Sep. 18th, 2009

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…Is that he has only (just) published five novels. I’ve read several of them: Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, but also Deception Point and the absolutely hilarious Digital Fortress¹. I have, since I first read him, suggested that he is the literary equivalent of MacDonalds food: Cheap, convenient, easy to cram down, requires no real (further) processing—but it’s bad for you, and while I won’t condemn anyone for reading it (after all, I have), I might think less of someone to whom it is more than an occasional guilty pleasure…

So how has this man made a name for himself without writing dozens upon dozens of books? And, if he can sell so many copies of each poorly-researched and ill-written book, why doesn’t he write more?

Dan Brown fun: The Telegraph has a list of twenty(ish) of his clumsiest phrases. Slate has a Dan Brown novel plot generator.

¹ The most egregious and memorable mistakes (determined by being the ones I can still remember) are the following—it should here be kept in mind that this is a book that puts on airs of being intelligent, and has cryptography at the very core of the plot:

  • Brown cannot seemingly tell bits and bytes apart. 64-bit keys and 64-character keys really aren’t the same.

  • By far the worst: The characters make constant reference to the Bergofsky Principle: Loosely, every type of encryption can be broken by brute force. In fact, an unbreakable encryption algorithm was known at least by 1913: The Vernam One-Time Pad.

  • This horrifies me: When Googling the phrase, I actually found an attempt at a technical paper that makes reference to the “Bergofsky Principle”!

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Midas Touch Ancient Ale from Dogfish Head brewery. Quite apart from the taste, the story behind it may make it the coolest beer I’ve ever had. As Dogfish puts it,

This recipe is the actual oldest-known fermented beverage in the world! It is an ancient Turkish recipe using the original ingredients from the 2700 year old drinking vessels discovered in the tomb of King Midas. Somewhere between wine & mead; this smooth, sweet, yet dry ale will please the Chardonnay of beer drinker alike.

And elsewhere:

Together, we bring ancient brewing history back to life. The first beer we created together is ourMidas Touch. This recipe is based on molecular evidence found in a Turkish tomb believed to have belonged to King Midas. The beer is brewed with honey, white Muscat grapes, and saffron.

If Wikipedia is to be trusted, it may not be exactly true, but pretty close:

In 1969, archaeologists connected with the University of Pennsylvania opened a chamber tomb at the heart of the Great Tumulus (height 53m, diameter about 300m) on the site of ancient Gordion (modern Yassihöyük, Turkey), where there are more than 100 tumuli of different sizes and from different periods. They discovered an early eighth century BC royal burial, complete with remains of the funeral feast and "the best collection of Iron Age drinking vessels ever uncovered". […] On a wooden bedstead in the corner of the chamber lay a skeleton of a man 1.59m in height and about 60 years old. In the room there were decorated furniture and panels plus many vessels with grave offerings. Though no identifying texts were associated with the site, it is popularly dubbed the "Tomb of Midas" (Penn). Later investigations showed that this funerary monument could not have been constructed after the Cimmerian invasion in the early seventh century BC. Therefore, it is now believed to be the monument for an earlier king than Midas.

Well, it may not actually be Midas’s tomb, but it’s still a beer reconstructed from molecular evidence from a 2,700-year-old drinking vessel, and that’s pretty damn cool in my books.

As for the beer itself…well, ideally you should try it!, or failing that, read the reviews on Beer Advocate where people actually know what they are talking about. I would agree that it’s halfway between beer and mead, and that it’s somewhat dry, and that it’s one of those beers that are intriguingly different in its finish from its start…but for all that, and for all that it’s halfway to mead, I have to say that part of what I find interesting and remarkable is that it’s still pretty similar to things that I’ve tried—not that I’ve had anything quite like it before, but this is a 2,700-year-old style of beer; something entirely outré would not have been surprising!

The only thing bothering me is that they make no mention of the fermentation process, so I cannot but suspect that it was made with yeast cultivars, whereas I’m pretty sure that 2,700 years ago, they were probably still relying on wild yeasts. I wonder how big a difference this has made for the flavour… All the same, a subtle and interesting beer to drink and a wonderful beer to contemplate.


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Petter Häggholm

April 2016

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