You never know who you are going to meet when you head out for a brew at a local bar. Last night was a case in point. I headed up to the Flying Saucer near the UNC-Charlotte campus for a couple of beers with my Brother-in-Law Darrin Pikarsky and ended up meeting the Mushroom Man. At least that's what Darrin called him.
The Mushroom Man is actually Jim Marcinko from Harrisburg, N.C., and he does spend some of his time in the North Carolina woods gathering wild mushrooms and honey. Jim is also a homebrewer and on this night I'd get to sample one of his brews, a mead, and a Turkey Tail mushroom he had gathered earlier.
The mead was actually an interesting cross between a cyser (mead made with apple juice) and a melomel (a honeywine made with fruits). It was a mellow two year old brew that was a combination of honey, blueberries, molasses, green tea and apple juice. The purple beverage was as good as or better than a number of commercial meads that I've tasted recently.
The Turkey Tail mushroom was something new to experience. It gets its name because of the band of tan and brown colors that form a fan that looks like a turkey's tail feathers. You don't cook with Turkey Tails, which grow on downed trees in the woods. They are too tough for culinary purposes, but Asian medical research recognizes the Turkey Tail mushroom as a key adjunct to conventional cancer treatments. They believe that Turkey Tails have anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-oxidant and immune boosting properties. It is also said to alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. I got a small piece of the mushroom and kept it between my cheek and gum for a good part of the evening. I gave off a nice mushroom flavor and just might have helped ward off the second-hand smoke in the bar.
The experience of meeting the Mushroom Man reminded me of why the tavern is one of man's greatest inventions.