Not long after the end of the school term I was being all smug about buying in a large amount of quality ale and a colleague of mine, who knows who they are, shared the fact that they had bought in a large order of Millionaire (see this link) from Wild Beer Co. because, let's face it, why wouldn't you. Clearly I couldn't let this provocation lie and, as I said, why wouldn't you? I got myself on my pedal-powered internet connection (disclaimer, nothing is pedal-powered) and promptly ordered my own booty from their online beer emporium. The most curious of their ales, to my mind, was the rather clever-titled Breakfast of Champignons and that was the first bottle to get drunk. It thus forms the first of the reviews from that particular shipment.
Let's face it, something made with wild mushrooms as well as yeast is intriguing to say the least. I think I was expecting something that tasted not a little like a Sunday morning fry up with absolutely no reason to harbour this feeling. However, I have now tasted and reviewed this rather strange little brew so that others may make up their own minds. Would you like to learn more?
I had intended to have this out in the garden, because it is the summer, but the summer had other ideas and promptly decided to give us a downpour instead. So, with the washing on the line getting steadily more drenched, I opened a bottle in recognition that there are some things in life that it is better to just let happen. (Disclaimer: I was told the washing was too wet already to justify getting it back in). It opened with a whisp of carbonation and a distinctly sour aroma, in that it smelled like a sour ale, not that the aroma was particularly sour. It was definitely tangy and it had a definite pinch about it with a touch of wild mushrooms, as you would expect, but only that small touch above an otherwise standard sour ale smell. Maybe there was a hint of oranges. Willow favoured the orange aroma being dominant but, as she would admit, there's little chance of her noticing the mushrooms as she's no fan and doesn't really get wafts of them often. This is no button mushroom hint either, it's more the kind of smell one gets when opening the box of field mushrooms for the first time or picking the dinner-plate sized ones from the race-course when out with the Scouts for a night or two camping.
This odd combination continues onto the tongue - a distinct orange opening burst with the standard sour sweep into the sides of the mouth to wash out the palate and bring in the yeast and the malt. But always with that drying hint of mushroom just out of sight and barely perceptible. It is very subtle, but it is insistent and it is there. This is a sour, sure enough, but it's not one of those sours where the whole point is the sour aspect, nor is it playing second fiddle to a fruity taste, as it was in the rather nice Damn Dead Strawberry (see here). Rather, it plays a sort of dual role with the orange and the slight hint of mushroom to create a strangely rounded taste balanced on the razor edge of the sour as it cuts through. Turn your back and you're suddenly up against a wall of orange, with the impression that the man in the sunglasses you saw earlier in the park is back but dressed as someone else, maybe he has the same shoes on, and that you are just too far from the Consulate for safety. They've clocked you and you're going to get caught, the only real question is how difficult you can make it for them in the meantime.
Obviously, in retrospect, an ale with extra funghi in it will be a sour as that's what adding yeast to a brew does and what is yeast if not a fungus? And though this was certainly nothing like I was expecting when I ordered the bottle in it is something that I am glad I got hold of. The sour edge allowed it to play at quenching my thirst and the extra orange meant that it was really quite refreshing too. At 4.1% ABV it wasn't going to cause any trouble or headaches either and nor was it going to demand my full attention like a succulent stout or big IPA. This was just well-made sour ale with a mushroom hint and a surprisingly large amount of orange. Which fitted the colour rather nicely, I thought, and ended up being the big takeaway. Not much of an aftertaste, which fits in with my experience of sour ales, but there is a hint that this was doing me some good. It tasted almost medicinal and healthy. It's the sort of ale that you can say is doing some sort of good for the body - whether or not it is I leave to the actual scientists - but the overall feeling is friendly.
Basically, this is a forgiving ale, that will not punish you in any way. It may challenge a little in the fact that you know that it is made with mushrooms and that will bring to mind whatever you associate with mushrooms. My own experiences of mushrooms are entirely positive, and so it brought to mind all of those experiences. And then it did not one of them and sailed off in a completely different direction of tangy tastes, sour sides and a fulfilling back of the mouth feeling. Fuller than something this sour has any right being, more tart than anything this colour should be and very different.
Enjoy this best in pretty much any setting, but on holiday around breakfast time would be best. You could have the bacon just cooling and crispy, the eggs runny in the middle and seasoned with pepper atop the hash browns and accompanied with the standard sausage (ensure Cumberland seasoned sausage), baked beans and grilled tomatoes. Obviously you will include some mushrooms fried in butter and bacon fat, because whyever not, and then you can open this and have it alongside. Maybe even have some orange juice. Enjoy on the balcony or the patio beneath the sort of sky that isn't quite sunny yet but promises a warm and bright day by the middle of the morning whilst in pyjamas. Maybe you don't like the idea of a beer for breakfast and, to you, I say you're missing out not trying this at that time of day!