Forty-six days. Forty-six days is the length of the Lenten Season this year. For most of us, that means nothing. It is simply a time where perhaps the most devout person you know only eats fish on Fridays. For others, it is a test of willpower, and we choose to eliminate some portion of sin from our lives for the portion of the year that falls between Fat Tuesday and Easter Sunday in an effort of spiritual growth. For some, it is merely a season for terrible dad jokes, such as “I gave up Lent for Lent this year” and other such tired attempts at humor. For the monks of times long gone, it was a time spent fasting, consuming nothing but beer and water. Beer is, after all, liquid bread and if the monks can go forty-three days without solid, why can’t we?
This Wild Pitch is a bit different than most to date. Rather than espouse some form of brewing science, process, or sour beer myth debunking, this Wild Pitch is more a focus on beer culture and the forty-six-day beer fast that I intend to endure for the length of Lent. This is not a novel idea, and has been done by others before me. Most have done this in an attempt to grow spiritually, for others it is a chance to prove that it is possible to fast as the monks did, surviving on doppelbock alone, one person even used the opportunity as a gimmicky way to cash in on a book deal “The Beer Diet”. For me, it is a combination of curiosity and a test of willpower. Can it be done, and am I capable of doing it? What will happen to me physically and mentally as I progress through all forty-six days?
In an effort to gain some sort of rudimentary scientific knowledge from this project, there are a couple things I plan to record on a daily basis. Weight, total beers consumed (when and style of beers), water drank, black coffee/plain tea drank (no way in hell I am giving up these liquids either!), mood, objective physical wellbeing, hunger level on a 1-10 scale, and any other miscellaneous qualitative items worth noting that may come up throughout the process. The beauty of this will be in the end of fast analysis where it will provide a time to examine how my body physically changed and the correlation to overall well-being and mental state. My wife has ultimate veto powers of this project, and at any time she notices a threat to my health, the fast will be called off. There is no sense is causing life-long physical harm after all.
From my research on beer fasts, and fasting for long periods of time in general, there are several hallmark stages that people often go through. For the first couple days there is intense hunger, often times headaches, and just generally feeling terrible as your body adjusts from energy derived from glycosis to energy derived from ketosis. After about seven days, the hunger pangs are supposedly gone. A mental and physical clarity overcomes ones body, as your body works to optimize all of its energy usage. At this point, it is said to get easier. It is said that you may at times experience wild mood swings, random fits of rage, but generally a feeling of relatively high energy. Hell, this doesn’t sound much different than what it feels like to run a business anyways.
Finally, there is the breaking of the fast. And you may be thinking, “Slow down there cowboy! You are already thinking about breaking your fast, and you haven’t even started yet!”. Well, you are correct, but breaking the fast is an important part of completing a fast safely. Diving right back into fatty, high sugar foods after forty-six days of nothing solid can lead to a massive spike of insulin in your blood and cause a litany of health problems. It is important to ease yourself back into foods, keeping it light and natural and slowly ramping up food consumption for a week or so. This is no light task, as after forty-six days of no food, being told to “ease into eating” again seems daunting.
What’s all this really mean? Not much. It is just some brewer, doing what American craft brewers do already, pushing the envelope. But this time, instead of an Imperial Session Sour Russian Imperial Stout with Chocolate, Coffee, and Blackberries, this craft brewer is pushing himself to try something that he never thought himself capable of doing (but often dreamt), drinking nothing but beer for forty-six days.
Bret Kollmann Baker
Chief of Brewing Operations