Thursday, November 20, 2014

Brewing With Local Hops / Brewer's Gold Pale Ale - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Pale Ale
Brewed: 10.21.14
Kegged On: 7.31.14
ABV: 6.2%

Appearance: pale orange/gold, good clarity, moderate head
Smell: mild fruit medley, melon, berry, floral, mild earth, mild spice
sweet mild fruits, melon, berry medley, floral/citrus note in finish, low bitterness
Mouthfeel: medium body, low-med carbonation, clean finish

I still don't think anyone fully understands why hops became the unquestioned poster-child of the revitalized beer movement. Logically, I suppose, it had to be something; something to focus on, to differentiate these new beers from the mass-market old. Water wouldn't work; too mundane. Yeast (and bacteria) are finally getting their day in the sun, but brewers have always had a habit of minimizing their importance, or misunderstanding it altogether. So it had to be either grain or hops.

I've noticed, through working at Beacon Homebrew and leading brewing classes and workshops this year: people just gravitate toward hops. Growing them, brewing with them, making tea with them, making pillows out of them, filling bouncy castles with them, and so on. Grain, for whatever reason, doesn't inspire much fascination. (And in fact, a lot of people will look at a bucket of barley malt and ask: "Are those hops?") New York has a rich history of hop growing, and the hop bines are finally returning to the region. I've talked to dozens of people growing hops that don't even know how to brew beer; or who have come to a brewing class to learn how to brew, primarily because they just want to grow hops and need something to do with them. Hops catch and hold people's attention. And I guess, to be fair, hops are considerably more exciting and odd (and aromatic) up close than a barley kernel is.

So in the future, a lot of us are going to have local hops available to brew with. Many of you are probably growing them yourselves. I've made a few different beers with different local hops since this harvest, and have been trying to get a feel for this growing but immature category.

It's often difficult to explain why 'local', when it comes to hops, doesn't work quite the same way as 'local' when it comes to the quality of produce. Freshness is important with hops, obviously, but a few weeks discrepancy isn't going to be nearly so important as how they're packaged. The big growers in the Pacific Northwest aren't some agri-corp pressing hop pellets made from pure GMO gluten and MSG out of molds in a factory — they are farmers with a ton of experience who really know what they're doing, because they've been doing it for a while. Most home-growers and small farms with a couple plants are still gaining that expertise. It's important to make a distinction between hops grown for fun, to be maybe thrown in a wet-hop beer in the fall, and hops expected to be put to use on a regular basis throughout the brewing year. There's more to well-handled hops than simply throwing them in a vacuum sealer. Me and a few friends got Cascade hops from a local grower that didn't seem to have been properly dried; once in the wort and beer, they had a near-magical ability to clog everything they touched. I've never seen hops have such a clingy, magnetic, port-stuffing ability — I was half afraid they would stick to me and smother me in my sleep.

But the main concern when brewing with local hops, I think, is that hops take a number of years to mature, and so much of what's out there is still quite young, and therefore mild. This is simply the nature of a fledgling industry, and means that the next few years, and the next decade especially, will be very exciting. Young hop farms are finding what grows best, and experimenting with new breeds like Neomexicanus and Tahoma. We'll start to see more variation between the same hops grown and adapted to different regions. Even between Eastern and Western NY, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, something as classic as Cascade will no doubt taste subtly different from farm to farm.

But for now, local hops are still finding their footing, as would be expected. Those Cascade hops (the cloggers), they basically disappeared into everything brewed with them. I brewed a wet hop ale with a large basket full of fresh-off-the-vine hop cones — of another variety, from another farm — that tasted like a kolsch. Good flavors, nothing weird, but just super mild. Again, these are all hop plants that have a lot of maturation to do. Give them a couple years, and hopefully they'll bear their own uniquely local flavors.

