Paddy Long’s Owner living on no food, just beer for 40 days
Update: Day 33
The restaurant business is weird. It’s a world of immediate gratification, not just for the customers but for us as well. We know right away if we’ve done our job right. Those moments when the customers are happy and the place is jumping produce a high for me as good as any drug. And when things go bad during service it’s like a punch in the gut that can last for days. Well, today I feel like I went 12 rounds with the Gypsy King.
So I’ve been very tempted the last couple days to end this fast. I stared at a can of soup last night for 10 minutes trying to decide if it was time to abandon this thing and get back to normal.
Then I realized that ending this now would be the opposite of normal. Maybe I’ve gone insane (a real possibility) but I want this fast to remind everyone of a time when a crazy bar owner could pull a stupid stunt to impress his friends and get some publicity. I’m going to keep posting the beers I’m drinking on my Instagram (pat.paddylongs) to break up the virus and politics posts on your feeds. You all are being reminded enough about what’s going on. Let me be your distraction.
If you have my number and want to send an encouraging text please do. If you see my posts please leave a comment. To those that have already reached out I say “Thanks.” It means the world to know your thinking of me. To my employees: WE WILL BE BACK! Hunker down and stay safe everyone.
P.S. I’m officially down 31lbs today and it feels great!
Update: Day 25
The big news is I finally came clean to my doctor. She took it pretty well. After I explained exactly what I was doing she didn’t think I was in any immediate danger but she doesn’t condone the 4-5 beers a day. Fair enough. After a while I think she was even intrigued. She ran some blood work and everything checked out fine. I’ve lost 26lbs and my cholesterol is down 40 points!
She also gave me some great advice on reintroducing food when I finally break the fast. To avoid painful stomach cramps and possible vomiting, I’m going to stay on liquids the first couple days and eat some soup and juice. Then I’ll move on to soft foods like mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs. I think the first thing I’m going to have is the garlic soup at Paddy Long’s. Can’t Wait!
Physically, I feel great. I’m enjoying wearing shirts that have been in the back of the closet for years because they stopped fitting. I don’t feel a lot of hunger anymore but occasionally I’m dying to eat something. My sleep has been shorter but more restful and according to my wife, I’ve stopped snoring.
But mentally, I’m ready for this to be over. This has been an incredible experience but 40 days is a long time. I want to get back to eating dinner with my family and dinner dates with my wife. Only 15 days left and you can bet your ass I’m counting ‘em down.
Update: Day 18
I’d like to start by thanking everyone for the outpouring of love and support I’ve received since going public with my fast. I’ve heard from friends, family and colleagues and it’s all been positive. It’s made a huge difference and has given me some much needed motivation. I’m happy to report I’m still living on beer and have lost 20lbs.
I really feel like I’ve turned a corner and found my groove. I have a routine down and the hunger pains are subsiding. Spacing out the beers throughout the day has made all the difference. If you had asked me last week what my chances were for all 40 days, I would have said 50%. Today I’m 90% sure I can finish this.
One of the unexpected side effects of this fast has been the variety of beers I’ve been drinking. The first few days were nothing but doppelbock, but soon I found myself wanting more. With beer being my only source of sustenance, I had to branch out. My love of hops has returned with a vengeance. Good old fashioned double IPA’s (the bitter kind, not the hazy kind) are tasting great! I’m drinking stouts, brown ales, and all manner of Belgians. I even willfully drank a fruit beer yesterday and it was delicious!
I guess after 25 years in the craft beer business, I had started equating strange flavorful beers with work. When I was drinking socially I didn’t want to think about the beer in my hand. I just wanted to drink it. Now that I’m forced to mix it up, or risk going insane, I’m back to appreciating the many flavors of beer.
So that’s all I’ve got right now. I’ll try to keep you all updated on the blog.
