“Mushroomy” probably isn’t the first word anyone thinks of when contemplating the holiday season. But the folks at Rogue Ales & Spirits evidently got a tip from the top brass this year. “Santa recently paid us a visit and brought along freshly foraged candy cap mushrooms,” Rogue Brewer Michael King says in a press release for the 2019 edition of the brewery’s beloved winter seasonal, Santa’s Private Reserve. “We, being curious, decided to try our hand at a mushroom beer.” In recent years, this dark ale has boasted combos like cherry and raspberry or tangerine and boysenberry—so did Rogue land on the naughty list for 2019 and receive mushrooms instead?
Nothing is out of the ordinary with the first pour of 2019 Santa’s Private Reserve. It almost looks like honey, with this deep amber color that’s not hazy but definitely not transparent either. And regardless of how your body reacts when it hears the word “mushroom,” a robust inch of foam on top makes this a handsome beer overall.
The thing that becomes evident immediately upon first whiff is that you probably haven’t had mushrooms like this before. Rogue specifically used candy cap mushrooms, which are known for their sweetness. Deep and inviting notes of maple and bread hit your nose.
Ultimately this is a big mouthful of maple and malt intertwined into an extremely smooth dark ale.”
With Santa’s Private Reserve, that first sip lives up to the hype. A hint of hops and citrus greets you, but ultimately this is a big mouthful of maple and malt intertwined into an extremely smooth dark ale. Rogue has also created an incredibly clean finishing beer in spite of all that flavor, so you will find yourself easily working through the 22-ounce bomber.
Throwing a curveball into the winter season mix sounds like a fun idea in principle. It allows brewers to experiment with different flavors and combinations; it provides dedicated beer drinkers with new experiences to look forward to every December. But then a brewer hits on something like this candy cap mushroom dark ale, and you panic at the thought of it not being available this time next year. After tasting this year’s Santa’s Private Reserve, I too am a bigger fan of beer—mushroom beers specifically. Please start asking the North Pole about their candy cap crop for 2020.