By now, Coloradoans are plenty familiar with microbrews, which have become a major industry, popular drink of choice and a point of pride in the state.
Telluride will get its introduction to a mycobrew on Thursday, when the Telluride Mushroom Festival, Mountain Mushroom of South Carolina and Smuggler Joe’s unveil a small batch of beer infused with, yes, mushrooms.
Medicinal mushrooms, to be exact: this special red ale contains an extract of Turkey Tail, Reishi and Birch polypore mushrooms, which are hailed for their beneficial properties. This immune-boosting brew contains cancer-fighting agents, antibiotic and antiviral compounds, according to its creators — as well as the age-old attraction: alcohol.
“Every bottle has just about everything to cover the drinker,” said Tradd Cotter, a mushroom researcher, educator, grower and founder of Mountain Mushroom who helped develop the brew. “It’s a very small additive with big benefits. It’s going to be good.”
The beer will be released Thursday at 6 p.m. at the brewery. Cotter will be on hand to offer a short presentation on the making of the beer, and people can order up a tall glass of beneficial brew.
The beer came about after the Mushroom Festival approached TJ Daly, brewmaster at Smuggler Joe’s, about creating a special batch of mycobrew for this year’s festival. Since Cotter has been working on developing a technique for making mycobrews, he partnered with Daly to make it happen.
The mix of mushrooms and beer might sound off-putting to imbibers, and Cotter said many have tried without success to create a mushroom brew without a mushroomie flavor. But this batch was prepared with a method Cotter has come up with that aims at injecting beer with the benefits of mushrooms, minus the strong taste.
Daly didn’t have enough advance time to concoct a whole new beer for the project, so instead he used Smuggler Joe’s Road Rash Red, a lightly hopped ale with a mellow body that is popular among drinkers.
Instead of mixing the mushrooms directly into the beer’s ingredients early in the process, they created a tincture with the mushrooms separately and added it to the already-brewed beer. It has been aging for about a week with the infusion.
Daly noted that the whole process has been an experiment, but said the aim was to make a drinkable brew. The result, he said, starts off with maltiness, has some slight mushroom flavor in the middle and ends with a bit of sweetness.
“It’s pretty easy drinking, pretty mellow,” he said.
The process resulted in four kegs of the mycobrew — the beer will be unveiled on Thursday and will be available at Smuggler Joe’s until it’s gone.
Hand in hand with the beer’s release will be a short presentation by Cotter, who will talk about how it was made and its health benefits.
Cotter hopes to open a mycobrewery sometime in the near future, but for him, mycobrew is just one piece of a multi-pronged effort to work with mushrooms in innovative ways. He is also working in cultivation, mycoremediation, biotextiles and education.
Cotter owns and operates Mushroom Mountain, a farm, spawn and research facility and educational center located on 8 acres near Liberty, S.C., with his wife Olga. Mushroom Mountain offers lectures and teaches cultivation techniques, grows mushrooms and conducts research in bioremediation, food systems, natural pesticides and recycling strategies to improve the global environment.
Cotter is working on developing a plastic substitute with fungus and environmentally friendly mushroom ink, and is working to train certain varieties to live in marine environments so they can aid in oil spill cleanups. He won Clemson University’s “Student Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 2011, and Mushroom Festival Director Scott Koch said the festival is excited to have him as a guest.
“Tradd Cotter is brilliant, he has some really great ideas,” Koch said. “His views really kind of bring out the idea of bringing cultivation to the world.”
Cotter is teaching an introduction to mycoremediation workshop on Thursday at the festival.