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)
  1. GSA

    I feel bad for @Reality's wife and kids.

    April 6, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • HeavenSent

      GSA, is he married? OMG, Jesus help his wife and kids.

      He can't be married with wife and kids. If he is, his wife is raising their children and him.

      God Bless her.

      April 6, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  2. Jecka

    I guess he hasn't driven a vehicle during Lent either, then?

    April 6, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  3. Ryan

    You know why you always take two Baptist fishing with you? If you only take one, he'll drink all your beer!

    April 6, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  4. conradshull

    Why would surviving only on beer be any different during Lent?

    April 6, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  5. JacktheCritic

    "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"
    And you can't forget that wonderful urine-flavored aftertaste.

    April 6, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Alex

      What kind of beers you drinking? American lagers after they've been sitting in grocery store lights for a few weeks, sure. But a good dark Belgian brew? No way.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • hoss

      never had urine. How does it taste?

      April 6, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  6. Avinash

    Ceejay, why would anyone want to read the mBible when most, if not all versions are errant? Notably the crucifixion.

    April 6, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Avinash, why don't you non- believers just admit that you are plain lazy. All the excuses you folks come up with so that you can keep complaining while you do nothing but stay lazy. What a generation of dust balls.


      April 6, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Avi, you are going to burn and I will be smiling.

      April 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Fake heavensent, it will be you and satan not enjoying the ride to the eternal flames. Both of you choose to not humble yourselves, lying and deceiving all.


      April 7, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  7. Kale

    I feel that Lentebock would've made more sense.

    April 6, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  8. Observe

    Anybody notice that Eric Sorensen (left in picture above) has one blue eye and one brown? Just thought I'd point out this interesting feature.

    April 6, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • conradshull

      Like David Bowie.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • derp derp

      he's a husky

      April 6, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  9. ceejay

    Maybe you atheist should take a good look around you, and wonder how you got here, and ask yourself why you are here. . Try picking up the Bible once or twice and reading a few chapters, get one you can understand , you don't have to tell anyone.......................

    April 6, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Well I can't be sure about you but my parents had s.ex. And I've already tarnished too much of my brain reading that hideous tome. Thankfully it was nothing a good science education couldn't cure.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Are you kidding me?

      I know why I'm here. I read the bible. One day this big huge guy that was sitting around in nothingness said to himself, "boy, I'm lonely", so he made a vast universe and filled it with trillions upon trillions of monstrous stars just so that they could light up the night sky. Then he made another guy that looked a lot like him, but much smaller and told him to hang out in the garden for a bit. That guy was lonely too so he reached into his gut and yanked out a lady friend for him to bang. Then that big huge dude had a party to go to and told the two other folks that they needed to be sure to not eat some fruit from a special tree he grew that would make them want to put on clothes. They were like, "nuts to that", and ate it anyway. Then the big dude came back from the party and was like, "hey! I thought I told you not to touch my stuff," and kicked them out of his pad. That didn't go over so well for the little people, but at least the big guy got to keep his sky palace and allowed all the spawn of these two lowly humans to praise him forever and ever. And then, when your crummy life is over he gets to decide whether or not you lived up to his expectations. If not, you get to go to the most horrible place in the universe for all of eternity because your parents told you the wrong church to go to.

      Well, I'm off to shave my daughters head and sell her off into slavery. She didn't light the goat carcass we were burning on the alter last night properly and I need to get her out of the house if I want to disappear while pouring my morning coffee. Plus, she has poor eyesight, which is an affliction that big dude has given to her because he didn't like her before she was even born yet, so it's not like she had much going for her in the first place.

      Or were you talking about different chapters? You should clarify which ones we're supposed to follow and which ones we're supposed to ignore.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • T3chsupport

      I used to be a Christian... went to church and whatnot... and then I DID read the bible, and became less and less Christian with every page.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      @ Are are you kidding me?

      Great Zeus' Beard I wet myself a little laughing so hard over that one...you should warm a person to put their Depends on before reading...too funny.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • derp

      "Maybe you atheist should take a good look around you, and wonder how you got here, and ask yourself why you are here."