The best beer I've brewed with local hops so far is one that, oddly enough, uses an old and under-appreciated variety. You rarely hear any talk of Brewer's Gold as a flavor/aroma hop, but doing a single hop with this variety has been on my docket for a couple years now. It wasn't as high priority as brewing with exciting new stuff like Azacca, but I suspected BG had potential. As juicy and dank hop flavors didn't become acceptable until a couple decades ago, I've always assumed some of those past-century hops utilized heavily in early American brewing had more going on than we modern Citra-lovers realize. How could so many people describe Ballantine India Pale Ale as tasting like a modern IPA, when it couldn't have used modern hops? Cascade didn't just pop up out of thin air; it was part of an evolution in American hop terroir.

Well, Brewer's Gold is a worthy hop, if this batch is any indication. These particular hops (leaf, from the 2014 harvest) are from Camps Road Farm, the first modern commercial hop farm in Connecticut. In a super light and clean pale ale, yes, they are mild, but not in the sense of some of others I've used — not in the sense that they don't give off much flavor. It's just that the character is not exaggerated or aggressively bold in any particular direction; it seems like a summary of hop flavors, an encapsulation of a whole bunch of different things, none of which are turned up to 11. Which, it turns out, makes me for a very nice and very drinkable beer; I'm enjoying this far more than many IPAs on the market with a more intensely pungent character. It's just that I'm having an insanely difficult time pinning specific flavor descriptions upon it. Adjectives just slide off every note that I grasp at. I can barely get more specific than "fruit(?)". Maybe, uh.... floral? ... Hoppy? It might be one of the hardest-to-describe beers that I've made. But quite possibly, that intrigue is a big part of what's keeping me interested, too. It's complexities are on the subtle side, but there are certainly complexities.

In the right context, in the right base beer, there's a lot still to be said for the overlooked flavors of the past, and for the new farms in old regions newly growing old hops. One new hop farm a town up from me found a thriving, vigorous bine of (at least) 100 year-old hops growing on its property. Obviously, I demanded a sample to brew with. What will hops that have been left to nature for at least a century taste like? I have no idea, but I can't wait to find out.

5.25 Gal., All Grain
Single infusion mash at 148 F
Fermented at 68 F in temp control fridge
OG: 1.058
FG: 1.010
ABV: 6.2%

85.7% [#9] Pilsner malt
9.5% [#1] wheat malt
4.8% [8 oz] Caramalt

Hop Schedule-
1 oz. Brewer's Gold @FWH
3 oz. Brewer's Gold @whirlpool
4 oz. Brewer's Gold dry hop for five days

Safale US-05 American Ale

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Crown Maple Strong Ale - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Crown Maple Strong Ale

Beer: Adirondack Cabin Breakfast
Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Strong Ale
Brewed: 6.23.14
Kegged On: 7.31.14
ABV: 9%

Appearance: bright orange/copper, good clarity, moderate head
Smell: sweet malts, caramel, treacle, earth, maple
Taste: sweet rich malts, earthiness, treacle, maple in finish
Mouthfeel: medium body, rich, low bitterness, relatively clean finish

Earlier this year, I was going to try to pitch some kind of article about how maple is the next pumpkin. I never got around to it, but if you need evidence supporting my theory, look at the explosion of maple-infused bourbons that came out of nowhere and then mark down on a Post-It Note somewhere that Bear Flavored was the source of the first observation of this trend so that, in the future, you will remember where to attribute proper credit when everyone starts catching on. Pumpkin is under heavy fire as we mark another year of pumpkin spice-flavored everything jumping multiple sharks, and what's next? Pumpkin jumping fermented Icelandic shark? Clearly, the culinary world is going to need a new trend to shamelessly exploit, and soon. And it's going to be maple.

Whether or not this is a good thing, the fact is: maple tastes good. It is a good taste. The flavor of it is good. Who doesn't like maple syrup? What kind of nerve would it take to strike some kind of anti-maple stance? You would be rightly labeled a heretic.

