When Del Hall decided to embark on an unorthodox biological experiment last year, he didn’t know how it would turn out. Inspired by the Lenten beer fasts historically conducted by the Paulaner monks of Bavaria, the director of sales Fifty West Brewing Company in Cincinnati, Ohio announced that he would ingest nothing other than beer, water and black coffee for the 46 days leading up to Easter. At the time I spoke to him about it, he had no idea how it was all going to turn out.
“It was my first time doing anything like this and I had no idea if I was going to make it,” Hall says. “There aren’t any guidebooks for something like this.”
To be clear, medical professionals generally advise against consuming less than 1,200 calories a day for any prolonged period without close supervision. And regardless of whatever the monks may have been doing back in the 1600s, it is not possible to get all of the necessary nutrients for survival from beer—even if that beer happens to be a doppelbock. Nevertheless, at the end of his fast in 2018, Hall claims he felt better than ever.
“I had my bloodwork done throughout the process. I wanted to check on how my blood pressure, blood sugar, and all markers of health were doing throughout the fast,” Hall says. “And by the end of the fast, I had lost 44 pounds, 42 of which were body fat. I felt like a million bucks.”
Encouraged by the results, Hall has pledged to fast again—only this time for longer and with a greater purpose. While his beer fast last year was unusual, he knows it was not unique in the history of the world. This time around he’s hoping to beat his own personal record, along with the support of friends, family, and regular visits with trained physicians.
There’s no reason for me to break that fast on Easter. So I figured this year I’d extend it to 50 days for the longest beer fast in history.”
“I’m not doing this for religious purposes. There’s no reason for me to break that fast on Easter,” Hall says. “So I figured this year I’d extend it to 50 days for the longest beer fast in history.”
In 2019, Hall had been reluctant to attach his fast to any particular charity, especially since he had no idea what the impact could be on his overall health. Now that he is firmly convinced that it’s safe, he is raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. A local donor at Cappy's Wine & Spirits has already pledged to match up to $5,000 of donations.
“When people talk about pastry stouts and these sugary beers, people keep throwing around terms like, ‘Oh, it’s like diabetes in a glass,’” Hall says. “I saw this as a cool way to combat that. So people can pledge a dollar per pound I lose and all of that will go directly to the foundation.”
After Hall’s success, others are beginning to follow suit. This year, Nick Blaha, a Catholic priest in Kansas City is leading a small group of parishioners on a guided beer fast. To help partially nourish them on their journey, participants will enjoy a special beer produced by KC Bier Co. In honor of the Paulaner monks and their original “flüssiges Brot”—literally “liquid bread"—the 7.2% ABV Blessed Doppelbock is brewed with entirely German malt and hops.
Meanwhile over in Chicago, Pat Berger of Kaiser Tiger and Paddy Long’s is undertaking a similar fast for 40 days. After he decided to take the plunge, he talked a brewer friend into creating the Great Central Doppelbock to sustain him through the process. Yesterday, Berger also called up Hall to see if the two of them could pull something together for the greater good. Regardless of what the monks might have thought of this secular modern-day fast, they most likely would have approved of Hall’s mission to help others.
“We’re going to put together a diabetes fundraiser in Chicago,” Hall says. “I thought how great would that be just to raise a ton of money for a good cause?