Why Are Oyster Stouts a Thing?
It’s New York Oyster Week here in NYC and it’s had me thinking a lot about one of the weirdest styles out there, The Oyster Stout.
There is no clear consensus on who was the first person to use oysters in beer, but according to the late Michael Jackson, it was likely in the late 1920s somewhere in New Zealand. It might seem odd to throw the briny bodies of the little mollusks, but it wasn’t such a far leap. The shells of oysters were used to make a filter bed in beer as early as the 1800s. Brewers would pour the mash over a bed of crushed shells to divide the spent grain from the wort.
With oysters so close at hand its no wonder they eventually ended up in the beer.
The subtle sweetness and brine of an oyster is a surprisingly perfect compliment to the sweet and roasty flavors in a stout. Just as the now expensive lobster was once considered the “cockroach of the sea” the rather pricey oysters of today’s restaurants were once an extremely cheap bar food (yes, even cheaper than the $1 oyster happy hour you’re thinking of right now!). The marketing guys at Guiness picked up the nice pairing and made a variety of ad campaigns instilling that oysters meant Guiness.
So why do people put oysters in beer? Because you can’t *really* taste them, at least not in the seafood way you’re expecting. And they are a fun way for brewers to set their creations apart. A hint of saltiness in the stout and all the freedom to say, “Yes! It’s made with real oysters!” Not a bad plan.
Have you tried an oyster stout? What did you think?