As such, of all the flavors that craft brewers / homebrewers like to throw in a beer, maple syrup is one of the few that sounds, off the cuff, like it might actually be a pretty good idea. Here is where that gets tricky: maple syrup is pretty much concentrated sugar, and as such, when you add it to a beer, it ferments. And after all of it ferments, it's essentially... well, no longer there. The flavor of maple syrup is much more volatile than other stuff like molasses, despite its deceptively dark and rich appearance. When brewing beer with maple syrup, you'll commonly read that you should use Grade B maple syrup, which has a stronger, less refined flavor that's not as appealing for most straight applications of the stuff, but works well in cooking or brewing situations. Unfortunately, this only goes so far. The truth of brewing with maple syrup is this: you have to use ungodly amounts of the stuff for it to have any real impact.

I've been chasing this whale (whaleshark?) for a couple years now. My last attempt was hilariously disastrous and yet sort of intriguing thanks to the otherworldly potency of spruce extract (though after a while that beer started to taste like Dr. Pepper and I'm hoping I stumble across a bottle or two of it that got misplaced because I'd love to try it with like five years of age on it). Paradoxically, maybe, this is part of the reason why maple seems so innocent and inoffensive to me in this context. It's essentially impossible for it to become over-bearing and take over the profile of a beer, to a degree that it's actually really difficult to get a beer to taste strongly of maple at all without cheating.

The most obvious strategy therefore being to simply add Lots of Maple Syrup, and add it late in the process. Primary fermentation can scrub out more delicate flavors (this is why we dry-hop), so adding the maple syrup a week or two in helps retain a bit of nuance, theoretically. Following the same logic, you want to ferment on the cooler side. (It just this second occurs to me that it would be interesting to try this as a lager). But still, your main weapon for maple flavor is simply going to be the amount of syrup you add — I just don't see any way around this. This beer got about 3 lbs., or slightly less than a third of a gallon, of Grade B maple syrup. I then keg-primed the beer with 4 more ounces of syrup for carbonation. This strategy works reasonably well, though you're still unlikely to get a beer that tastes like straight-up maple syrup unless you use, well, even more, some ludicrous amount that essentially turns the beverage into a maplewine-beer blend kind of deal (don't think I won't try this). While a good chunk of the fermentable sugars (over 20%, in this case) were maple syrup, the maple flavor is quite subtle, a bit in the nose and a suggestion in the mid-palate of the beer, but never a note that's super, distinctly maple. Interestingly, in fact, I would say the fermented-out maple character here evokes a molasses flavor. Though I guess that makes sense: the sweetness gone, a much more earthy, rootsy (?), pungent character is all that's left.

The base beer underneath doesn't need much comment. I kept it simple and relatively light in color, wanting all the maple character I could summon to shine through. Flaked oats ensured there would be a good amount of body without cloying sweetness, and Munich malt provides a bit of clean malt character without, again, cloying sweetness. One pound of smoked wheat malt added a bit of body and, frankly, no detectable smoke character (so it could either be upped significantly, or dropped). No caramel malts here, no thank you — strong ales like this always push what I can handle enough as it is. I really detest cloying sweetness, can you tell? Ironic in a maple syrup beer, but that's how it is.

Subjectively, I think the results are quite tasty, but more critically, and hypothetically, there definitely could be More Maple Character, in a perfect world. Subjectively, again, this may be one of my favorite "strong ale" or barleywine-type beers that I've had in years — it's generally not high in my list of favorite styles, so there's some competitive advantage to be had by anything a bit different, but I really like this direction this takes the genre in. Just enough character from that syrup to be unique, but all-in-all a very strong representation from the base beer: clean, malty, not overly cloying, a rich(ish) indulgence that's a bit too drinkable for its high ABV.

Of important note, though: my strategy of adding Lots of Maple Syrup is likely uneconomical for brewers who are not maple farmers or friends with maple farmers. One third of a gallon is about 42 ounces (maple is actually easiest to weigh, I found, so again: 3 lbs. or 1.36 kg), but any way you slice it, that's an awfully expensive addition. Way more than the cost of the rest of your ingredients, most likely. And frankly, I would suggest adding even more, if you can. This right here is exactly why you don't see that many maple beers on the market: it can quickly become prohibitively expensive without enough payoff to be worthwhile.

