A Friendship Mushrooms: Brewing brothers from different mothers

Fernando’s finished candy cap mushroom beer, made with mushrooms from the author. Photo by Fernando López Angulo

The brewing world is full of energetic people who invest a lot of time, money, and energy into making craft beer. When a homebrewer meets someone who shares their passion, friendships are born and the collaborative process starts to take root. Over the years, many fellow brewers have added to my skill set by sharing their time, knowledge, and experience, but never did I anticipate that I would meet and develop a relationship with a brewer who lives close to 6,000 miles away and speaks a different language. Welcome to the land of the internet; the place where the world gets smaller and our reach is unlimited.

Three years ago I moved to Mendocino, a small coastal community in Northern California. The beauty of the redwood forests and coastal fog were telling me I needed to brew beer that represented the magic of this special place. While attending a local meeting of the Foggy Coast Brewers I had the chance to taste an incredible barleywine with candy cap mushrooms (think maple syrup) made by Jeff Neumeier. I had no idea what candy caps were but it didn’t take long before I managed to acquire some through a local forager. This led to many months of experimentation; making beers and tinctures to attempt to harness the incredible aromatics of this hard-to-find mushroom. I got help from Jeff with a recipe, talked with and shared beer with people at a local homebrew club, and asked for advice on the “Homebrewers Roundtable” group on Facebook. One person who was interested was James Claus, the Head Brewer at 3 Disciples Brewing in Santa Rosa, California. After many conversations and beer tastings, these meetings led to collaboration to produce seven barrels of a beer they called Cap That Glass, a Scottish wee heavy with candy cap mushrooms. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, along comes Fernando López Angulo, a brewer from Madrid, Spain.

When a homebrewer meets someone who shares their passion, friendships are born and the collaborative process starts to take root.

Fernando was interested in my project and he had a million questions. It wasn’t long before we were texting daily and using Google Translate to discuss the beer-making process. Soon, I was sharing information about my family and he was doing the same with me. He sent me pictures of his wife and I did the same for him; we even confessed our love for our dogs. We talked about beer, family, and the threat of a worldwide pandemic. Soon, mushrooms were in the mail, making their way from California to Spain so Fernando could complete his recipe.

When I discovered Fernando was a talented composer of music, he was kind enough to allow me to use his music for an art project I was involved in. When my daughter was married in October, Fernando and his wife, Marissa, made a congratulatory video to send their best wishes, and when Fernando’s mother-in-law passed away from COVID-19, I tried my best to be there for him.

During this pandemic I have doubled down on my brewing and learning. I have the interest and Lord knows, I now have the time. What I didn’t know when all this craziness started was how powerful this passion could be and what it could lead to. I had no idea that through my dedication to the making of great beer I could not only grow my knowledge of brewing but could also make a really good friend along the way. During this crazy time, be open to new relationships. Follow your passions, ask questions, listen to answers, and grow. Maybe you too can discover a brewing brother from a different mother.

Issue: March-April 2021