Pairing Beer and Naked Oysters

by Bekah Angoff

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!

 

Cheers!

Oyster Pairings: Why Oysters and Stout Works

stout beer.jpg

This weekend, the temperatures are plunging in the Northeast and all I want is heavy beer and braised meats. It is like a soft blanket for my palate. This time of year is also fantastic for oysters, as the meats are sweet and the briny liquor is brimming on every bivalve. So, how can we enjoy these two wonders together?

Oysters and stout is a match made in heaven. At first thought, the pairing may seem off, but according to acute culinary science, it all makes perfect sense.

Stout is typically a dark beer with chocolate, coffee and caramel aromas, with a slight bitter and mineral finish. Brewed with heavily roasted malt, this viscous beer can be a meal within itself. More stereotypical oyster pairings tend to include dryer white wines, champagne or a pilsner. I believe that the oyster and stout are an even better match, and here is why…

The balance of any mouthful is a play on the five tastes; sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. These tastes play off one another to create various levels of enjoyment from palate to palate, and explain various reasons for why we eat the way we do. For instance, a hot cup of black coffee has nutty and roasted aromas, and can be bitter and sour. Some people like this flavor, so they drink it black. Others may find it too harsh, so they will lessen the bitter with sugar and mute the sour and the rest of the bitterness with cream or milk. The same thing takes place when you see fancy chocolates with large flakes of sea salt on them. Chocolate has some bitter elements to it with roasted cocoa aromas. The salt reduces the sensation of being bitter while making the bite taste all that more toasty and sweet. See? Science.

Now, apply this concept to our stout and oyster pairing and we can see why it works. The sharp bite of brine in an oyster, say one of our Standish Shores, and the toasty chocolate of the stout will pop, just like the salt on your gourmet chocolate bar. The sweetness in the oyster will then, in return, lessen the bitter finish of the beer, leaving behind the creamy texture that any good stout should have.

Next time you’re out at your favorite oyster bar, be sure to experiment with this pairing and see how it tastes to you.

As always, happy shucking.

Bekah