But then again, sometimes you just have to treat yourself, right? A 5 gallon batch of maple strong ale with half a gallon of maple syrup might sound expensive outright, but it's still cheaper than buying a similar amount of a similar beer commercially. This is one of the main advantages of brewing at a homebrew scale: even when you splurge, you don't have to splurge that much.

Of course, I must now admit that I sweet-talked my way into doing a brewing demo for Crown Maple at Madava Farms, a producer of fine maple syrup in the Hudson Valley. This had its advantages, ie. maple syrup. And also real life taste-tasters! After brewing the test batch over the summer, I returned to Crown Maple the other week and poured samples for visitors to the farm at their harvest festival. The reception was I think universally positive, though I'm always the first to point out that the reception to any free beer regardless of quality is usually universally positive. Regardless, no one spit it back out in my face, and so I must thank Crown Maple for the syrup and the opportunity to get some good feedback on an adventurous brew-concept.

5.0 Gal., All Grain
Single infusion mash at 156 F
Fermented at 66 F in temp control fridge
OG: 1.078
FG: 1.010
ABV: 9%

35.7% [#5] 2-row malt
21.4% [#3] flaked oats
21.4% [#3] Grade B maple syrup (added after primary)
14.3% [#2] Munich malt
7.1% [#1] oak-smoked wheat

Hop Schedule-
1 oz. Northern Brewer @60

Safale US-05 American Ale
London ESB (pitched at addition of maple syrup)

Keg conditioned with 4 oz. maple syrup

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Well Fall Sure Has Flown By, But I Took Some Pretty Pictures, At Least ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Well, the time is really slipping away from me again. I have not the slightest clue where the month of October went, but I do know that I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off, and am generally so exhausted that I couldn't be bothered to come up with a clever joke in place of the tired cliche "chicken with its head cut off." How many times have any of you actually seen a chicken minus its head, let alone one still able to run around? I'm surrounded by chickens on a fairly regular basis and I've never personally seen this occurrence. The whole thing just doesn't make sense. Anyway, I digress.

I've been awfully terrible at social media lately, and uh blogging too I guess, and I apologize sincerely to anyone who has emailed me and didn't get a response for like 10 days. In my defense, I am a terrible person. Further dampening my social media presence lately, I enjoy doing things like holing up in the woods of Vermont for 5 days like a crazy hermit. You'll be happy to know that I got a lot of writing done, though, which was the main goal. I did get to try a few of the local beers, as well.

How is the book going, you ask? Oh, well thank you for asking that. It turns out, writing a book is a lot of work! Like, an insane amount of work. So is a novelty diet of eating only fermented food for a year to provide a narrative backbone to, hypothetically, a book. Only two more months to go! I'm hoping a good chunk of the book will be written by the end of the year as well, as the plan is to turn in the first draft around spring time. I'm liking what I have down so far, though there are many days I stare into the void of Work Yet To Be Done and the very fabric of the universe opens up before me, a horrifying plateau spanning infinity, and I can see Time Itself. More than that I can't say, but I'm particularly happy with my chapter titles. If you'd like a preview of the book, an evening of fun tales of fermented shark meat, enriched by an "open bar" of sorts of my Bear Flavored creations, there's still time to sign up for the super special private reading event thing I'm going to have next spring.

Speaking of which, you also have a few more days to pre-order a signed copy of aforementioned book. Both fantastic and unbeatable deals end this week, so reserve your signed copy of The Fermented Man while you can. While extended exposure to the contents of The Fermented Man have not been shown to cure illness, aid digestion, prevent vomiting, or counteract insomnia, you will be hard-pressed to find much peer-reviewed evidence suggesting that it causes these issues, either.

Obviously, you may have noticed that I stopped doing reviews some time ago. I'm not going to bring those back, but I still do very much enjoy taking pretty pictures of pretty-looking beers and being all artsy and stuff. I'm considering every now and then just doing a beertography round-up similar to this post. Maybe with super short (couple sentence) thoughts about the beer. I don't know if, like, that's something you guys would be into.

