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Beer-only fast ends with bacon smoothie
J. Wilson (right) drank only beer for Lent. Brewmaster Eric Sorensen (left) helped make the beer.
April 27th, 2011
04:20 PM ET

Beer-only fast ends with bacon smoothie

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - J. Wilson has survived his 46-day beer-only fast and found some unexpected spiritual insights.

Wilson, who lives outside Des Moines, Iowa, was emulating a Lenten tradition carried out by German monks hundreds of years ago. In keeping with tradition he ate his last solid food on Ash Wednesday and broke his fast on Easter Sunday.

“I made a bacon smoothie and that’s what I broke the fast with,” Wilson said.

He slurped down the smoothie after midnight on the morning of Easter Sunday. He was up late for an interview with the BBC in London for their Easter Sunday broadcast

Wilson undertook the fast with medical advice from his doctor and spiritual advice from his pastor, after he conducted lengthy research into extended fasts.

In his research he found that smoothies were the best way to ease back into food. The plan was to go three days on smoothies before eating any solid foods.

“I planned on focusing on some foods that would help specifically my liver and my kidneys, which I had been beating up on for a couple of weeks –- so foods like cabbage and broccoli and cauliflower,” he said. But it didn’t quite work out that way.

“I had no idea my wife was going to buy my two boys a ham for Easter,” he said. After he made a gravy with the drippings from the ham, he helped himself to two servings of mashed potatoes and gravy and some ham as well.

Wilson is an avid home brewer, blogger, and Christian, and his beer-only quest merged these passions.

For Lent, Christians often give up something to remember the sacrifice they believe Jesus made for them on the cross. Wilson decided to give up all food and drink except beer.

At the beginning of the fast Wilson drank four beers a day during the week and five a day on weekends. Toward the end of the fast, he increased his beer intake to five a day during the week to maintain his strength.

His drink of choice: 12 ounces of Illuminator Doppelbock, a recipe he developed and brewed with the help of Eric Sorensen, the senior brewer at Rock Bottom Brewery in Des Moines, Iowa.

Wilson kept one keg at home and one at the office at the Adams County Free Press newspaper, where he’s the editor. He spread the beers out through out the day and said he only felt tipsy three times over the 46 days.

He checked in with CNN's Carol Costello on the 31st day of the fast, and kept a running blog, the Diary of a Part-time Monk, documenting his quest and offering spiritual insights along the way.

Wilson said the spiritual takeaway was threefold:

- "I just don’t think we give ourselves enough credit to accomplish difficult tasks. I think our bodies are capable of more than we ask of [them]. And certainly in relation to willpower - willpower related to food or willpower of how you’re going to conduct yourself spiritually - I think we can do more.

- "I noticed early on a difference between needs and wants. The first thing I noticed even in that first week, I got to the spot on day three when I wasn’t hungry any more, physically hungry. The aroma of food would kind of zap me and I would desire the cheeseburger that I smell or somebody’s chicken noodle soup across the office. So I didn’t need it but I wanted it. So there’s a difference between needs and desires.

- "The real challenge is it’s one thing to subscribe to beliefs, religion or otherwise, it’s another thing to apply them to your life every moment of your life. Part of that whole monk in the world philosophy I was exploring is can you live like a monk or believe like a monk and still navigate our crazy world? The ongoing challenge is you’ve got these beliefs, now fine. Live it."

From a health standpoint, Wilson seems no worse the wear. He began the fast at 160 pounds and finished up at 135. He saw his doctor Wednesday morning and was told everything looked good for now, pending the results of blood tests.

If you’re wondering if Wilson will ever drink beer again after living on nothing but beer for 46 days, he said he’ll probably take a break from doppelbock, but on Easter Sunday he brewed 10 more gallons of a different recipe.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Easter • Iowa • Lent

soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. Keith

    God is judging this nation and this is the kind of article cnn thinks is important. Figures.

    April 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  2. Jordi

    His choice of beer type is interesting. Bock is a style with more alcohol than regular beer, doppelbock even more so: 7.5 to 14% vs 4 to 5% of regular beer. He could have brewed a nutritious beer with far less alcohol.

    Whatever his motives, he got a buzz four times a day. My kind of fast!

    April 29, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  3. Reality

    Reprinted from above:

    From the National Inst-itute of Health

    "Alcoholism and alcohol abuse

    Alcoholism (alcohol dependence) and alcohol abuse are two different forms of problem drinking.

    Alcoholism occurs when a person shows signs of physical addiction to alcohol (for example, tolerance and withdrawal) and continues to drink, despite problems with physical health, mental health, and social, family, or job responsibilities. Alcohol may come to dominate the person's life and relationships.

    In alcohol abuse, a person's drinking leads to problems, but not physical addiction.

    Causes

    There is no known cause of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. The reason why some people drink in a responsible manner and never lose control of their lives while others are unable to control their drinking is not clear.

