30 Days Without Beer: A Daring Adventure

by Billy Broas

Alcohol FreeI did the unthinkable – I went 30 days without drinking beer.

Not only that, I went 30 days without drinking any alcohol at all.

You may pick your jaw back up off the floor now.

So why did I do it? It’s something I’ve been planning for a while.

I was trying to think of the last time I went 30 days booze-free. I honestly can’t remember (bad sign). Let’s just called it a decade and cut it off there.

There wasn’t a health emergency or big physical competition coming up. I just felt like detoxing. Another reason is that I began a new weight lifting program (Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength) and wanted to start it off right because the first month is very important. Squats are painful enough without feeling last night’s cocktails…

If you’re thinking about doing the same thing and are trying to find a good time to do it, there isn’t one. You simply need to find the least worst 30 day period. As a ¬†homebrewer and someone involved in the beer industry it was especially difficult to block off the time.

I started the 30 days right after my beer trip to Munich. I drank enough there to last a month, so it was the perfect time to start the detox.

Things that suck most about not drinking beer for a month

  • Not being able to have a drink when going out for dinner.
  • Missing out on festivals. I didn’t go to SourFest which killed me.
  • The four batches of homebrew that were ready but I couldn’t taste.
  • No more beer to relax after a long day at work.
  • A sober Memorial Day.

In all honesty though, it wasn’t that bad. Not as bad as I expected at least. I never got a physical craving for booze (a good sign) or came close to giving in. The reasons mentioned above were the worst part but they were more of a nuisance than a tragedy. With that said, I’ll stop complaining and give you…

Things that are good about taking a month off

  • You feel healthier.
  • You find things to do besides drinking. Yep – I finally went to the museum.
  • Figuring out how you’re getting home no longer becomes an issue.
  • Day drinking doesn’t completely wipe out the rest of your day. You can go for a run a night if you want.
  • You appreciate beer more. “I’ll never take you for granted, beer!”

Overall the experience was worth it. I haven’t lost any weight because that wasn’t the goal (you’re supposed eat a lot and gain weight on the lifting program), but I feel great both mentally and physically.

Will I make it a regular thing? I might do it again if I find myself out of shape again with the urge to detox. It’s not going to be a regular thing though. I love my beer too much.

Have you ever taken gone beer-free for an extended period of time? Plan on it?

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Alannah June 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm

That’s awesome. I once went a year without any alcohol in my late twenties because it was getting out of hand and I needed to get myself back into balance, so to speak. It just felt necessary at the time and I told myself I’d see how I felt at the end of it and go from there. It wasn’t that challenging, to be honest, and I would do it again if I felt I needed to (although back then I was drinking more for the party atmosphere and not out of sheer enjoyment of beer, so it would be different/harder now for sure).

I admire that you would/could do that, with all of the fests and limited releases around here!

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Billy Broas June 19, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Thanks for the comment Alannah. A whole year is impressive! I know what you mean though about feeling the need to do it though. That’s why I don’t think it’s something you can schedule. When you know it’s time you take a break, whether that’s once a year or once a decade.

Yea, living in Denver made it 100x harder.

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dunn June 19, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I’m thinking about doing this, for many of the same reasons you mentioned above. I’ve done a week recently, and I felt great. Lost about 5 pounds (although that wasn’t the goal) which I think was a combination of a few thing, not just the abstinence.

Like you said, there’s no good time, just a least bad time. I think I’ll start tonight!

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Billy Broas June 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Glad I could inspire you to do the whole month! The thing is that for most people, myself included, we make really bad food decisions when drinking. So you cut out the calories from the beer but you also cut out the calories from the wings, pizza, moon pies, etc…

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Heather June 19, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I went alcohol free in February – I figured the shortest month of the year was the way to go! I agree with you – hard, but not impossible at all. I missed drinks with dinner, and going to the local pub and not being able to try something new sucked. Still, no hangovers or fuzzy head feeling was awesome. I may try to make it an annual thing – but always in February!

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Billy Broas June 19, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Heather you are one clever beer drinker. Maybe next time I’ll change it from “30 days” to one month and do the February thing. Those last two days were tough.

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Sheppy June 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Hmmm … I don’t think I’ve ever gone a whole month without alcohol since I turned 21 (which has been more than 22 years).

I have gone off coffee several times for months at a time, which is sort of similar …. maybe.