Also coming up: lots of recipe posts I have to find the time to write, somehow. So many saisons, new yeast experiments, more single hop experiments, and this week, a maple strong ale. Plus much more exciting stuff further down the road.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

No-Hop, No-Boil, Lime-Zest & Kiwi Gose - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Beer: Alagoas
Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Gose
Brewed: 8.05.14
Kegged On: 9.06.14
ABV: 4.2%

Appearance: golden yellow, slight haze, ample head, good retention
Smell: lime, citrus, lemon, lactic sour, mild funk
Taste: lime, lemon, upfront lactic sour, rounder soft fruits, tangy acidity, slight salty finish
Mouthfeel: high carb, light body, crisp, puckering lingering sour in finish

Perhaps being the Fermented Man has its advantages as far as my control of bacteria, or perhaps the lactobacillus strains I welcomed into my house last year have gotten a whole lot more comfortable since I began inviting so many of their peers to party. Whatever the reason, I took an even bigger gamble with this summer's "quick sour" beer, but in spite of the added difficulty, the result is far more delicious than any of last year's attempts. If I'm feeling really generous, I might even go ahead and call this one of my favorite batches of sour beer that I've made.

Why did I decide to do a sour, salty gose with kiwis and lime zest to be ready just in time for late September? Let's pretend it's not just because I don't have very good organizational skills to keep my brewing schedule on track and say it's a f*** you to July-released pumpkin beers via reverse seasonal creep. Sure.

There was actually a brief window in which I considered dumping this batch, funnily enough. Not because it tasted bad or anything, but because I thought my sheer, glaring negligence must have ruined it in some way. I had always wanted to do this as a gose with no hops added and no boil — just run straight off the sparge into a keg. I would then purge the keg of oxygen because kegs are really great for that kind of thing, and oxygen is bad for sour mashes and can lead to domination by bacteria that make your beer smell like puke. I've tested out various methods to avoid this with last year's Bearliner Weisse and a few other previous brews, but the basic strategy is pretty straightforward: avoid oxygen when doing something like a sour mash and using bacteria from raw grain. 

A keg is the perfect way to purge oxygen from headspace and keep it out. But you'll have to excuse my short-sightedness here: this summer was, quite frankly, a bit rough. I was a little fried, a lot stressed, distracted, and disoriented. And it didn't occur to me until I already had the not-boiled wort in the keg: what would happen if the bacteria started kicking off a lot of CO2?

My original plan beyond this point was not to rely on just the lactobacillus from the grains (whatever survived the mash, since I wasn't boiling anything at any point), but to pitch some of my house culture to ensure ample souring. As this was all happening in early August, I even thought about putting the keg of souring wort in my car for a day, which was the hottest location I could think of at the time. But okay: what if I put the keg in my car and it started fermenting furiously? Not all strains of lactobacillus produce much CO2 — there are homofermentative strains and heterofermentative strains, but it's hard to know which you have, especially when, like me, you planned to pitch a blend of house cultures. And while I could check on the keg fairly frequently to pull the pressure relief valve, I suddenly didn't feel very comfortable about those sporadic purgings of CO2 build-up being the only thing between me and a car bomb.