    Some people are able to gain control over their alcohol abuse before it progresses to dependence, while others are not. No one knows which heavy drinkers will be able to regain control and which will not, but the amount of alcohol one drinks can influence the likelihood of becoming dependent. Those at risk for developing alcoholism include:
    •Men who have 15 or more drinks a week
    •Women who have 12 or more drinks a week
    •Anyone who has five or more drinks per occasion at least once a week

    One drink is defined as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1 1/2-ounce shot of liquor."

    "At the beginning of the fast Wilson drank four beers a day during the week and five a day on weekends. Toward the end of the fast, he increased his beer intake to five a day during the week to maintain his strength."

    i.e. J. Wilson drank 30-35 beers a week, 15-20 more than that required to be labelled a person at risk to become an alcoholic.

    April 28, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • NLguy

      God wouldn't let him become an alcoholic.

      April 29, 2011 at 5:29 am |
  4. Mrs. Fathead

    My only question is did he drive while on this fast? I know he said he only felt 'tipsy" a few times but just because you don't feel tipsy doesn't mean you aren't impaired.

    April 28, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  5. Rich

    Started at 160lbs and ended at 135lbs? Did you see the picture above? What is he, 4'7"? He's EASILY 2 bills in that photo.

    April 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Meep

      you're looking at the wrong person moron.

      April 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  6. A. A.

    He's definitely an alcoholic.

    April 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Charlie Babbitt

      Kmart sucks, Ray.

      April 28, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • RainMan

      Hot water burn baby!

      April 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  7. Eric

    I think some of you are missing the point... Fasting back in the day.... NOT good for you!!! Period... But probably better for you than eating most of the processed foods today. 🙂 He took an old tradition, put a little spin on it as he is an avid homebrewer and made the sacrifice that he wanted... Trust me... I am sure he was very weak towards the end, but nonetheless, a great accomplishment

    April 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  8. Andy

    This man is a national hero

    April 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  9. Terry Brookman

    There are some guys that hang around 7 / 11 that do the same thing but they smoke a little crack when they can get it.

    April 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
  10. Jesse

    He smelled food and realized he only wanted, not needed it? Not so smart if you ask me. When your body needs nutrition, it makes your mind want food. Everyone needs to eat.

    April 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  11. MASS4CHANGE

    Beer and bacon!? It doesn't get any better! Unless........................could there be?......................................Head?

    April 28, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  12. Dirty Joe

    Nice earring! LOL.

    April 28, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  13. Byron

    As a formally educated brewer with a Dipl.Brew qualification and having a MS in Nutrition, I can say that 46 days on beer without a protein source and a variety of other nutrients would leave one in a horrendous state. Guess I need to read the blog because this article obviously left out some things.

    April 28, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • JJ

      Not so sure about all the education you are so mightily struggling to pat your self on the back with, but I'm pretty sure you at least have the BS!

      April 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Royalewithcheese

      Well, he did lose about 25 pounds. I'd imagine they had him on vitamins, though.

      April 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  14. Beer Lover

    Reality: Thanks for that tidbit, I bet you have a lot of friends.

    April 28, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  15. Justin

    I'm impressed. It's heartening to read about someone who genuinely understands the history of their religion and embraces it.

    No part of this fast was about getting drunk, and I daresay that the careful and calculated rationing of his beer intake was the embodiment of 'moderation'.

    April 28, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  16. Reality

    Beer typically contains 6% ethanol, a dangerous drug with many harmful side effects.

    April 28, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • Yawn

      90% of statistics are made up on the spot

      April 28, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Really

      Well he is drinking a dopplebock so it actually probably has closer to 8% alcohol. Beer and wine in moderation are actually healthy for you, maybe you should go back to the 1920's since you obviously believe in prohibition.

      April 28, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Steve

      Thats right, you would die painfully if you did this for a year. But you would die quicker if you drank only orange juice every day. The point is its a story about Lent not a recommened diet! Obviously the beer is a side story. The fact that he gave up food for all of Lent is a real sacrifice. You dont think he was hungry by the 3rd day – the beer was just a very efficient liquid to drink for a no food diet for a limited number of weeks.

      April 28, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Shhhhhh

      No, ethanol is an organic solvent with a relatively low boiling point and many of the physical properties of water. It's formed by bonding a hydroxyl group to an ethane molecule stripped of a single hydrogen.

      It's all about perception. I'll make you a beer with methanol if you'd like, so we can avoid that nasty drug!

      April 28, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Reality

      From the National Inst-itute of Health

      "Alcoholism and alcohol abuse

      Alcoholism (alcohol dependence) and alcohol abuse are two different forms of problem drinking.

      Alcoholism occurs when a person shows signs of physical addiction to alcohol (for example, tolerance and withdrawal) and continues to drink, despite problems with physical health, mental health, and social, family, or job responsibilities. Alcohol may come to dominate the person's life and relationships.

