Heel Turn Brown Ale

A sweet brown ale filled out with umami and maple flavors from the mushroom kingdom!
  • Grain bill:  English Pearl Pale Ale Malt, Caramel Malt 60L, Simpsons DRC, Flaked Oats
  • Hops:  Hallertau Tradition, Northern Brewer
  • Yeast:  Wyeast London Ale III 1318
  • Secret ingredients:  Dried Morel Mushrooms, Dried Candy Cap Mushrooms


Origin Story:

On a rainy trip to San Francisco in 2013, my friend Mike introduced me to Humphry Slocombe‘s Candy Cap Mushroom ice cream.  The candy cap is a remarkable little fungus, tasting for all the world like rich maple syrup, and the ice cream made from it was delicious.

Maple syrup in a brown ale is definitely a thing, but like honey, maple syrup is tricky to work with in beer.  The main issue is that maple syrup is almost entirely fermentable, so a lot of the flavors that you want will just ferment away.  But what if we approached that flavor from another angle—not as a sugar, but as a shroom?

That was the genesis of this beer—a simple brown ale with mushroom-derived maple flavor.  I decided to add dried morel mushrooms as well to thicken the flavor a bit.  The beer works and is a hit with the beer-heads in my social circle, but I wasn’t totally satisfied with the balance; the maple flavor tastes a bit thin to me.  I’d like to see a bit more sweetness and body to it.  I believe I know how to twist that particular knob and I look forward to giving it a second go.

If you’re not up on professional wrestling, the Heel Turn is that point in the wrestling story arc at which the good guy (or the “Face”) suddenly becomes the bad guy (the “Heel”).  I was introduced to the phrase via the song “Heel Turn 2“, the emotional core of the Mountain Goats’ wrestling-themed album Beat the Champ.  There’s a time for each of us when struggling to do the right thing becomes exhausting and we fantasize about taking a turn down the left-hand path.  Some of us do it.

Perhaps the theme of the beer doesn’t have much to do with the flavor, but Laura wittily brought it together with her label art.

Music Pairing:

Richard Thompson has been quietly amazing throughout his entire career.  He basically invented British folk-rock with his band Fairport Convention by asking what it would sound like if you replaced the American folk traditions that underpinned rock music with the folk traditions of his own country.  As he and his wife Linda found their way into Sufism and incorporated these influences into their work, the music took on an additional glow.  As their marriage fell apart, Richard’s songwriting took on additional emotional complexity and heft while never losing its footing in traditional forms.  He wrote the song “Wall of Death“:  leading contender for the best song ever written by anyone, period.

He’s also an amazing guitarist.  The solo he busted out on “Can’t Win” at the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park on 17 July 2014 is one of the most memorable concert moments I’ve ever had.  It felt like it went on for 15 minutes, but it could have gone on for years.


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