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Today I have the pleasure of hosting the fabulously geeky Micah Joel! He's here to tell us about his experiments with Sumerian beer.

micah-joel-broken-tabletYou know what’s good? Beer. Mmmmm, beer.

I grew up in the midwest, where they proudly served “both kinds” of beer, so I always assumed beer was this terrible fizzy yellow stuff that tasted like watery floor cleaner. I have since learned the error of my ways.

Maybe that’s part of the appeal of the Sumerians to me. There’s a raging debate whether they developed agriculture to support their beer, or beer to support their agriculture. But either way, it definitely wasn’t yellow, nor terribly fizzy.

Sumerian Beer Experiment #2

Beer and bread are closely linked. A twice-baked bread called bappir is a key ingredient in this brew. Take a bunch of barley flour, add in some water and date paste. If you have any edible seeds, go ahead and toss them in. Spices? Go for it. Mix into a thick dough, and bake. Flip ‘em over and bake again. Now you’ve got bappir.

Special note: to be really authentic, be sure to include plenty of barley husks in the mix, and various bits of grit and pebbles that broke away while hand-milling the flour. Really adds to the crunch.

I hypothesize that brewers might have used heated stones to warm up the mash (that is to say, the not-yet-beer) formed by mashing up the bappir with fresh water from the canal.

Leave this rich wort exposed to air and I guarantee something will take root in it. Thanks to Louis Pasteur we now know about yeasts and other microorganisms. Some make better beers than others. But you can be sure that the best brewers had a “magic” stirring paddle that carried along the best strains that only they could impart.

Best drunk through a tall straw to filter out the majority of the gunk and floaters. But hey! It’s still beer. A deserved award for inventing cities, agriculture, and metalworking.

So Sumerian brewing actually provides a significant plot point for the modern-day character stuck in bronze age Sumer in my novel Broken Tablet which is available on Amazon here -> https://www.amazon.com/Broken-Tablet-Bronze-Travel-Revolution-ebook/dp/B01G4YM4RW

You can also join my reading list at http://micahjoel.info/geeks/ for news and updates, and a free story from the Broken Tablet universe featuring, you guessed it, a detailed look into the Sumerian brewing process, plus a gender role reversal for good measure.

Bottoms up!

Micah Joel's books combine geeky characters with cutting-edge technology, whether modern or ancient. Micah works as a professional geek in Silicon Valley. If you use the internet, chances are you've run some of his code.

My first day at my own WotF event, absorbing knowledge from Tim Powers.
My first day at my own WotF event, absorbing knowledge from Tim Powers.


This has been a month of exhaustion and delight. I had the honor of traveling down to Los Angeles once more to help this year's Writers of the Future winners find their feet. And, I'll be honest with you, these people are amazing. You're going to see some truly fantastic work from them in the future.

Before I left for Writers of the Future, I turned in the Scorched Continent Book Two, Break the Chains, to my agent and editor. By the time I'd returned home I'd learned that both of them loved it, and had some excellent notes to kick off my final round of revisions. I'm working on those revisions now. Break the Chains is due out sometime in October, so it should be available for pre-order soon. It continues the adventures of Detan, Ripka, and Pelkaia, and explores how they've grown and changed since the events of Steal the Sky. I've endeavored to make it mostly stand-alone, so that hapless bookstore browsers can stumble into the series with book two and not lose their footing.


Where do I even begin cataloging this month's inspiration? The Writes of the Future workshop week was an intense experience, even as a returning winner, but it is so full of love and passion that it was absolutely spring-loaded with inspiration. If there's one thing I came away with from that week it was that, despite all of genre's kerfuffles, we're all here because we love the stories - and the imaginations - that make up our community.

A Story Recommendation

I'm going to be a bit cheeky here and recommend a story I've recommended before. This story was one of my favorites from 2015, and alas didn't make it onto any awards shortlists. Awards are all fine and dandy, but readers are what writers need - so if you haven't yet, please spare a few moments and check out: This Wanderer, in the Dark of the Year by Kris Millering.


Is it really March already? It must be, because the mustard-weed has bloomed and my eyes will just. not. stop. watering. But hey, bonus: the hills behind my house are finally green again, and I'm not living life huddled under a blanket, hurrah!

Writing-wise, I'm turning in book two of the Scorched Continent series next week! It's been done awhile, but I've been fiddling with word choice and such. It's always hard to let a story go, but deadlines certainly help.

Obligatory award season recap:

With the Hugo Awards opening for nominations, I've gathered information on my eligibility over in this post. The short version is: Of Blood and Brine is eligible for the Short Story category, I'm in my second year of Campbell eligibility, and Steal the Sky won't be eligible until next year.

Of Blood and Brine is also eligible for the Locus Awards, and anyone can vote on their website!


I've been on a baking kick lately, and also obsessed with matcha. Hence, this matcha cake with with lemon white chocolate buttercream. So good, so delightfully green.

Mini matcha cake with lemon white chocolate buttercream.
Mini matcha cake with lemon white chocolate buttercream.

A Story Recommendation

Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer - I've been playing too much Neko Atsume while obsessively researching AI. This story could not have hit me at a better time.