So I stalled, kind of got busy and distracted and unfocused, and the wort / beer sat in the keg in my apartment for a few days without any additional microbes pitched. Once or twice a day I would pull the pressure relief valve to vent any built-up gas that might be accumulating, should some spontaneous fermentation be occurring. After a day or two it was clear that there was no gas building up, and therefore likely not much fermentation happening. Should I pitch bacteria into the keg anyway and just keep on pulling the pin, hoping that would be enough? Or should I just transfer the whole thing into a bucket, even though that maybe defeats the point of my oxygen-avoidance plan in the first place? And should I be worried about some sort of unfriendly microbe taking up residence in the wort due to the multiple days it sat without fermentation to ward off hostiles? Cthulhu knows I've read plenty about botulism this year, and still haven't been able to determine exactly why it never seems to be a concern in unfermented wort. While debating the safety of this batch — and yes, even briefly considering dumping it — I reminded myself that many breweries buy wort and ship it in sealed containers. In Europe especially, a lot of this packaged wort is destined for lambic production, where the full onset of fermentation may not occur for a few days. There are definitely situations out there where it sounds like botulism should be a concern, and yet I've never heard of anyone dying of botulism from beer (have you?). My guess is that the pH of wort even before fermentation may already be too low or something. In either case, I had also added 14.5 grams of sea salt to this batch, it being a gose, and with that added buffer, I decided I'd once again embrace my destiny as a death-defying, botulism-dodging crazy-person badass and go for it.

[Editor's note: Speaking of which, while I have your attention — please consider pre-ordering my book, which will allow me to tackle even more crazy experiments, and allow you to read about them. In addition, if you'd like to drink some of my crazy experiments, such as this gose and many other sours, I'll be hosting a book reading preview party / fermentation sampling event next May. I will go out of my way to ensure epicness. Sign up for it now via my IndieGogo dealy. Okay, thanks, cheers, back to the brewing!]

The exact fermentation of this gose would be hard to replicate for anyone lacking the means to break into my apartment and steal some of the jars I keep sitting around, as much of my souring cultures are not available commercially, and, I'm guessing, have mutated quite a bit as I've maintained them and let them adapt to their new bear-focused environment. However, with this batch, I did introduce Lactobacillus brevis, newly available from Wyeast, to the cocktail. But in general, I've found that I'm getting a much cleaner, rounder, fuller lactic sourness from letting the lacto do its thing over time, rather than trying to pump it up for a frenzied, brief sour mash period.

As this entry is already getting long, I won't get into how brewers have this weirdly intense fear of letting lactobacillus survive in their beers... even brewers who are otherwise happy to embrace Brettanomyces. We'll save that one for another day. But as you may have noticed, this beer was never boiled or in any way pasteurized (other than from the temperature of the mash itself), and so the bacteria remained very much alive throughout and to the present. I don't find any danger of lactobacillus making the beer "too sour" or something; but then again, I like my Berliners and gose to have a very full tangy sourness. (For comparison, if you've had Westbrook Gose, I would say the sour character in this batch of Alagoas is very comparable). Nor does letting lactobacillus live require extended aging periods, in my experience. I always add Brettanomyces to my quick sours, and even so, they're done after about a month. Speaking of which: why add Brett when there's already so much going on here? The main danger of having an aggressive sourness in a beer like this is that Saccharomyces could stall out due to the pH level falling too low before it can fully attenuate. Brett is much more pH tolerant, and will help the beer finish out dry; at least, that's the idea. This finished out at 1.008, which might be on the high side for the style, but has the benefit of providing some body and balance that a drier version might otherwise lack.

Finally, what says "October" better than kiwis and lime zest? I had 2 lbs of kiwis sitting in my freezer for months that I was just waiting to use for something, and while I knew they wouldn't add much character (especially at that very low ratio — typically I'd add fruit at 1 lb per gal. or more) I figured I'd toss them in anyway. I added 2.8 grams of lime zest (and also squeezed out the juice from the limes into the beer as well), targeting about 200 ICUs based on Shaun Hill's scale. The plan was to add more, almost double that, but when I tried the beer a few days after that first addition of zest, the lime aroma was beautiful and the flavor perfectly subtle, supporting of the sourness, it was already exactly what I was looking for. Not wanting this to be an aggressively lime-forward beer, I decided to keep it at that lower dosage and went ahead and kegged the beer.

The result is the most crushable beer I have ever made, and a base I'm looking forward to trying with many other variations of fruit and zest.

BRB time for a keg-stand.