I love beer. It started with a beer can collection in my early teens and before I knew it, I was homebrewing my first batch of beer before I even graduated high school. After finishing college, I jumped right into the rocketing craft beer boom of the Mid 90’s. I worked at several brewpubs before opening my own beer focused bar, Paddy Long’s, in Chicago in 2007. My business partner, Chris Latchford, and I opened Kaiser Tiger a few years later and together we’ve managed to thrive by offering our customers the best beer we can find served with passion and care. I’ve managed to create a living out of my favorite beverage and I truly feel lucky.
But one thing I love more than beer is food. So, it is with mild fear and great trepidation that I’m attempting to recreate the German Monk’s Lenten beer fast.
As legend has it, In the 17th Century, the Paulaner Monks in Bavaria would limit themselves to only beer and water during Lent. Of course, they made a big hearty lager to sustain themselves during the fast. This beer is known as doppelbock today and the Paulaner brewery, although no longer controlled by a monastic order, still produces their original version named Salvator, which roughly translates to “Holy Father of Beer.”
The thought of going 40 days without a meal was and still is daunting to me. I’m around food all the time. I own 2 restaurants for fuck’s sake! The temptations are everywhere. The smells at work are killing me. Every time I cook dinner for my kids I just want to sit down with them and eat some solid food. After 12 days I’m starting to feel the devil on my shoulder. I haven’t had a full-blown conversation with him yet, like Jesus in the desert, but I am tempted to turn some stones into bread, or at the very least eat some of the delicious smelling bacon coming out of Paddy Long’s kitchen.
The first thing people ask me is “Why”? Why are you trying to live on nothing but beer for 40 days? It’s a fair question and one I have many answers to.
As a beer geek and history buff, I wanted to recreate the Paulaner Monk’s tradition of consuming only beer and water for Lent. Ever since I first heard the legend, it has beguiled me. I also wanted to lose some weight and lower my cholesterol. I wanted to challenge my mind and maybe gain some new perspective on the human body and its limits. And, deep down, maybe I even wanted to break an addiction to food I’ve struggled with my whole life (whoa, let’s not over analyze it).
All of these are good reasons, but to be honest, none of them are the REAL reason I’m attempting this challenge.
The real reason is kind of stupid really.
Basically, I read about a guy in Ohio last year (shout out to Del Hall of Fifty West Brewing Co.) who successfully completed this and after mentioning it to my friends and proclaiming that I could do it, I was immediately met with incredulousness. “No way!” “Bullshit.” “Are you fucking nuts?” They were doubters all!
And frankly, that’s all it took. For better or worse I guess I’m just wired to do what people say I can’t.
One of my more pragmatic friends, Max the fireman, put it best. He called it “A feat of strength!” You know, something to impress my friends and for others to marvel at. A legendary accomplishment that could catapult me into the pantheon of the greatest beer drinkers this planet has ever seen!
Ugh. Now that I’ve written it out, it sounds even dumber. Oh well….Let’s get into the nitty gritty details, shall we?
So, here I am. 12 days of no food. Living solely on beer. I’ve answered the big question of why, let’s see if I can tackle the others.
Are you really living on just beer?
Yes. Calorie wise it’s just beer but I’m also drinking black coffee, unsweetened tea, and a plethora of vitamins. Oh, and gallons of water.
Are there any health benefits?
I think so but let’s be clear, I am not a doctor or even very knowledgeable when it comes to nutrition. I own a bacon themed bar and a sausage themed restaurant and have spent most of my life eating whatever I want, so take what I say with a grain of salt. This IS a fat free and cholesterol free diet. It’s even vegan if I stay away from honey and lactose beers. I have very high cholesterol (shocking I know) so I’m hoping to cut that number in half. I had blood work done recently and am scheduled for a physical near the end, so I can compare the numbers. There’s also the weight loss aspect. I’m a bit overweight (another shocker, I know). So far, after 12 days I have lost 14 pounds.
Are there any health risks?
