Move over, Slim Jim, there's a new beef jerky in town. Enter Uncle Andy's Jerky, the all-natural, sustainable snack created in Fort Collins by Andy Hanenberg. The 32-year-old entrepreneur from New Jersey started in the jerky world in 2012, inspired by CrossFit and meat-focused paleo diets.
"I started looking at jerky and thought that I could make cleaner, more flavor-driven jerky than most of what's on the market," he says. The other driving force was using store credit to purchase a meat slicer at his local Harbor Freight, thus providing an easy way to prepare the product. "After my first batch of jerky, I realized it was what I wanted to do, and I have never been so passionate about anything in my life."
Three years after this "aha" moment, Hanenberg has four flavors on the market: Bandito Loco Spicy Coffee, Southern Gent Lemon Mint, Lumberjack Maple Bourbon and Tex's Tangy BBQ. To further his creative process in flavor combinations, Hanenberg has partnered with a local spice company and has taken a page from the craft-beer industry by releasing limited-edition batches. And if you have a flavor you're dying to taste in a dehydrated meat form, Hanenberg wants to hear from you, adding that he loves getting ideas from fans — and some even come to fruition. That is exactly how his upcoming Boise's Mushroom Blue Cheese got its start.
We understand if you're dubious, but fans of stinky cheese should love the funky, umami-heavy outcome. Pair it with a glass of semi-sweet riesling or a saison and you have a lovely protein-filled snack. Hanenberg is asking jerky lovers for help in making this flavor a reality for all consumers through a Kickstarter campaign where a pledge of $7 gets you a first taste of the mushroom and blue-cheese jerky and helps seal the fate of this product on the market.
"Jerky has been dominated with teriyaki, original and hot, but I never liked those flavors," says Hanenberg, who started to think outside the jerky box by looking toward cookbooks for inspiration. "My thought is if you have a favorite meat dish, there is no reason you can’t have the same flavor combos on jerky."
Each two-ounce portion comes in a whimsical bag featuring the flavor's signature illustrated character: a cowboy, bandito, Southern gentleman, lumberjack or ox. And while each pack runs $6.99, you can feel good about your purchase given that Hanenberg stays away from artificial flavors and ingredients and sources his certified Angus beef from Texas — at least for now. He's currently looking for beef purveyors closer to Fort Collins that will still allow him to charge the current price, noting that he wants to bring as much business to his community as possible.
"When I chose Fort Collins as home base, there were many factors that came into play, like community, Colorado State University’s Animal Science and Food Science programs, proximity to the beef industry and so on," he says. "I look at these as amazing resources that I can tap to continually look at ways to raise healthier, happier cattle, improve ingredients and provide the best product possible for consumers."