Old Town brewer Andrew Lamont

The line for the candy cap mushroom beer at the 28th annual Oregon Brewers Festival, now in the books, was so long they had to assign a second volunteer to pour samples. Portland freelancer and Beer Bible author Jeff Alworth said it possessed, “a unique maple-syrup-with-soupçon-of-mildew character” before confessing he was “repulsed” by it. The beer has already racked up 534 check-ins on Untappd, whose users have alternately used their cellies to comment, “fantastic,” “tastes like motha fuckin waffle crisp (cereal),” and “experiment gone wrong.” So what does Andrew Lamont, the brewer at Old Town Brewing who created this beer think of it, and is this his calling card to become the world’s preeminent mycological brewer? “I’m a fan of European styles, but,” said Lamont from the brewpub after the fest, “that doesn’t mean I don’t like having these mushroom statement pieces.”

The shroomed altbier, featuring about two ounces of the fungus per barrel, remains on tap at the pub on NE MLK and the original pizzeria on NW Davis in Old Town.

FWIW, this beer writer actually enjoyed its woody, dirty hit with smooth, mapley finish. (I even sampled it again in a flight that, full disclosure, Old Town comped. Even out of the fest setting, I liked it as much as Rubidus Red from Uncommon Brewers in Santa Cruz... because of course there’s another candy cap mushroom beer). Lamont and Old Town's owner presented the bag of candy cap mushrooms to me for inspection, and while in moderation it presents a remarkably similar aroma and flavor to Vermont maple syrup, the bag smelled better when closed than when plunging my schnoz directly into it.

A bag of candy caps isn't like one of Halloween candy
  • Brian Yaeger
  • A bag of candy caps isn't like one of Halloween candy

For many, 1-Up was their introduction to Lamont, who took over as head brewer once the previous brewer, Bolt Minister, departed to start his own brewery, 54-40, coming later this year across the river in Washougal, Washington. Lamont came to us—Portland and Portlanders, collectively—from Boston. There, he headed up the R&D brewery for Boston Beer Co. He’s largely responsible for Sam Adams Barrel Room Collection beers like The Vixen, a chocolate-chili bock that took silver at the 2011 Great American Beer Fest in the chocolate beer category.

Lamont fell in love with the PNW some 15 years ago during his first visit and the move, he says, was basically a slow progression ever since. Fittingly, when he and his wife honeymooned here, part of their sightseeing included the US Custom House since it’s the setting of the police station on Grimm. Their first meal was at Old Town Pizza just five minutes away. Lamont recently brewed a black Hefeweizen called Wesen Weizen in honor of the dark monster show.

But again, beers like those are as much about the story as the beer. The day-in/day-out of the beer biz is making and selling everyday beer. And when it comes to Old Town, the story is one of the most imminently drinkable styles that has no weirdness or geekiness attached to it: kolsch. The style recently had its own mini fest but it’s a light, slightly-fruity beer that’s like a cross between a lager and an ale. Last year, Old Town earned medals for their Sun Dazed Kolsch at the two most prestigious competitions, GABF and the World Beer Cup. It’s now out in 22-ounce bottles and New Seasons Market included it in their just-ended 3rd annual Craft Beer Challenge. The winner? Sun Dazed.

In two months we’ll learn if Lamont’s tweaks to this beer earn it back to back medals at GABF in Denver. To wit there’s no mushroom beer category. Yet.