By Charlie “the Beer Guy” Cavanaugh Toft
Three hundred years ago, monastic brewers in Munich refused to give up beer during Lent. Indeed, they promoted beer to their sole source of sustenance during their month-long fasts, inventing a calorie-rich style called the dopplebock to stave off starvation while getting their brew on at the same time.
As a lifelong lover of the art, science, history, and culture of beer and brewing, I have always looked on these monks with admiration and more than a little envy. Imagine a month of literally nothing but beer drinking, officially sanctioned–even applauded–by society!
But sadly, I’m not a Bavarian monk. I’ve got a job teaching high-school science. I’ve got a wife and two kids. I’ve got, you know, responsibilities.
Not so much my friend Evo Terra. What Evo has–in glorious, overflowing quantities–is lust for life.
Evo and I met eight years ago by way of podcasting. Specifically, he was producing several podcasts and I was listening to them. I was drawn to this hilariously snarky loudmouth, who was nonetheless clearly intelligent and at times even insightful, as he turned his unique blend of sarcasm and enthusiasm to topics of all kinds. Much of the discussion on his shows surrounded movies, TV, books, and other media–mostly science fiction and fantasy–but imagine my delight and surprise when one day I heard him crack a beer on the air (or rather, on the pod).
I believe it was a Guinness, the Irish equivalent of Budweiser. He proceeded to wax rhapsodic about it, at which point I started to cringe behind my earbuds. Here was a bright and charismatic potential spokesperson for quality beer praising mass-produced swill. Seeing that the podcast was produced locally, I immediately jumped on the email and requested permission to drop by with some craft beer and set things right. I now know Evo is an inveterate neophile, but all those years ago I was stunned that he acquiesced, inviting a stranger into the studio and giving him microphone time to talk beer.
I eventually became a regular, acquiring the nom de plume “Charlie the Beer Guy” and soon had a podcast of my own called “Speaking of Beer,” produced with Evo’s generous support. And thus I fell into his carefully laid trap. You see, I thought I was expressing my passion for beer and indulging my compulsive drive to educate and enlighten. In fact, what I was doing was systematically transferring all of my beer knowledge into the mind of Evo Terra.
And over the years the student has grown to eclipse the master. As it turns out, in that crazy unpredictable way the Universe goes, life has forced me to give up my beer-centered lifestyle altogether. So, now Evo carries my torch of cervesophilia, his focus ever on quality and craftsmanship, as it should be.
Which brings us to the experiment detailed in the pages to follow. Like myself, Evo clearly envied those monks from centuries ago. Unlike myself, however, he took on the challenge of a month of beer with tremendous joie de vivre. And he added sausage.
And–somehow–made the whole thing about science.
At the time I was impressed enough with Evo’s project to have a go at it myself. Given that I cross paths with Evo in this book, I won’t spoil things with details on how that turned out, but regardless, it was a blast following his progress in real time, as it was reliving those memories reading this time capsule from that month.
One story that jumped out at me was his recounting of a Beer Diet lunch we shared in the early going. I didn’t notice it at the time, but it turns out one of the beers we were served was a rich Bavarian lager called Celebrator. Fittingly, that’s the selfsame doppelbock that nourished those Munich brothers way back when.
In addition to being a fascinating and entertaining dietary experiment, the Beer Diet turns out to be a terrific path to vicarious wish fulfillment. Thanks to my friend Evo, I got my monastic moment after all.