Back in the 1600s, Catholic monks brewed beer specifically for a liquid-only Lenten fast, Catholic News Agency reports.
At that time, Paulaner monks moved from southern Italy to the Cloister Neudeck ob der Au in Bavaria. "Being a strict order, they were not allowed to consume solid food during Lent," the braumeister and beer sommelier of Paulaner Brewery, Martin Zuber, explained in a video on the company's website.
They needed something other than water to sustain them, so the monks turned to a common staple of the time of their region – beer. They concocted an "unusually strong" brew, full of carbohydrates and nutrients, because "liquid bread wouldn't break the fast," Zuber said.
This was an early doppelbock-style beer, which the monks eventually sold in the community and which was an original product of Paulaner brewery, founded in 1634. They called it Salvator, named after "Sankt Vater," which "roughly translates as 'Holy Father beer,'" Zuber said.
Paulaner serves 70 countries and is one of the chief breweries featured at Munich's Octoberfest. Although its doppelbock is enjoyed around the world today, it had a distinctly penitential origin with the monks.
Could a beer-only fast really be accomplished? One journalist had read of the monks' story and, in 2011, attempted to re-create their fast.
J. Wilson, a Christian working as an editor for a county newspaper in Iowa, partnered with a local brewery and brewed a special doppelbock that he consumed over 46 days during Lent, eating no solid food.
He had regular check-ups with his doctor and obtained permission from his boss for the fast, drinking four beers over the course of a work day and five beers on Saturdays and Sundays. His experience, he said, was transformative – and not in an intoxicating way.
Wilson learned "that the human body is an amazing machine," he wrote in a blog for CNN after his Lenten experience.
These 17th century monks did a beer fast for Lent (Catholic News Agency)