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. icons pack

    Completely I share your opinion. In it something is and it is good idea. It is ready to support you.

    October 8, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  2. SigitBraddasouljah

    Mr Wilson explain a bit about your time as head of the water ttearment authority. Every answer you have provided so far has been political in nature whether it would or did hurt your career. Forgetting politics for a moment, what really happened, and why did you attempt to cover up the dumping of raw sewage in the Ohio River? If you refuse to discuss, please let us know why you believe voters don't deserve an answer.

    April 1, 2012 at 4:05 am |
  3. ZenDruid

    I once visited the Andechs monastery in Bavaria, where the beer fasts are traditionally observed. A pint of their best is a meal in itself. 40 days of beer without Brezen (pretzels) seems very bleak, though.

    May 5, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  4. Reality


    Either you are better educated and have more experience than the folks at the Insti-tute of National Health or you neglected to read the following:

    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.


    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 29, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • JimmyZATL

      Reality, there is also the length of time to consider... at the end of which more than 15 beers in a week would you say that it was a risk? Surely a fast of this little time is not enough to put the man at risk. Not to mention it's conscious... much different attributes to conscious behavior than unconscious...

      April 29, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Reality

      Total drinks/beers consumed during fast:

      180-200 bottles, ~ 8 cases

      April 30, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  5. Rhoobarb

    First time to post here. Last time, too. There sure are a lot of morons posting here that know little about beer, brewing or how monastic history played a role in both. This amount of beer would in no way make him an alcoholic, unable to function, weak, etc. Go back to watching the Royal Wedding coverage.


    April 29, 2011 at 3:55 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.