Bestselling author Joe Konrath goes on a beer fast for thirty days to lose weight.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 4 - Part 2

Visiting the Three Floyds brewpub was really cool. We talked to a lot of employees, and a lot of patrons, learning about the brewing process and asking what they thought of my diet.

We got a lot of great footage, but with some of it the sound is kind of low, so it will need to be edited.

This is a good point in the blog to talk about what beer is. Years ago I worked for a brewmaster at a local brewpub, assisting him. I've also been a homebrewer for many years. So now is a good time to discuss what beer is, and how it is made.

According to reinheitsgebot (the German purity law of 1516, one of the first food regulation laws) the only four ingredients allowed in beer are water, yeast, barley, and hops. This remains true today, though other things can be added depending on the style (fruits, vegetables, grains, spices, etc.)

The process of beer-making was probably discovered accidentally in ancient Mesopotamia over 11,000 years ago. Someone left some grain in a vessel, it rained, and magic happened.

Barley is a cereal. When the grains are dried, they go into a kind of suspended animation. Then, when water is added, they think it rained and begin to germinate, the starches converting to sugars. If the process is stopped just as the barley begins to grow, this barley is considered malted.

Malt is the perfect food for yeast. Yeast is a unicellular fungus, and it is extremely common. The theory is some wild yeast landed in a pot that contained germinating barley, and began to chow down.

When yeast eats malt, two of the byproducts are carbon dioxide, and alcohol.

Here's how a simplified breakdown of brewing works:

1. Barley is malted, then placed in a mash tun (a big heated receptacle) with water. It is held at certain temperatures until the starches convert to sugars.

2. The sugar water and barley are then separated in a process called lautering, and the water (now called wort) is placed into a brew kettle and boiled.

3. Hops are added. They can be added at the beginning of the boil, during it, in the final few minutes, and even in the fermentation tank. Hops are the cone-shaped flowers of humulus lupulus, a perennial vine. Hops provide bitterness, head retention, and also work as a preservative. They're responsible for a beer's aroma and bitterness.

4. The wort is cooled and placed in a fermentation tank with yeast. Yeast eats the wort, turning the liquid into beer.

5. Billion of people around the world rejoice.

There are many varieties of malt, yeast, and hops, and the different combinations are a large part of the reason beers are the most diverse alcoholic beverage in the world.

While beer comes in dozens of different styles, and each of those styles are unique depending on the ingredients, ratio, and talent of the brewer, there are still only just two types of beer.

Here is Barnaby, one of the brewmasters at Three Floyds, to talk about them.

While at the brewpub, I was treated to a lunch of Alpha King (American Pale Ale, 6% abv), followed by small glasses of Dreadnaught (Indian Pale Ale, 9.5% abv) and Big Black Van (American Black Ale, 7.5% abv). They were all delicious, especially fresh from the tap. If you haven't visited Three Floyds, it is truly one of the coolest places on the planet. The beer (and the food, which I remember from past visits) are terrific, and the vibe there is so laid back and fun that my friend George and I wanted to stay forever. 

I began the day with a Founders Breakfast Stout, so by the time we left the brewery I wasn't feeling any pain.

Back at the homestead, George and I hung out and shared a Guinness (4.2% abv--thought it was stronger than that didn't you?), a Bell's Hopslam (Imperial IPA, 10% abv) and a Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout (Russian Imperial, 10% abv).

That may seem like a lot, but it actually only amounted to less than five 12oz beers, which is about what I've been doing daily since starting this diet.

At the end of the day I did my nightly weigh-in.

When I began this diet, I was 263.75 pounds.

As of this weigh-in, I'm 254.8.

Is that loss water weight? Doubtful. I'm drinking a gallon of water per day, and beer is 90% water, so I'm not dehydrated. 

I'm hoping this downward trend will continue.


  1. Joe, what temp is the mash tun held at? 90F? 105F? 2,435,743 Kelvin?

  2. It depends on the malted barley, Stephen. Different grains prefer different temperatures. When I homebrewed I sometimes did a step mash,using several different temperatures for each malt in the tun.

  3. Hey Joe,

    I started a diet around the same time as you too, weighing in at 260. I'm eating healthy, (most of the time, there's still some Christmas candy laying around here) and I haven't started excersizing (I will soon). I've gone from 260 to 255 in four days.

    Please keep posting your current weight, it will be an encouragement to me to keep up on my own diet - I want to beat you!

  4. Joe, I applaud the innovation and can't say enough about the pure entertainment value of watching you do this, but how is this affecting your writing?

    As a writer, I know that energy and concentration are valuable commodities. While the blog and documentary are awesome, has this negatively impacted your creative writing? Do you think you can be productive as a writer while you do this, or is your writing just a wash for this month (except for this project)?

  5. "Hobo and Loco"

    Hey Joe, really enjoying this undertaking thus far, and of course, the writing too.

    I don't know if your medical advisers have told you already, but there is one big danger for indulging on beer alone without much solute (eg salt).

    Beer has a very low salt and so does water. You can develop hyponatremia which is low salt in the body.

    It can cause seizure, coma, neurologic deficit, and brain swelling (cerebral edema). This is life-threatening.

    There is an entity called beer potomania -- and the classic profile is one who does beer binges, no other nutritional intake (no source of salt), and hyponatremia. We call them 'hobo,' the pejorative term for the migrant vagabond workers in 19th century who drank beer and didn't eat much.

    'Loco' is psychogenic polydipsia, where a psychiatric patient drinks too much water (no salt in there) and dilutes his body fluid and also causes hyponatremia (low salt or sodium). This thing is similar to marathoners or party freaks who take ecstasy -- they too drink a gazillion of water.

    Hobo and loco are not good.

    Blood test (and sometimes urine test) determines sodium level (normal is 135-145), and dangerous level is <110.

    You need proper medical advice, and probably needs sodium tablets and regular check of your sodium level.



  6. video of previous beer dieter shows impressive results. Good luck Joe if you end up looking like this:

  7. Good to see the weight dropping. Do understand some is 'a reduction of solids in process in the GI tract.'

    But not that level of weight reduction. You've certainly lost weight. Remember, fat is 7.8lbm per gallon! You're drinking away your volume. ;)


  8. The monks who fast on beer during lent do so with a special brew for the occasion: under-attenuated doppelbock. It is highly caloric, full of vitamins, lower alcohol, plenty of readily available carbohydrates, and a good bit of protein too. Not quite the same thing as sam adams boston lager or guiness draught.

    Anyway, I love this blog and am enjoying the daily updates! I am an avid home brewer and this makes me want to follow in your footsteps using only home-brewed beers.

    Oh also Reinheitsgebot only allowed three ingredients: barley, water, hops. When it was repealed in 1988 it was replaced by the german provisional beer law that allowed for malt, water, and hops and excluded unmalted barley. In 1993 it was revised to include yeast, wheat, and sugar.

  9. God Damn! Ya Fat bastard, lose some weight! I've known you for about twenty years and it looks like success has gone to your stomach. Still Love you and Maria though.(I guess we know who gets tops though)

  10. You need to drink water to lose water--it's a fallacy that you don't drink water in order to lose the water weight.

    Congrats, though, on the weight loss!