Beer blogger Chris Schryer's profile photo from Facebook.
Sitting in front of me is a beer unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. It’s a Dopplebock in theory, but it was brewed with a huge number of oats. As a result, it is viscous. The chestnut brown meniscus of the liquid wobbles independently when you jostle the table. When you pour it, it laps at the side of the glass. I have had milkshakes thinner than this. It drinks like a meal.
For my friend Chris Schryer, that’s a very good thing. For the last 19 days, this beer has been his breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chris has given up solid food for Lent in emulation of the monastic order who created Dopplebock in Bavaria in the 17th century. As a side product of this act of faith, he has produced some intelligent and inclusive writing about his relationship with Christianity over at his site Toronto Beer Blog.
Heathen that I am, I asked him mostly about the day to day experience when I caught up with him at Toronto’s Monk’s Table.
On day seven, he wasn’t tired of the beer that had been brewed for his attempt. “Tired will be when it’s a chore. I’m drinking other stuff, which helps. I’m on clear liquids, which means no dairy.” That precludes most smoothies and condensed fruit juices. The oats in the beer are meant to provide additional nutrition through their proteins and unfermentable sugars. “We thought about using seaweed.” You can hear in his voice that he’s glad they didn’t.
Getting through the day requires a careful balancing act. In order to remain productive during his fast, Chris is having a 341ml bottle of beer at breakfast, another at lunch and a 650ml bottle at dinner. In order to regulate his blood sugar between meals, he is drinking apple juice and lightly sugared tea. At no point in the process is he ever inebriated, and he drinks several litres of water a day to remain hydrated.
Many people, faced with Lent, give up beer. Chris is a trained cook and decided that while he likes beer, “Food is my very favorite thing; the thing that I love is going.” He faces temptation daily as he prepares meals for his children, and if he is posting pictures of them on Facebook more frequently than usual, it’s because he is enjoying it vicariously.
Attempting to give up food in a secular setting may initially seem harder than doing it in a monastery with people similarly engaged, but in practice “it’s a lot easier than if I were, to use the religious term, cloistered. If I were at the cottage, it would be harder because you’d just cheat.” Being observed is actually assisting him with his observation.
One thing is clear: Drinking all day is not fun and games.