Brewing Illuminator–a beer for the fast lane

A few days ago I mentioned my doppelbock collaboration with Eric Sorensen of Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery–Des Moines, and it’s time to dive a little deeper into what that’s all about.

Enamored with the story of the origins of doppelbock, a couple of years ago, I thought it might be interesting to recreate that experience and fast on doppelbock for the duration of Lent as the Paulaner monks of Neudeck ob der Au–who are credited with developing the beer that is today know as doppelbock–would have done.

When the idea first came about, my work situation wouldn’t have allowed me to do it–long, hot, fast-paced hours hardly resembled a monk’s life, my wife quickly pointed out. So the idea was put on hold to ferment–until now.

I approached Eric last August at a beer festival and he quickly signed on to work with me on scaling up one of my homebrew recipes to brew at Rock Bottom.

Yesterday was our long-awaited brew day.

Between August and January, Eric and I have exchanged countless messages hammering out the details of the recipe. In my opinion, he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty to accommodate my little project, and for that I’m very grateful.

The goal was to produce a bold, unfiltered doppelbock, packed with calories and carbs so that I don’t wilt away on my journey. It’s heavily reliant on Munich and Vienna malts (and friends), and hopped with just the right amount of Magnum and Liberty hops. The OG starts at 1.076 (after having a couple bottles of Three Floyds’ Creeper recently, I was certain that though it’s fun to make beers big and meaty, this beer couldn’t be so big that it lost some measure of drinkability–and I needed a somewhat manageable alcohol content). To be historically accurate, we would have needed to  crash this beast at a ridiculously high finishing gravity, so, that’s one place where my purist tendencies will be left by the wayside. Eric needs to sell the remaining beer, after all.

We kicked off a double brew day at 9 a.m., and after doing Illuminator and then a porter, it was a long day. Thank goodness for short bursts of beer samples and someone else cooking lunch. As a few folks know, this isn’t my first time raking grain out of a mash tun. Brewing is hard work and attention to detail is paramount. It felt good to mill hundreds of pounds of grain, hit a mash temp (158F) and turn a few valves. Though the life of a professional brewer isn’t as glamorous as some folks might think, at the end of the day, one is making beer, and that is very rewarding, making all the heavy lifting, cleaning and other mundane tasks worth it.

For me, it adds a layer of investment to this fast, which will be no easy task. I made that beer. And so did Eric. I can’t fail. Aside from the delightful read that will be on the other side of Lent, there’s too much good to come from this project. I don’t know what, but it’ll emerge.

What was it like for a monk to drink beer for 46 days? Stay tuned.


To follow along as this project progresses, check out Diary of a Part-time Monk.

PS: guess what’s going in here:


5 Responses to Brewing Illuminator–a beer for the fast lane

  1. […] Oh, sure, I’ve talked with nutritionists, fasters, pastors and beer geeks. I’ve even talked with my wife! But the reality became even more focused yesterday when Eric Sorensen of Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery-Des Moines and I brewed the beer which I will be consuming for the 46 days of Lent–Illuminator Doppelbock. You can read more about that day over at brewvana. […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike from BGP, US Beer Bloggers. US Beer Bloggers said: Brewing Illuminator–a beer for the fast lane […]

  3. John Gould says:

    I am and have been enjoying these posts. Wish I had the time to brew more often. I am ready to brew up 2 batches of an Ale.. Plus I have to work in my trade and keep my pottery suply up at the gallery. I am too busy at the age of 74. Yes folks, I am still painting along with drywall projects to make a living. Thank you,,,John in the mountains of AZ. BTW we now have 145 members in the club. Took a little over a year

  4. […] if I could/would sustain myself on of any of these for 46 days straight. I’ll be drinking Illuminator. Join us for the release party at Rock Bottom-Des Moines on March 8 (6 […]

  5. […] Wilson is a beer maker whose inspiration for doing a lenten fast by drinking his home- made beer concoction, calling it The Illuminator came from learning about the history of German monks who […]

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