In much of the country, seasonal darkness and precipitation has fully set in. For humans, that tends to spell hibernation (and bingeing Netflix). For mushrooms and other members of the fungi kingdom (I’m looking your way, truffles), it’s the time to shine and a call to action.
The culinary world has long adored the earthy, forest-kissed flavors of chanterelles, oyster mushrooms, morels, and more. Every good restaurant seems to have a story, at least from its formative years, involving the owner or chef making some kind of back-alley deal with the resident mycologist and forager for the freshest ‘shrooms out there.
It took a while to get to craft beer — and to be fair, it’s still a small slice of the brewing pie — but there are some options. Brewers are honing in on the many qualities the wide spectrum of mushrooms bring to the table, from soft and subtle to rich and powerful. As such, the styles of beer they tend to share a recipe with are just as wide-reaching, from lighter ales to heftier porters and strong beers.
Like a kelpie (you don’t taste the kelp so much as maybe get a hit of salt) or oyster stout (same), a good mushroom beer isn’t all that mushroom-y. There’s usually en extra earthy or savory kick of some kind, for sure, but it tends to play passenger to the malt and hop bills.
Fortunately, a good mushroom beer promotes hibernation. It’s a partnership worth exploring this winter as you broaden your beer-drinking palate and look for a little assist as you wind down an evening and throw on your favorite pajamas.
Want to be a fun guy? Here are four mushroom beers to try.
Longstanding Oregon brewery Rogue brews up a different batch of its holiday seasonal each year. The 2019 is the best yet, a strong ale made with flavorful candy cap mushrooms. It’s deep, maple-y, but not overly rich or strong. It’s a great way to showcase a type of fungi that are often used in dessert dishes like custards and brûlées. Try it with a cookie or two.
Austin brewery Jester King has made a habit of making great beer with foraged adjuncts and other wild ingredients. This one is made with oyster mushrooms and smoked sea salt. It’s almost a bashful brew, coming in at less than 5% ABV, but the round savory notes come through with real tasty force. The umami character many associate with oyster mushrooms comes through nicely.
Scratch is a farmhouse operation out of Illinois that likes to dabble in mushroom concoctions. The brewery is known to thrown fungi-themed beer gatherings at its headquarters. This one is the first in the lineup that it ever bottled, wearing a handsome label and showing flavors of dried fruit and fresh bread.
It should be no surprise that another Oregon brewery made the cut. The damp Pacific Northwest is a mushroom mecca. Breakside’s riff is a head-ringer, a Russian Imperial Stout also made with candy caps. It’s decadent, with brown sugar notes and a subtle sherry-like quality. It’s also part of the larger and quite creative Oligarch barrel-aged series.
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