Iowa Beer Geek Completes 46-day Beer Fast

By Jeff Forester 04/27/11

The Easter story of a man who sought honest spiritual growth through beer.

I'll have a church beer, please.
Photo via nawbaw

News stories about an Iowa man who recently underwent a month-long  beer-and-water fast have been popping up all over the press. A Christian celebrating the resurrection of Jesus by limiting himself to an all-beer diet? To be honest, we were kind of doubtful.  As  Jimmy Fallon told his Late Night audience, "It looks like an alcoholic just discovered that it's Lent."
But as we discovered when we caught up with J. Wilson the day before he ended his Easter fast, the truth is not so simple. It turns out that J. Wilson, who blogs about beer at brewvana, believes he has a spiritual connection to brew. "This was not a forty six day drunkfest," said Wilson, explaining his beer-and-water diet. "The beers I drank have a rich history and church-related origins." Wilson drank four 12-ounce beers a day during the work week, and five bottles on the weekends. Each serving contained 288 calories, and just under 7% alcohol. There is some religious precedence in this practice. A set of Paulaner monks from Munich began brewing beer in the early 1600s, specifically to carry them through periods of religious fasting.  J. Wilson developed his own variation on the Paulist's ancient brew. Before embarking on his spiritual adventure, Wilson, a devout Christian, talked to his wife, got a green light from his doctor, and cleared the project with his boss at the newspaper where he toils as an editor.

He and fellow brewer Eric Sorensen fermented the beer for J. Wilson’s fast at Des Moines' Rock Bottom Brewery. Whatever beer Wilson did not drink, the Rock Bottom put on Lenten Special. Not surprisingly, the brew sold out weeks before Easter. 

By the end of his peculiar fast, J. Wilson had lost thirty pounds. "I've dropped two pounds just since yesterday," he told us on the phone. He said he felt good, though, upbeat and alive. “There is always a spiritual component to fasting,” said Wilson, who read the psalms throughout the month because that was part of the Paulaner monks’ practice. When pressed to share the deeper spiritual aspects of his experience, Wilson said, “The real enlightening stuff happened the first few days,” which  begs the question, can one reach nirvana by embarking on a three day bender?

Probably not, although many have tried.  Now that he's back on solid foods, Wilson plans to use his experience as the basis for a book, the seeds of which can be found at his website,  Diary of a Part Time Monk.

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Jeff Forester is a writer in Minnesota. His book, Forest for the Trees: How Humans Shaped the North Woods, an ecological history of his state's famed Boundary Waters, came out in paperback in 2009. Jeff is the Executive Director of MN Lakes and Rivers Advocates MLR and you can follow him on Twitter.