Craft breweries have sprung up all over the country. Home brewing kits are flying off the shelves of supply stores. Brewers and beer drinkers are always seeking out that next unique brew. How about if you fill your next pint glass with a mushroom beer?
Weirder Things Have Happened
While a mushroom beer is definitely a bold choice, they are not as uncommon as you might think. Mushroom brews can be found at craft breweries all across the country. From New Hampshire to Oregon and California to Colorado, just like mushrooms seems to magically appear overnight, new mushroom beers are popping up all over.
The number of mushroom beers does not nearly rival the 12,000 different types of pumpkin beers. However, the list of over 100 mushroom beers on Untappd is still quite impressive. Yeah, I know it sounds strange to order a draught of fungus flavored ale, but, with all of that variety surely everyone could find something they like.
So, what can you expect when you take that first sip of a brew infused with fungi? Think about an earthy, umami beverage a little more malty than some brews. The malt helps to balance out the sugars in the mushrooms. Don’t expect a glass of beer that has an overpowering mushroom flavor.
There are definitely distinct flavors between different types of mushroom beers, just as there are many different flavors of mushrooms.
Popular mushroom beer flavors unpacked
Chanterelle beer will have a pleasantly buttery taste with a light apricot flavor. At the other end of the spectrum, reishi brew will entice the meat-lover with a savory, beefy flavor. Candy cap beer has a distinct maple syrup flavor (could be good in fall beer), and shiitake’s are… well, a bit more “earthy” (yes, like dirt).
Fancy Frothy Fungi
If you want to take your mushroom beer drinking to the next level – try truffle beer. But be ready to shell out some cash for this fancy fungus concoction. According to A.V. Club, bottles of truffle beer go for $120-$200. That’s right my friends – $200 for one bottle of beer. That is a huge stretch from good old Natural Light!
Just imagine truffles in a beer. That sounds pretty amazing (and decadent).
Infusing the wort (the liquid drained from a mash of malt and hops) with dried mushrooms or mushroom powder is a fairly simple process. So why aren’t more brewers using the flavors of fungi in their brew?
Part of the reason might be the very thing that we love about craft beers. Craft brewers often use locally sourced ingredients in their beers. Locally grown, foraged mushrooms can sometimes be hard to find in large quantities and the may also be only available seasonally.
Make Your Own Mushroom Brew
1. Keep it Local
Home brewers are especially proud of creating unrivaled brews. They’re always trying to one-up each other with their own funky creations. If you want to be the ultimate mushroom home brewer, try growing mushrooms at home or foraging for your own local variety. You could even take the Beers Made by Walking challenge to create a beer that is made by taking a walk out in nature, near where you live. Then you make your brew with ingredients that you collect along the way. This could definitely make for a very unique batch of beer.
2. Just What the Doctor Ordered
You can even select mushrooms that have medicinal properties. It doesn’t get much better than a beer that is actually healthy for you. (Heck, I have already been using that excuse to drink beer anyway.)
Many varieties of mushrooms have been proven to have medicinal effects. Why not add one of these varieties to your next batch of homebrew?
3. Be Prepared
Besides deciding where to source your mushrooms and which mushrooms to use in your brew, you have another big decision to make. What type of mushroom preparation will you use in your mushroom beer?
You can choose from fresh mushrooms, dried mushrooms, or mushroom powder. If you decide to use fresh mushrooms just make sure they are cleaned properly. Although, many suggest that mushroom powder provides the simplest solution. Powder is also an easy way to experiment with combining different varieties of mushrooms. If you decide to buy mushroom powder, consider the source. The quality of mushroom powder will have an effect on the final flavor of your mushroom beer.
4. Don’t Be Bitter
Now that you have decided on your mushroom flavors, where you are going to get all of your fungi and how they will be prepared for brewing, it’s time to start experimenting.
As you begin playing around with mushroom beer home brews, consider the bitterness of the mushrooms you are using. Hops are added to beer to give it a bitterness factor. Mushrooms can actually be used as a substitute for some of the hops.
To know how the mushroom might affect the bitterness of the beer, just give the fresh mushroom a try. Make sure you pay attention to the level of bitterness you taste in the fruit of the mushroom. There will be a direct correlation to the amount of bitterness the mushroom will add to your beer.
5. Get Creative
Now, imagine the possible flavor combinations you could create by combining different types of mushrooms into your beer. Beer & Brewing Magazine describes a mushroom ale created from a combination of four types of mushrooms. Champignon, maitake, shiitake and portabella mushrooms are combined into a powder that is infused into the mushroom beer.
All of these mushrooms are sourced from Pennsylvania which also happens to house the mushroom capital of the country, Kennett Square. Edible mushroom varieties can be found all over the United States, though. So, get out and find the combination that might be right out your back door.
Whether you decide to take on the challenge of creating your own mushroom beer at home or if you want to try a brew from a craft brewer, you are sure to have an experience. Don’t be another one of the masses who walk up to the fire pit with a pumpkin beer in the fall. Be a trendsetter. Be the fun guy who brings the six pack of mushroom beer to the campout.
And on that note… I am sure feeling thirsty. I think I will head for the beer fridge!
Would you ever try a mushroom beer? Leave a comment below with why or why not.