      I'm here because my parents played hide the sausage without contraception.

      Were you paying attention in biology class?

      April 6, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • HeavenSent

      ceejay, you are asking a non-believer to think about anything outside themself. Tall order. Who cares if their parents raised them on Jesus' truth. They assume everyone is born with this knowledge. Who cares if they were taught right from wrong. They grow up, finally move out, then want to prevent future generations from learning what they were able to learn. Yes, as long as they were taught the wisdom, they don't care.

      Good question ceejay.


      April 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  10. Are you kidding me?

    He gets praise for deciding to go 46 days on just beer? Can you imagine the ridicule if he had given up everything for pot and water? Even if he gave up everything but broccoli, water and pot the country would be in an uproar over this "poor, lost soul".

    April 6, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • RosaryMaker

      People smoke pot specifically to get high. People can drink beer without the intention or desire to get drunk.

      April 6, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  11. Ichi

    He gave up... BACON!?

    April 6, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Even worse...before starting his fast he ate shellfish....another broken commandment.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Luckylouie

      HAHA. Thank you ichi, these people are taking this article way too seriously.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Phil

      I think I will give up eating dirt.
      Nothing but lobster and beer for me. I'll tough it out.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Jamie

      What commandment is that? I am interested and confused.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • JLV

      Actually atheiststeve there are only 2 things forbidden for christians to eat food sacrificed to idols and I forget what the other one is but it wasn't shellfish the rest were lifted in the their New Testament. Only some christian sects and other Abrahamic Religions have large numbers of dietary restrictions. I thought atheists were supposed to be so smart and well educated. But I guess being delusional isn't the exclusive domain of religion. I am so disallusioned, thank you for showing me that even the atheisim and science don't have all the answers. And thanks to close minded, flat earthers like you I guess it never will.

      April 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Are you kidding me?

      Yeah, they gave up all that stuff they didn't like about the old bible when they wrote the new one. Plus, they can pick and choose whatever they want in that one too. Re-writing the word of God is easy when you aren't a fan of his rules.

      April 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      AtheistSteve, I love lobster and all kinds of shellfish. I grew up at the beach. Hopefully, I'll be able to eat shellfish until the day I die. Eating scavengers isn't a sin against God. It's a sin against the flesh. Eating scavengers that clean the garbage from the earth isn't healthy for us. I would never think of eating a vulture. Their listed in the foods to stay away from because you can get sick. I love bacon and eggs and I know the fat can eventually clog my arteries. This is why, as I got older, I eat bacon or breakfast sausages a few times a year, than every day. A friend of mine also loved lobster and shrimp. One day, he and his wife were out to dinner, he ordered baked stuff shrimp. Took a few bites, excused himself from the table. Went to the restroom and passed out. His body chemistry had changed when he got into his 50s and he wasn't able to eat shellfish at that time. He never ordered shellfish again because he doesn't want to take the chance that he can get a reaction like this again.


      April 6, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  12. Big Red

    I did this most of my early 20's. Drank beer and water and never ate.

    April 6, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • derp

      "drank beer and water and never ate"

      We call that college.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  13. DoodleSheep

    "He is a nondenominational Christian who said he doesn't like to get hung up on religious labels." Is a bit stupid. If you're christian, denomination doesn't matter. Each sect is equally deluded.

    April 6, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • HeavenSent

      So doodle, right from wrong actions don't mean a thing to you!. In that case, don't cry to the cops when your house is robbed and they steal the keys to your car as they drive out of town. Sit there on your living floor, because the thieves sent their buddies with a truck and stole all your furnishings too. While you are sitting there like a dupa, try and figure out who's teachings curtailed these activities so it doesn't go rampant.


      April 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Doodle, you live right by Jesus, bad things will not happen.

      April 6, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • PeterVN

      HeavenSent, get that sphinc-ter of yours fixed so you stop letting that nonsense out your back end. Your evil religion and your book of horrors buybull are not a valid basis for morals. Google on the Golden Rule, which pre-dates your silly god fables, for a better basis.