Probably. Again, I’m not an expert. I can tell you the only negative side effect I’ve experienced so far is hunger. My energy levels are good and I’m not experiencing any headaches or pain. I have talked to a couple doctors and they recommended the vitamin regiment I’m on. I’m taking supplements of thiamine, vitamin C, magnesium and potassium as well as a daily vitamin.
The danger I’m concerned about is the lack of protein. Beer has some protein but not a lot. My body should make that up by eating my fat cells (I have plenty, yet another shocker) but there is always a danger it could start eating my muscle mass. I may start working out a little to combat that. Alcohol is another risk, but I’m not really drinking any more than I normally do.
What are you drinking?
I’m trying to stick to 4 beers a day. I’ve experimented a bit, and 3 wasn’t cutting it. 5 was a bit too much. One day last week I made the mistake of having 7 beers and on top of getting a bit too drunk, the next day I couldn’t stop thinking about food. Hangovers on an empty stomach are hell.
After some trial and error, I think I’ve got a good routine down. I have my first beer around noon and then one every two hours after that. Spacing the beers is key.
I’m not sticking to one single beer, but I did commission a beer with Great Central Brewing that is a traditional German doppelbock just like the monks drank. The brewmaster at Great Central, Andreas Miller, was born and trained in Germany and knocked this one out of the park! It’s called Fastenbock and it’s my go to at home. It’s a wonderful malty, full bodied amber lager that clocks in at about 7.1%. There’s a touch of sweetness to satiate my hunger but just enough hops to balance the malt and beg another sip. The lighter Czech and German lagers that I normally drink were not going to cut it, so I needed something with a little more oomph. If you’d like to taste it yourself, it’s on tap at Paddy Long’s, Kaiser Tiger, Great Central’s taproom and other discerning establishments.
Are you drunk all the time?
No. Again, I’m drinking 4 beers a day and spacing them out. Since my stomach is empty, I do feel a slight buzz after each beer but after an hour it’s gone. So, no drunkenness. I made a big mistake with that 7-beer day and I don’t plan on repeating it.
Can you drive a car?
Yes, but not after my second beer of the day. I try to get my errands of the day that involve a car finished before I have that second beer. My Lyft bill is getting big. I’m avoiding getting drunk but 2 beers on an empty stomach renders me unable to drive.
Wait, Lent just started. How are you already 12 days in?
I started early. I have a family vacation to Belgium the week before Easter and I want to be able to eat. I hope I’m not sick of beer by then.
Also, I know Lent is technically longer than 40 days, but I choose 40 days to represent Jesus’s 40 days in the desert, and who am I to outdo Jesus? Besides, I’m already starting to think 40 days of this is insane.
Are you hungry all the time?
Yes and no. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. This diet is intense, and the hunger pains come early and often. I’ve read some fasting testimonials that claim hunger goes away after 3 or 4 days. That hasn’t been the case for me. My hunger does subside after I drink a beer but only for a while. The rest of the time I’m dying for a meal. I think this misery and temptation were what the monks were after. It’s a constant mind game with myself.
What are you craving?
Meat. This is the longest time I’ve spent as a vegetarian. Actually, this is the only time I’ve spent as a vegetarian. Kudos to my vegetarian and vegan friends. I don’t know how you do it.
Would you recommend this diet to others?
No. Again this is not a diet as much as it is a challenge. Please don’t try this unless you’re willing to take the risks. Please don’t try it at all. I feel I’m well suited for this, but just like most people should not try to climb Mount Everest, almost no one should try this fast. There are much healthier and sane ways to lose weight and cut cholesterol.
Are you going to make it all 40 days?
This is the magic question. I hope so. I won’t lie, it’s been pretty tough so far. I love food and the thought of not eating another 28 days is frightening but the weight loss has been a nice motivator. Every morning when I step on the scale it reinforces my resolve. Obviously, if I get sick or start to feel any negative side effects beyond hunger, I’ll stop. But so far so good.
So that’s where I’m at. I’ll try to update everyone on this blog to let you know how I’m doing. In the meantime, I think I need a beer.