According to a report in the Des Moniers Register (here), a blogger from Iowa is planning to give up solid food for Lent, choosing to live on beer instead! J Wilson, a 38-year-old from Prescott, Adams County, wants to see whether or not it is possible to live on doppelbock and water alone – which, according to “beer-geeks”, is what some Bavarian monks used to do during Lent.
The calorie and carbohydrate laden doppelbock (double bock) beer was invented by Paulaner monks living in 17th century Munich. During Lent, the monks (or hermit friars) would abstain from all forms of solid food, using doppelbock as a substitute. Apparently, these members of the Order of Minims (founded by St Francis of Paola in 1435*), continued this tradition up until recent times - it came to an end when their Bavarian house closed. The Minims still survive, though, with most members now living in Italy (here).
Doppelbock beer is a fortified version of bock – a heavy German beer. Bock should be written and pronounced beck, but Bavarians used to say "ein bock" (trans: "a billy-goat"), so that name stuck. The fortified doppelbock was originally distilled by the Minims as a Lenten beverage, but is now more popular amongst connoisseurs of real ale. It is currently brewed at the Paulaner Brewery in Munich (here). It is also possible to drink this beverage at the Oktoberfest Pub and the Bavarian Beer House, both in London.
Wilson himself admits that "the idea is a little bit crazy” – but is well prepared for his Lenten diet. He has already tried living on four glasses of doppelbock a day, which didn’t result in intoxication – the American version is only 6.7% proof. Wilson has also gained weight in preparation for his self-imposed fast. He told the Des Moniers Register: “I don't know what will happen after days of not eating at all. That's one of the questions I am looking to answer. Getting drunk is the last thing on my to-do list at this time. This is an historical study.”
It seems that J Wilson will be guided by his doctor throughout the experiment, and will also be supported Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, in West Des Moines. The Brewery has produced a doppelbock beer, based on Wilson's home recipe, which will be on offer at a special keg tapping and Mardi Gras crawfish boil tomorrow evening.
According to the Des Moniers Register, Wilson will live on beer and water for 46 days. Lent, though, is a season of 40 days only - as Sundays do not count. So his fast can, and should, be interrupted at least once a week. If needed, J Wilson can also relax his fast on solemnities and special feasts that fall within Lent – such as the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March) or, if he’s of Irish descent, St Patrick’s Day (17 March). Another feast that's celebrated during Lent is that of the founder of the Paulaners, St Francis of Paola (2 April).
Wilson, who describes himself as a Christian who’s “never given up anything so much as a bar of chocolate previously", will be sharing his Lenten experience on a blog called Diary of a Part Time Monk.
I feel particularly grateful both for the existence of spiritual direction and for my own teetotalism when I read stories like this!