Do You Want Oysters WITH or IN Your Beer?

Do You Want Oysters WITH or IN Your Beer?

Food & Drink

Do You Want Oysters WITH or IN Your Beer?

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By Cari Martens


The pairing of oysters with a dark, roasty ale is a tradition dates back a couple of centuries, first known to be enjoyed in England, when oysters were plentiful in the Thames River. So plentiful, writes Greg Kitsock in the “Washington Post”: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/23/AR2010022301302.html, that they were given away free as snack food at London pubs.

It’s true. You need a strong brew to wash down those oysters.

But recently, two U.S. breweries have been brewing oysters in their beer. Flying Fish Brewing Co. of Cherry Hill, N.J., had a limited release called Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout, which used freshly harvested whole oysters—100 per 25-barrel batch, which were suspended in mesh sacks in the brew kettle. The oysters spent 15 minutes simmering in the barley broth before they were removed (and eaten) according to Kitsock’s article.

Flying Fish describes the flavor of Exit 1 thusly: “The creamy flavor of English chocolate and roasted malts harmonizes with minerals from the oyster shells. Irish ale yeast adds a bit of fruitiness and a dry crispness.”

Harpoon Brewery in Boston has added Island Creek Oyster Stout to its ‘100 Barrel Series’ of exotic specialty brews. Brewer Katie Tame used only about 1½ raw shucked oysters per barrel. The oysters disintegrated in the hot liquid, Tame says, leaving behind a bit of protein and enhancing the beer’s body and mouth feel. Here’s Harpoon’s “official” description of the beer: “Using Island Creek oyster farmer Skip Bennett’s revered Duxbury Bay oysters, this beer has a rich body and smooth mouthfeel derived in part from a combination of roasted barley and chocolate rye malts. The roasted malt notes blend beautifully with the briny, mineral flavors of the Island Creek oysters. An addition of hops adds some bitterness to balance the malt sweetness.”

Both breweries say they created these beers in part to call attention to America’s once-thriving oyster industry, which has been decimated by overfishing, pollution and disease. The annual oyster harvest has declined from 1-2 million bushels back in the 1930s to fewer than 100,000 by the 1990s.

Hmmm. How would a platter of oysters on the halfshell go with a tall glass of Oyster Stout? Or would that be over-oystering? May have to check that out one of these nights.

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