In this third installment of “what to drink with naked oysters,” we are exploring beer. What is wonderful about beer is how many varieties and flavors there are out there. What is confusing about beer is how many varieties and flavors there are out there. It is the same with oysters today. There are only five species, but infinite amounts of names and brands. It is enough to make your brain spin, so I did dirty work for you. After weeks of drinking beer and eating oysters, I was able to come up with some loose guidelines on their pairing.
Earlier this summer, I sat down with a local hop-nerd here in Boston. I gave him a copy of the wheel before our meeting, just like I did for my cocktail pairing session. I instructed him to choose beers based on the finish section of the wheel because we were aiming to pair the finishes. We sat down and startedthe process. He chose a bunch of beers from obscure to staple, choosing to stay local when possible. Each oyster had multiple pairing options, which made it a complex task. Some pairings were spot on, and some missed the mark.
After seeking some more help fromother local professionals, we came up with the following.. As they say, it takes a village (to slurp all the bivalves).
Malty and hoppy American Ales deepen the savory nature of a mineral East Coast oyster.
For this pairing, a Pemaquid paired well with a hoppy and malty Weez Ale from Maine Brewing Company. A beer with dark malt can accentuate umami and mineral notes in a more robust Eastern oyster, and the roasted nose will perk up any underlying sweetness. It’ll make you feel like you just ate a steak dinner.
Lagers deliver the clean taste needed to accent a briny East Coast oyster.
There is nothing better than sitting down to a few dozen salt bombs with an ice cold pilsner. The pairing is the perfect combo of cold bubbles, sharpened salt, and a cold finish. The best example of this pairing is a Blue Point and a Budweiser. It does not get more classic than that!
Another combination that works with a briny beast is a nice dry Irish Stout. The salt in the oyster will help bring out the toasty chocolate or coffee notes these beers that hide within their dark and creamy bodies. Try a Quonnie Rock and a Dry Irish Stout from Brooklyn Brewery for an exemplary pairing, especially in the colder months that are quickly approaching.
Sweet and sour beers provide balance for a sweet East Coast oyster.
Balance is something to aim for in a pairing. While sweet enhances sweet, you really don’t want things to get out of hand and have your oyster tasting like dessert. A slightly sour beer, such as an unfiltered Lambic or a Gueuze, transforms a sweet Standish Shore into a dynamic morsel. You’ll taste more than just a buttery finish. Be careful not to choose beers that are too sour. The intensity will overpower the finish, rendering the oyster nothing but sea water in your mouth.
A Bohemian pilsner is perfect for the texture of a creamy West Coast oyster.
A creamy West Coast oyster, like a Glacier Point from Alaska, opens up with some vegetal buttery notes that are an intense introduction to any slurp. I don’t know about you, but I love toast with my butter, so a beer with bready and malty like characteristics is a perfect match. Peak Organic Fresh Cut has the yeast forward nose that is indicative to the style plus some citrus to cut through the fat, leaving a delicate lingering finish.
Fruity and spicy saisons enhance the earthy notes in a mineral West Coast oyster.
Mineral West Coast oysters tend to have a range from metallic to mushroom finishes. An oyster of this nature, like a Capital from Spencer Cove, WA, has a stony quality to it with ample brine. A saison, with its barnyard nose, complements the oyster and helps it to finish on the sweeter side.
We tried another beer, a Lost Nation Brewing Gose, with a less briny West Coast oyster, like a Hood Canal. Gose is a beer making a revival in the states. It has salt and coriander added to it, which mellows the oyster’s metallic notes and turns it into a dynamic mouthful with gentle sweet seaweed.
Again, I must stress that these are merely suggestions. Drink what you like, as there is no wrong way to eat an oyster. Try out some of your favorites, brew your own, and slurp it down. Let us know what you like to drink with your bivalves!