Fungtn (or ‘The Fungtional Brew Company Ltd’ to be accurate) wowed us in 2021 with a trio of non-alcoholic beers brewed with a range of different fungi, offering funky adaptogens and nootropics aplenty. We had a Lion’s Mane IPA, a Reishi Citra pale, and the pleasingly named Chaga Lager, all bursting with earthy and hoppy flavours and scoring highly on our admittedly flawed reviewing system (honestly, why did I think appearance was as important as taste!?). So what has the brewery been up to since we last looked at one of their tasty bevs? Well, it appears they’ve been busy picking up awards, left, right, and centre! Not only were they included in CAMRA’s 2022 edition of World’s Greatest Beers, but their Lion’s Mane IPA won a bronze at 2021’s World Beer Awards, a silver at 2022’s International Wine and Spirits Competition, a gold at the European Beer Challenge 2022, and more recently a silver medal at the World Alcohol-Free Awards 2023. Their Reishi Citra pale also picked up a bronze from the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 2022, but Fungtn’s newcomer, and the subject of this review, Shiitake Dark Lager, scooped a gold medal at this year’s World Alcohol-Free Awards.
The Shiitake Dark Lager is a replacement for Chaga Lager, which is unfortunately being phased out, and was bought to market at the end of October in 2022. Shiitake is the first of Fungtn’s chosen fungi that I had actually both heard about and eaten before reviewing it in beer form. A staple ingredient in Asian soups and stews, it’s also pretty good in congee (rice porridge for the uninitiated) and I find it has a slightly malty and beery taste on it’s own, with a more earthy aroma than a lot of mushrooms. As far as the health benefits of Shiitake go, it’s packed with beta glucans, which in studies have shown to help with both gut health (being a natural pre-biotic) and to lower blood pressure. Both things you would not expect a beer to do. Being a lager, and a dark one at that, the flavour is going to come more from the malt used, and Fungtn are using toasted malts which should hopefully give a decent taste without descending into worty territory. The mushroom should also add an earthiness to the brew. Fungtn’s previous efforts have all been lovely to drink and packed with flavour, so I hope this new addition to the line-up can continue the trend.
The beer pours a deep reddish-brown colour with some slight fridge haze to it, and produces a small caramel-coloured head that shrinks back within a minute. On the nose we get rich toasty dark malt, some peppery spice and a slight background of stone fruit. I wouldn’t say it has your traditional lager aromas, indeed we’re verging on stout territory here – both in looks and smells.
We’re greeted with an earthy bitterness when we taste, which mellows into toasty malt, taking on an almost chocolate flavour, with hints of liquorice and date. Never mind lager, this has all the hallmarks of a decent best bitter in my opinion. The body is medium to light, with carbonation not too high, and the beer having a smooth mouthfeel. The finish is dry and earthy.
Fungtn Shiitake Dark Lager is, like previous beers from the brewer, a tasty little number packed with earthy flavour. I may not have that much experience with dark lagers, but for me this has all the flavours of a best bitter, which is a style of beer we don’t see much of in the alcohol-free world. I get that it’s a replacement for another lager, but I still think marketing should have been consulted, and a gap in the market may have been filled.
Buy Fungtn Shiitake Dark Lager
Fungtn’s beers are available in Selfridges, and a number of specialist grocers and health food shops including Planet Organic. You can get your hands on cans of Shiitake Dark Lager online:
|Nutritional Information (per 100ml, taken from the side of the can)|
|Water, Hops, Barley, Wheat, Malt, Shiitake, Yeast|
|Country of Production||United Kingdom|
|Brewer||The Fungtional Brew Company Limited – https://www.fungtn.com/|
|Gluten Free?||Yes, < 20 parts per million|
Fungtn Shiitake Dark Lager Review
Lovely full flavoured alcohol-free beer again from Fungtn, though I’m more inclined to say it resembles best bitter rather than dark lager. Worth a try whatever your preference!