Surviving for 40 days on a diet of beer and water might seem like the premise of a frat house comedy film, but for the Paulaner monks of Neudeck ob der Au in Bavaria, this liquid diet was evidence of their religious devotion.
In the 17th century, these devout beer-brewing monks adopted a liquid-only diet for their Lenten fast. Naturally, they couldn't survive on water alone, so they developed a special brew that would sustain them throughout Lent. Thus, the doppelbock style was born. Nicknamed "liquid bread," it was rich and malty, and full of enough calories, carbohydrates, and nutrients to see the monks through until Easter.
In 2011, Iowa-based journalist and home brewer J. Wilson decided to try this Lenten fast for himself by consuming four beers on weekdays and five on weekends. In addition to water, he exclusively drank Illuminator Doppelbock – one of his own recipes – designed to approximate the monks' original brew.
The Lenten liquid diet:
- Amazingly, Wilson not only survived the experience, but he actually seemed to thrive. Although he was initially hungry, he described how "my body then switched gears, replaced hunger with focus, and I found myself operating in a tunnel of clarity unlike anything I'd ever experienced."
- By the end of Lent, Wilson had lost over 25 pounds (11.34 kg) but gained attention from numerous media outlets. More importantly, he proved to himself that he had the self-discipline to achieve his objective.
- Paulaner brewery was founded in 1634, with their "Salvator" doppelbock as one of their earliest products. A mainstay of Munich's Oktoberfest, Paulaner sells its beer to over 70 countries, including the doppelbock style.