      In alcohol abuse, a person's drinking leads to problems, but not physical addiction.

      Causes

      There is no known cause of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. The reason why some people drink in a responsible manner and never lose control of their lives while others are unable to control their drinking is not clear.

      Some people are able to gain control over their alcohol abuse before it progresses to dependence, while others are not. No one knows which heavy drinkers will be able to regain control and which will not, but the amount of alcohol one drinks can influence the likelihood of becoming dependent. Those at risk for developing alcoholism include:
      •Men who have 15 or more drinks a week
      •Women who have 12 or more drinks a week
      •Anyone who has five or more drinks per occasion at least once a week

      One drink is defined as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1 1/2-ounce shot of liquor."

      "At the beginning of the fast Wilson drank four beers a day during the week and five a day on weekends. Toward the end of the fast, he increased his beer intake to five a day during the week to maintain his strength."

      i.e. J. Wilson drank 30-35 beers a week, 15-20 more than that required to be labelled a person at risk to become an alcoholic.

      April 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  17. doubtful

    im not really sure how Jesus would appreciate a drunken diet for 2 weeks, complete BS

    April 28, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • joe

      don't worry about it, he's dead.

      April 28, 2011 at 9:10 am |
    • Notdoubtful

      When did Jesus ever say anything against beer?

      April 28, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Joel

      You have no idea about the history of beer. Leave your church ideals or whatever they are at home.

      April 28, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Redleg

      Any idea how much wine is drunk at a Seder?

      April 28, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Raj

      Yeah, I agree. Im not sure how he would have felt about eating factory processed meat, genitically modified crops, an intake of 30 times sugar more than biblical times, wasting 60% of the preapared food in the US, transporting bottled water great distances by burning oil, injecting all kinds of hormones in our animals, treating shredded meat with ammonia, sticking a calf in a dark box for months, stuffing a turkey into a box with no daylight and or stuffing alchol infused grain into a barely consious shackled goose. Hmmmm.

      Seems like in the list of eating sinning Mr. BeerMan is a pretty light offender. Im not even Christian and I can see what he did had real meaning and purpose. Its nothing but a spirtual story and to top it off his behaviour had a much much lighter impact to our environment that our normal daily habits – in fact I bet Jesus would have joined him for a beer at the end and blessed him.

      April 28, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Jeff

      @doubtful Thanks for proving once again how UN Christian so many "Christians" are. Jacka$$

      April 28, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • PGR

      It takes a lot more than he was consuming for it to have been a "drunken" diet. Sounds like you are the typical close minded zealot.

      April 28, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Christina

      Newsflash: Lent isn't 2 weeks; it's a month and a half.

      April 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Royalewithcheese

      Jesus was a carpenter as well as a holy man – I'd imagine he partook of the ancient Judean brewski-analogue as much as the next guy. (Also, back in the ancient world you couldn't necessarily trust the water, so a lot of ancient cultures drank primarily low-alcohol beer.) And considering that a large number of His monks run breweries, I don't think it would be too much of a problem.

      Plus, if you listen to what this guy said, he derived spiritual understanding from this experience.

      April 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • CPU

      Beer is proof that Jesus loves us and wants us to be happy.

      April 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Bailes24

      Benjamin Franklin Said that Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us happy, So I would be willing to bet that JC would not have minded the diet

      April 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  18. yogajanet

    Beer was made in order to preserve grains–Eseentially, it was liquid bread. I am assuming that the recipe for the beer he was drinking was heavy on the grains. Also, fermented foods are actually beneficial–kimchi, miso, saurkraut etc.–are filled with beneficial microbes that aid digestion and internal balance. In theory, the beer that he drank, (not your Budweiser, or other such swill) could have been a somewhat ideal form of nutrition during a fast, unless, of course, there was damage done to the liver. Considering he wasn't drinking to get drunk, it is not abuse. He lost 25 pounds. Overall, I found he chose an interesting way to fast and an insight into the historical context for it. "Man Goes on Beer Fast" may make the headlines, but people have to look deeper to understand what he was trying to do.

    April 28, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Brian

      To find out who killed Killer, we have to find out who Killer the dog actually was...

      April 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Lorenzo

      For more information, it's all explained pretty well in his blog.

      April 29, 2011 at 3:36 am |
  19. tanyakristine

    Wow. Pretty amazing actually. It seems ideal to do a beer fast but in reality...yuk. even worse? breaking it with a bacon smoothie!!! hahhaha....

    April 28, 2011 at 8:47 am |
  20. Azami

    Epic Meal Time would be proud. So proud :' )

    April 28, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • blaqmajik

      It needs to be JD and the dr. Pepper Sauce! LOL

      April 28, 2011 at 9:15 am |
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About this blog

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.