I’ve gone several months in a row without wine or hard-alcohol. I’ve gone years without getting drunk enough to get a hangover.

Can’t say I have ever wanted to or felt the need to stop drinking. I probably could do it, I just don’t want to. I enjoy beer too much. If Generally speaking, I don’t really let myself overdo it anyway, so some of your advantages don’t really apply to me (getting home, going for runs at night, ruining the whole day, going to the museum).

Congrats on your accomplishment, though. That doesn’t sound easy.

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Billy Broas June 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Thanks for the comment Sheppy. I guess I should clarify that I never felt like I was overdoing it before starting the challenge. I didn’t drink too often and rarely more than a couple beers in a sitting. The idea was to go without any alcohol in my system at all for 30 days and see what I felt like, since it had been so long since I’ve done that.

I doubt 99% of people will do the same thing but for those who try it I just wanted to let them know that it’s not that hard and you feel really great afterwards.

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Paul June 21, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Awesome work, Billy.

Always lurking here… thought I’d add my two cents as I just started Starting Strength two months ago. Any book which spends 75 pages teaching you how to squat is definitely hardcore. My a** has never been the same (my wife says it’s for the better!)! Haven’t gotten to the power clean yet, but it’s in my future.

In all things, moderation is key. Get de-toxed, then get drinking again, some of us rely on your brewing wit and wisdom!

BTW, fantastic articles on your trip to Germany. Keep writing, keep brewing, keep lifting!
–Paul

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Billy Broas June 22, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Thanks for reading the blog Paul. It wouldn’t be very fun without you guys.

Cool to hear you’re doing starting strength as well. I’m just behind you, at 1 1/2 months in. I know exactly what you mean about the ass muscles haha. Just the other day I ripped my pants right down the seat. I could post the picture to prove it but I’ll spare you all.

I tried power cleans but my form is horrible and my gym doesn’t have bumper plates. They’re tough to learn. I started to work in chin ups and may stick with those instead of power cleans since they’re easy and I can’t do many (lots of room for improvement). I know Rippetoe would kill me but oh well.

Cheers!

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Todd Kartchner June 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Billy:

“Starting Strength” is a solid program. You can never go wrong with focusing on squats, presses and deadlifts. How’s the lifting going? Any aspirations for competing, or are you just looking to get stronger and in better shape?

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Billy Broas June 22, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Hey Todd,

No aspirations for competition at the moment but who knows what the future holds. I think there should be a craft beer league for weight lifting. That would put us on a level playing field.

The program is great. I’ve always been a big fan of compound lifts vs doing 10 different types of bicep curls. When I saw that this program was based around those concepts I knew it was for me. It’s getting pretty tough now, but if I need motivation I give the Rippetoe quotes a read which are also fucking hilarious: http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/Wit_and_Wisdom_of_Mark_Rippetoe

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Colin Enquist June 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I have done this once a year the last three years, but I give myself a one day exception rule (but just for a pint or two not to get crazy) in case of a one-off beer I’ll only get to try then. You should try the beer workout I do in the summer. For each beer (or cocktail) you drink you run 1KM. Again with a one day exception rule that doesn’t count to the total. It forces you to run about 10-15KM per week if you drink like I do.

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Billy Broas June 27, 2013 at 4:40 pm

A KM per beer – man you’re brutal Colin lol. I’d would literally die after GABF.

Cool you’ve been doing the 30 days off for a few years. More people do this than I thought!

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Rob August 7, 2013 at 9:20 am

I did the “no alcohol for a month”in January of this year. Of course, New Years Day we went to huge New Years brunch and I couldnt believe how many times I was offered Mimosa, wine, beer, cocktails…everything. I did this because co-worker (whos a big time beer guy) said he was doing it so I said, “I’ll do it too”. He quit after 4 days, I kept going. I can’t say I felt better but definitely figured out that I don’t have any physical cravings. Oh yeah…like that Keezer collar too.
~Rob

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Billy Broas August 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Congrats on going the full month Rob, and glad you like the keezer!

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Max August 10, 2013 at 8:12 pm

A month is a good amount of time to take a break. I’ve had friends do the same and they feel good at the end. Just be careful, once you’ve gone 30 days your tolerance is not the same. I had a buddy have 3 beers and already was feeling the effects.

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Billy Broas August 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Oh yea, my tolerance was crap afterwards. Happy to say it’s back now though!

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