      So as for the "living right" bit, are you saying that all those people killed by the tsunami and other disasters weren't "living right" and deserved what they got? What an evil azzhole your god would have to be if it existed. Great that it doesn't exist.

      April 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • San Onofre Surfer

      Hey Heaven, I owe you an apology for my uncalled-for crack yesterday afternoon. Very sorry. Am glad you are passionate about your beliefs. 🙂

      April 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Peter, you and the fake heavensent have the same thing in common. You both talk with each other on this blog.



      April 7, 2011 at 7:03 am |
  14. PeterVN

    It's nice to see Christians starting to see the amber light of Pastafarianism through beer. The Christians still have a long way to go to catch up to the faith of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, though. His Noodliness advocates both beer and pasta, any season of the year. As usual, Christians are behind the times and limited.


    April 6, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  15. Avinash

    I love it when Evangelicals avoid places or situations where alcohol is served; parties, restaurants, and the like. Is their faith so weak as to avoid such temptations? Such behaviour is exemplar of a less-than-mature belief system.

    April 6, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Joe Average

      I don't think I know a single evangelicalthat avoids alcohol – and I attend a very large church.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  16. kittenz

    Wow, couldn't CNN come up with a better story. You can interview me, when I was 7 years old I gave up following the law to not smoke marijuana. 21 years later I still am going with that trend but it wasn't for lent, I've always been atheist. I think beer fux up more brain cells because this man belolives in fairy tales.

    April 6, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • pete

      you sound smart

      April 6, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Jim

      Wow...this guy isn't drinking enough to get drunk. You are the one who is the idiot for not reading the story.

      April 6, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Me

      you funny 🙂

      April 6, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  17. derp

    "Wilson is forgoing solid food and only drinking beer and water"

    First intelligent thing to ever come from religion.

    April 6, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • speedro

      Haha. Excellent.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  18. AtheistSteve

    Get wasted...see God...sounds about right.

    April 6, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • Jim

      Not read the story, be a troll, sounds about right.

      April 6, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Lol...I read the story...it was utterly pointless. I stand by my quip.

      April 6, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Alex

      I lol'ed. Also an atheist, but I do have to say this man is my hero. If I had a religion, it would be beer.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • RosaryMaker

      It wasn't "get wasted." It was drink a few beers a day.

      April 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  19. Reality


    April 6, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • Matt

      He had 4 beers all day...I hardly call the heavy drinking...

      April 6, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Jeremy

      Haha...that article does not specify causation....only outlines a correlation.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • RosaryMaker

      I noticed the headline is HEAVY drinking, not just drinking. Big difference.

      April 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  20. Reality

    As per a recent study, drinking beer/alcohol routinely and in large quanti-ties increases the risk of prostate cancer by a factor of two.

    April 6, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • mfred

      Party pooper

      April 6, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • Paul

      Only drinking beer all day? I call these "Saturdays".

      April 6, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • whatwouldjesusdrink

      another study shows milk and beef also can lead to an increased risk of prostate cancer. another study i just conducted in my office shows 4 out of 5 people think you are not so smart.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Kevin

      Can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning....

      April 6, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Jeremy

      Wow...I could have sworn that genetics played a bigger role....but what do I know...I only treat prostate cancer all day long.

      April 6, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Reality

      From: http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/healthyliving/alcohol/howdoweknow/

      "Alcohol is one of the most well established causes of cancer

      Alcohol increases the risk of mouth and oesophageal (foodpipe) cancers

      Alcohol increases the risk of liver cancer

      Alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer

      Alcohol increases the risk of bowel cancer

      Smoking and drinking together increases risk even more

      Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may increase the cancer risks of your children

      Alcohol could cause cancer in many ways

      If you drink alcohol, stick to safe limits

      Cutting down on alcohol can reduce your risk of cancer

      Red wine does not protect against cancer"

      April 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Wow...crap you found on the internet...it MUST be true!

      April 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
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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.