Brewers are constantly pushing the boundaries of acceptable beer ingredients. Fruit beers once seemed exotic and are now commonplace. Pumpkin beers are an annual tradition, and chocolate stouts are an improved form of dessert.
Shellfish in beer is obviously getting really close to that imaginary line that separates interesting from inedible, but if the title of this review hasn’t scared you off, you’ve come to the right place.
San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery makes one of my favorite stouts in the world. In collaboration with nearby Hog Island Oyster Company, “Marooned on Hog Island” is brewed with 450 pounds of Sweetwater oyster shells. It’s a playful take on what a stout can be.
I like oysters, but I’m well aware of why a beer brewed with the shells of that mollusk could be a turnoff. Even if you’re not the most adventurous eater or drinker, I urge you to give this beer a shot.
Marooned on Hog Island pours mussel-shell black with a frothy, brown head. It smells like the sea, briny and raw. Chocolate also comes through in the nose, which is the most intimidating part of the beer.
Dip your toe in and take a sip. There’s a clean minerality to the mouthfeel, but very little of that saltwater taste comes through. Instead, you get delicious caramel, chocolate, and roasted coffee notes. Oyster water only floats in and out of the background on your palette. Worries about this beer being “fishy” in any way were completely unfounded, and the flavors of the shells only act to cut the sweetness of the brew. Off flavors are nowhere to be found. I could easily drink more than one of these.
Marooned on Hog Island has an ABV of 7.9% and was brewed using Magnum and Willamette hops and several types of malts, including Crystal, Carafa, and Chocolate. A four-pack of cans sells for around $10.99. I’ve been draining Southie’s Local 149 of their supply for weeks.
The Somerville Brewing Company, branded as Slumbrew, has carved out a noticeable niche since bursting onto the Boston brewing scene in 2011. Founders Caitlin Jewell and Jeff Leiter smartly introduced three very different beers right off the bat, and Flagraiser IPA, Porter Square Porter, and Hoppy Sol are local staples. Seasonal offerings keep things fresh.
Slumbrew’s latest seasonal offering is Attic & Eves, a toasted brown ale. I’ve had the pleasure of talking beer with Jewell and Leiter many times, and they’re excited about this one. It’s a cold-weather beer, so it’s appropriate that snow is spackling the window as I write this.
Poured from a bomber, Attic & Eves appears more black than brown in the glass. A thick, white head forms an aromatic peak that smells like chocolate and toasted almonds.
The beer is brewed with toasted buckwheat, maris otter, victory, brown, and chocolate malts. While that sounds like a lot of malt, Cascade and Fuggles hops lighten things up. The vital stats for Attic & Eves: 7.5 percent alcohol by volume and 38 IBUs (international bitterness units).
The first sip is nutty and bright. Cereal, pecans, and cocoa nibs slip and slide around my tongue. The mouthfeel is medium, and the ingredients blend together beautifully. This is dangerous for a beer of 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, but it’s a nice change of pace from the slick stouts that dominate the season.
Local standout Backlash Beer Company announced the “death” of one of its new beers in a blog post on Tuesday. Death, the beer, was to be a chipotle imperial stout, the last beer in the four-part Apocalypse Series that has featured Conquest, War, and Famine. I’ve had War, a rye saison, and it’s delicious.
Backlash founder Helder Pimentel said he put the beer to his lips for the first time this weekend and was “immediately disappointed.” Rather then put the beer on the shelves, Backlash is scrapping the batch. The company does not plan to re-brew the beer for a while.
“We’ve been pretty lucky up until now, but I guess it was only a matter of time before something like this happened,” said Pimentel. “It just so happened to be the last beer in a series we’ve been really vocal about and had especially high hopes for.”
Famine, the third beer in the series, should be on shelves in a couple of days.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globegarydzen.