Oysters and beer are a remarkable pair. The brine from the oyster not only complements and highlights aspects of the beer, it’s washed clean by the beer’s crisp carbonation, inviting you to eat another oyster (and another oyster and another oyster and…). And if you go up and down the coast—even sometimes from different spots in the same river—each oyster has its own unique profile. This is due to what is known as merroir: the influence that the environment has on an oyster’s appearance and taste.
When it comes to pairing, it’s actually harder to go wrong than it is to go right. If you were to ask us about our favorite pair, though, we’d have to go with a Northeastern Oyster—like a Glidden Point, Winter Point Select, or Basket Island—and our golden ale called Tripel. To explain why, we’ll direct you to Mike Wiley, James Beard Award-winning chef and co-owner of Eventide Oyster Company.
“Both oysters and Tripel are prized for their complexity. In oysters, the savory brine mixes with the sweetness of their meat. In Tripel, there are notes as wide-ranging as honey, herbs, and passion fruit. The combination of oysters and Tripel creates a whole new combination of salt and sweet that really unfolds across the palate.”
A golden beer with perceived sweetness that finishes light and dry – Allagash Tripel
STOUT, STOUT, STOUT IT ALL OUT
Oyster stouts are actually brewed with oysters, shell and all. Why would someone do that? Well, in the first oyster stout brewer’s mind, they were probably just cutting out the middle man. Historically, the pairing for most oyster lovers is the stout. Dark and rich, stouts usually have a more pillowy mouthfeel, thanks to the more abundant grain in their recipes. This body pairs nicely with the sharp brine of an oyster. And the roasty aroma and flavor of a stout is an unintuitive, but very pleasant, counterpoint to the oyster’s light salinity and sometimes “grassy” or seaweed-like notes. Our preference for stouts to pair with an oyster are on the lighter side. When you start to get into the 10% ABV “pastry stouts” (so named because they’re usually sweet and packed with extra ingredients like cocoa nibs or vanilla) the beer’s flavor overpowers the oyster.
A lighter stout with notes of roasty malt – Left Hand Milk Stout, Mast Landing Gunner’s Daughter
GIVE LIFE LEMONS
While there are a variety of garnishes available for pairing with oysters—mignonette, cocktail sauce, horseradish, hot sauce—one stands out as one of the simplest and perhaps the best: lemon. A squeeze of lemon on a fresh oyster is difficult to improve. So we’d suggest taking that hint and pairing your oyster with a beer that also has an element of citrus to it. On our end, we love the subtle citrus notes in our Belgian-style wheat beer, Allagash White. It’s not brewed with lemon, per se, but it is brewed with coriander and Curacao orange peel, both of which add a citrusy component to the beer.
A wheat beer with citrusy notes – Allagash White, Bell’s Oberon, Odell Easy Street Wheat