There are certain things in life that just go together, age-old combinations that are still around because quite frankly, they’re just that good. Like peanut-butter and jelly, beer and certain foods are natural pairings. After being invited by Oakshire to a wonderful Brewer’s Dinner at the Wild Duck a week ago during Eugene Beer Week, I’ve been pondering the assumed craft beer and pairings, specifically the classic Oysters and Stout.
Dark malty stouts and briny, salty oysters are a legendary food and beer pairing with roots back to the 18th Century British Isles when oysters were served as a common dish in the public houses to the working class. Later, breweries began actually brewing their beers with oyster shells as early as the 1800s as a clarifying agent and (according to a few beer blogs), the first beer to actually have Oyster meat in the wort happened in New Zealand in 1929, although it never gained traction. Recently with craft brewers searching for an unique edge, the experimental oyster stout has gained in popularity. They still are hard to find, and many brewery’s release Oyster Stouts as special one-time releases or seasonal beers. In Oregon, Rogue, Upright Brewing, Portland Brewing and Fort George have all made an Oyster Stout, although I’m not sure if you’ll be able to find any of their beers in Eugene this season. If you do get a chance to find an oyster stout- don’t be afraid to try it, at least once. The oyster aspect to the beer is generally fairly faint with just a touch of saltiness. As the description for Fort George’s Murky Pearl Oyster Stout says, “it’s just like kissing the ocean.” Even though I’ll try any oyster stout, sticking with the pairing agrees more with my palate.
For our brewer’s dinner at Wild Duck, Oysters from Sunset Beach in Washington were paired with Oakshire’s Overcast Espresso Stout. I have to admit that I’m individually a fan of both these items. Give me a bivalve anytime, anywhere and I’m going to eat. Probably the fact that my mother is a seafood mollusk addict and most likely ate an abundance of salty seafood while she was pregnant on with me (I was born in Newport, Oregon), makes me have an undeniable predisposition to love this meal. Add that to my love of coffee and beer, and specially my love for Overcast Espresso Stout, and I may be a biased judge. However, three centuries of people eating stouts and oyster’s together has to mean something, and Wild Duck did a fantastic job of preparing the oysters. If you’re on the opposite side of me and begin to gag every time you think about swallowing that slimy little sea creature, you may need to try oysters prepared right. A bad oyster is a really bad oyster. At our brewers dinner there were a few oyster newbies at the table, and even they ate them with a smile and a swig of beer.
After all, trying new things (even if it’s an old combination) rings true to the craft beer drinker’s philosophy. Sure, out of the hundreds (maybe more) of beers I’ve tasted, there are undoubtedly a few I didn’t like, couldn’t finish and will never go back to. But I’ll never give up on a brewery, an individual brewer or even a bad batch. So, this week in honor of American Craft Beer Week and the spirit of the craft brewing industry, I challenge you to try the new and the old, the time-honored and the experimental. Craft beer is allows for both eating oysters with stout, and changing it on it’s head and putting the oysters in the stout.