Functional craft beers

Why adaptogenic mushrooms make the perfect partners for these alcohol-free beers

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 3 September 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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This article first appeared in our ‘Why organic is the answer’ issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 03 September 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

We all know the motto ‘let food be thy medicine’, but at what point does something move beyond being good for you and become medicinal?

Many foods have nourishing and healing compounds, yet over the centuries certain herbs and fungi have been used more than others.

The word ‘adaptogens’ was coined by a Russian scientist in the ‘70s to describe plants and fungi that help our bodies naturally adapt to stresses, balance hormone regulation and keep our bodies within a natural homeostatic range.

Positive social ceremonies

Zoey Henderson was introduced to adaptogenic mushrooms about seven years ago and has been fascinated ever since. A foodie at heart (her first business was a juice bar), she has always been interested in how the foods we eat directly affect us – in terms of our behaviour, our health and the health of the planet.

Zoey launched Fungtional Brew Company in November 2020; her ‘lockdown baby’ was born from a desire to bring mushrooms to the mainstream and create more mindful drinks.

‘After over 15 years in food and drink, I saw that the magic of these pastimes was in the social ceremony’, Zoey tells us. ‘Combining social ceremony with positive benefits – alcohol-free beer and my favourite adaptogen, medicinal mushrooms – seemed a perfect partnership.’

Superfood fungi

The company occupies an interesting space in cross-over markets: craft beer, alcohol free and functional drinks.

‘First and foremost we are about great craft beer’, Zoey tells us. ‘This was really important to us, but we also hope the beers will appeal to people who are looking for great alcohol-free drinks and those interested in the benefits of medicinal mushrooms.’

In case you’re wondering, no – the beer doesn’t taste like mushrooms. The superfood fungi have a really interesting flavour profile that’s bitter, earthy, nutty and sweet. It’s very similar to hops, which is why the mushrooms work so well in beer.

Lion’s mane IPA

Zoey chose three of the best-known mushrooms – chaga, lion’s mane and reishi – and paired them with loved beers lager, IPA and citra.

Lion’s mane is a natural nootropic which, like all adaptogenic mushrooms, is rich in beta-glucans. These have been shown to potentially help protect against oxidative stress and contribute to overall cognitive health.

The neurotrophic factors found in lion’s mane make it an amazing helper with the development, repair and function of nerves.

Its nutty, almost walnut taste works really well in Fungtn’s earthy, hop-forward IPA.

Chaga lager

Chaga, a bracket fungus that grows in birch trees in the northern hemisphere, is often consumed as a tea throughout harsh winters.

Studies have shown that chaga’s wide-ranging benefits derive from its combination of unique polysaccharides and a compound called super-oxide dismutase. This enzyme has been found to reduce cellular damage caused by ‘super-oxide’, the most common free radical in the body.

Chaga has been widely researched for its role in supporting the immune system and keeping blood sugar levels in natural equilibrium.

A dark, malty fungus, it’s a great partner for a European-style lager that has hints of chocolate and liquorice.

Reishi citra

Reishi is a bitter mushroom that is naturally high in antioxidants; it has been described as the ‘mushroom of immortality’ in ancient Chinese texts. Rich in triterpenes, reishi has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and eastern medicine to calm, aid sleep, help overall wellbeing and boost health.

Studies have found natural antihistamine qualities in reishi, which help to reduce inflammation, hypersensitivity and allergies.

The bitter edge cuts perfectly with Fungtn’s juicy, naturally sweet citrus beer.

We have a lot to thank fungi for – from habitat restoration, soil regeneration and protecting bees from colony collapse to vegan leather and delicious foods.

Now these alcohol-free beers can help to bring the benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms to everyday ceremonies that retain all their social magic – without leaving you with a sore head.

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