5.0 Gal., All Grain
Double infusion mash at 122 F / 148 degrees F
Fermented at room temp, 72 F
OG: 1.040
FG: 1.008
ABV: 4.2%

43% [#3] Pilsner malt
43% [#3] white wheat malt
14% [#1] special roast

Hop Schedule-

House Lactobacillus cultures
House Brettanomyces cultures
London Ale III

14.5 g sea salt
2 lbs. kiwi fruit
2.8 g lime zest
juice from 3 limes

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Pre-Sale and Private Reading / Rare Beer Night Invitation

Here is a link for you to click.

A few weeks ago I had a realization: I really needed to eat rotten shark meat before the end of the year.

A month or so previous I had eaten some Century Eggs that I'd acquired in Chinatown. These mucus-green, gelatin-like fermented eggs were  while surprisingly innocent in taste  almost certainly one of the most horrifying-looking foods I'd ever consumed. But they were fairly easy to acquire, and they definitely didn't smell like death incarnate. As far as bizarre and unusual fermented food traditions, they were fitting as a marker of the halfway point of my year. But I'd need something even more bizarre and challenging to end on. After all, while much of the mission of the book is to educate people on the ways microbes impact us and our food on an every-day basis — far more than most of us realize — part of the goal also is to illustrate what fermentation is. And what better way to illustrate how deep the magic of fermentation goes than to personally gag my way through one of the most pungent, unique, and intimidating foods in the world? Rotten shark meat from Iceland, for example. Truly, I understand the fundamentals of education.

Hákarl is made by burying the poisonous flesh of a Greenland shark in the ground for months. After fermentation, it is theoretically fit for human consumption, but retains some delightful properties: the high content of urea is gone, but an overwhelming odor of ammonia remains. For unfathomable reasons that I hope to get to the bottom of, this food has become a cherished delicacy in Iceland.

Various notable eaters-of-things have described hákarl as one of the most horrifying foods on earth. It's reputation for smelling like something that should kill you while not actually killing you is fairly impressive. One of my favorite descriptions from a hákarl-tryer will have to be paraphrased: like encountering a Dementor in the Harry Potter series, the experience is not only a terrifying experience in the present, but from that moment onward robs you of the ability to ever feel joy again.

Sadly, in spite of its popularity, hákarl is unavailable outside of Iceland. But we can all agree, I clearly must try this stuff for the book, which means I must go to Iceland for a few days at the end of the year, which means I am doing a pre-sale of my book to raise the money necessary to go to Iceland (because I am a writer, and therefore cannot afford trips to Iceland). I am happy to try hákarl so you don't have to, but it's going to take some planning and effort.

Another thing we can all agree on: crowd-funding is pretty silly, so I want to keep this as straight-forward as possible. Consider this no more than a pre-sale, if you want — a pre-sale which happens to ensure that a very fun chapter of the book can be written.

You can, right now, pre-order a copy of The Fermented Man, right here. So go ahead and ease your future self's purchasing obligations and avoid the tedious, dangerous experience of shopping online for books at Amazon. Instead, I will sign a copy of the book just for you, maybe even doodle a picture of a bear or a little anthropomorphic lactobacillus or something, and mail the book right to your address of choice (when it's released, of course).

Or, if you wish, consider it an invitation to a very fun book preview event I'll be holding next year (most likely in May, but exact date and location TBA), during which we will all enjoy a lovely sampling of various fermented foods and destroy my extensive collection of vintage Bear Flavored beverages, as well as several Very Special Kegs containing even more delicious beverages. I will regale those select few in attendance with tales of fermented shark meat, and great times will be had by all. (You will also get a signed copy of the book once it's out, of course). I'm going to pull a lot of strings for this event to make sure it's something special.

More details, of course, over on my IndieGoGo page.

So, lock down your signed copy of The Fermented Man now (it's going to be awesome), consider joining me for an Evening of Good Times (also awesome), and sleep better at night knowing that I'm going to try to put one of the most foul-smelling foods on earth down my mouth at the end of December.

I'm getting closer and closer to the end of the year, and the next few months will certainly be interesting. Thanks to everyone for your support and interest in the book, I can't wait to share it with all of you!

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