Thursday, 17 March 2011

Beer fast

Some readers of this blog may be aware that I have given up drinking alcohol during Lent. There is a debate in our household about what constitutes Lent; do we include Sundays and do we finish on Good Friday or Easter morning? The first week has passed without too many problems. There was a tricky moment over Sunday evening’s roast chicken as my wife had left a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge but temptation was resisted and the wine returned to the cellar. I can see a couple of challenges up ahead, not least my leaving lunch at the Diocesan Office and it seems strange to forgo a pint of Guinness on St Patrick’s Day.
I am very grateful to Martin Beckford of The Telegraph for messaging me with a link to a story in The Catholic Herald. Apparently someone called J Wilson has taken a different approach to a beer fast during Lent. Wilson’s idea is to fast on beer rather than give it up. Inspired by 17th Century Bavarian friars, who refused to eat solid food during the penitential season and sustained themselves with a strong dark beer called Doppelbock, Wilson has brewed his own version of the drink and forsaken anything other than four bottles a day. The Herald explains the history of Doppelbock which enjoys Papal approval.
The beer, which is sweeter, stronger and darker than normal lager, is filled with nutrients and was called “liquid bread”. Doppelbock received papal approval in the late 1600s, so the legend goes, because the Paulaner friars sent a cask of the brew to Rome which turned sour on the long journey across the Alps. The pope tasted the sour liquid and decided that anything so disgusting must be good for penitents, giving it his sanction. The Paulaner doppelbock, which is a strengthened version of the original Lenten beer known as bockbier, was called Salvator, and the other Bavarian breweries which make doppelbock give the brew a name ending in the letters “-or”. Wilson’s beer is an Illuminator. Although hops play a minimal part in the flavour of doppelbock, Wilson has used a mixture of different hops, including a type originally grown in the Holledau region of Bavaria from where the friars would have harvested hops used in the Salvator beer.
Wilson is blogging his experience in A Diary of a Part Time Monk. He does seem determined not to shirk any detail in his daily account and today includes descriptions of his breath and experiences in the lavatory:
More interestingly, I thought you’d want to learn about my breath and stools! I’ve reached a new stage of detoxification, and I now awake in the morning with my mouth tasting of cooked cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. On the toilet front, everything still works; thanks for asking. Weight-wise, I’m holding pretty steady at this point, clocking in at 149.5 today, so eleven pounds shed as of day eight, but hovering in the 149-150 range for three days straight.
This is not just a gimmick and Wilson is taking the time to investigate aspects of monastic life. He  goes on to comment in today's entry:
Now that I’ve worked my way through my “Monk in the World” curriculum, I’m scooting more heavily into Psalms, which are an integral part of a monk’s daily life. They are an element of the Bible that I’ve largely ignored in my life. Songs, yet not as cool as “Whole Lotta Love,” I couldn’t quite get them as a kid. Looking at them through new lenses, however, I can suddenly understand the attraction, and why the Benedictines maintain(ed) such a strict regimen daily. Me, I’ve divided their total by the days I have left and will be doing four per day, two in the morning and two in the evening.
I look forward to dipping into Wilson’s blog from time to time to see how he progresses and I may even gain some ideas for next year. I wonder how long it takes to brew Doppelbock?


Archdruid Eileen said...

About a month, probably. If it's on the strong side it takes longer to ferment out and to settle.

phil_style said...

I've been fastign the exact same, and blogging about it too - but I've made the moral choice to break my fast while I'm in Bavaria this weekend ;)