotes), and follow through by actually reading everything behind the website to verify that the content (and the central claim) is sound?

      April 11, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • Tricia B.

      Yes JohnR. I agree with you totally but take it a step further and actually try to find the practice of lent in the bible. You wont find it and yes it also tells us not to follow the traditions of man which is most relgious holidays like Christmas, Ester, New Years and Birthdays. Instead it says to practice Gods 7 holy days which most faithful christians dont even know about. Is states in the bible not to holdfast to the traditions of man and teach for doctrines the commandments of man. Im sure Im going to get alot of negative comments on this topic but it is in the bible rather people think its true or not. All im saying is IF one is to practice and follow the religion of God and Jesus Christ wouldnt it be in the best intrest of them to at least find the truth of the religion and follow it in ALL its true forms and not just what we want to believe to be true?

      July 6, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  17. loonie97

    Actually, the town in Andechs, not Einbech. I went there on my honeymoon through Bavaria, and had the monks' doppelbock dunkel, which is their famous Lenten beer. After a tall one of those, I climbed up the hill to the monastery chapel. Truly a spiritual experience 🙂

    April 7, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  18. Reality

    And from the CDC- 2011

    "Alcohol-impaired driving is a serious public health problem that kills about 11,000 people and costs nearly $110 billion a year.

    •Every day, 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes.

    • One in 3 fatal motor-vehicle crashes involves an alcohol-impaired driver."

    April 7, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • disygi

      wow he's too impaired to drive after one 12 oz beer? sucks

      April 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Reality

      "DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY DRINKS IT TAKES TO PUT YOU OVER THE LEGAL LIMIT? "

      In Florida the legal limit for alcohol measurement is .08% BAC (breath alcohol content). At that measurement you are legally drunk and will be arrested and taken to jail if you are caught driving a car.

      If you weigh between 90 – 109 pounds and have 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine or one and a quarter ounces of 80 proof liquor (a shot glass is one and a half ounces), your BAC will been between .05 and .08%. At this measurement you are considered definitely impaired and your chance of an accident is increased up to 300 percent or more. If you have another drink your BAC goes up to .08% or over, and if you have any more alcohol, another beer, another shot or more wine, you are considered legally drunk. Your function and judgment are seriously affected.

      Consider the fact that when you have consumed two 12 ounce beers, or two shots, or two small glasses of wine you are considered legally drunk and cannot drive without taking the chance of getting arrested for DUI.

      If you weigh between 110 – 129 pounds and have 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine or one and a quarter ounces of 80 proof liquor your BAC will be the same as noted above, and you are legally drunk.

      If you weigh between 130 – 230 pounds and have the same amount of alcohol as mentioned above, your BAC will only be .01% to .05% and you are not considered legally drunk, but some loss of judgment and coordination occurs, and your thinking will be dulled.

      April 7, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • MADD

      Reality, go away. That's all a crock so the local, state and federal governments can screw their own citizens out of money.

      April 7, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Reality

      Why alcohol is very very bad:

      Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
      A tale of a fateful trip,
      That started from this tropic port,
      Aboard this tiny ship.
      The mate was a mighty sailin' man,
      The Skipper brave and sure,
      Five passengers set sail that day,
      For a three hour tour,
      A three hour tour.

      The weather started getting rough,
      The tiny ship was tossed.
      If not for the courage of the fearless crew
      The Minnow would be lost.
      The Minnow would be lost.

      The ship aground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle
      With Gilligan,
      The Skipper too.
      A millionaire and his wife,
      A movie star,
      The professor and Mary Ann,
      Here on Gilligan's Isle.

      So this is the tale of our castaways,
      There here for a long long time.
      They'll have to make the best of things,
      It's an uphill climb.
      The first mate and his Skipper too
      Will do their very best,
      To make the others comf'terble
      In their tropic island nest.
      No phone ,no lights, no motor car,
      Not a single luxury
      Like Robinson Crusoe
      It's primitive as can be.
      So join us here each week my friends,
      You're sure to get a smile,
      From seven stranded castaways
      Here on Gilligan's Isle!

      Ooops! Damn it! That's what happens when I can't think for myself and have to cut-and-paste other people's ideas.

      April 8, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Reality

      The "poetry" is not from the original Reality. Again, this blog unfortunately does not restrict commentators to one name.

      April 8, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • Natalie

      Yes he is too impaired to drive from drinking a 12oz beer that is 6.7% alcohol.
      One sip changes your body chemistry.....whether your over the legal limit or not.
      And he is having more than just one beer at work thru out the day.

      April 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  19. Dave

    Cyn, there's no need for roughage on a liquid diet, right? As for the health effects, Super Size Me Dude consumed excess fat which was stored on his body, whereas Lenten Beer Boy will have a much lower percent body fat since his stores will be consumed for energy. Most of the calories in beer are from the alcohol, which has zero nutritional value. So the energy he needs comes from stored fat.

    April 7, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Dave C.

      Recent studies have shown that beer does contain fiber and a good mix of other nutrients.
      http://www.eatright.org/Media/content.aspx?id=6442462410

      April 9, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
  20. spanglish

    Only the alcoholics who need a beer a day to avoid "delirium tremens", and it make me wonder why Pres. Obama drinks a beer a day?

    April 7, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • JohnR

      Alcohol in small amounts can be very healthy. One beer a day wouldn't do it for someone battling the DTs.

      So yeah, you are indeed an idiot. But everyone already knew that, eh?

      April 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
    • Nick

      hahaha. A beer a day makes you an alcoholic? Wow.

      April 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Natalie

      I found grammatical errors.
      Learn how to write.

      April 26, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • SupremeAmerican

      LoL fun time is now.
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjW8SWuyuvs&w=640&h=390]

      May 7, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • Obscure1

      One cannot live on beer alone. One needs pretzels too.

      May 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.