It’s no longer shocking to see an oyster stout.
Harpoon makes one, as does San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery. Rhode Island’s Foolproof Brewing Company brewed a beer called Shuckolate Chocolate Oyster-Stout just last year.
Still, finding “oyster stout” written on a label or tap handle isn’t exactly common, and it can lead potential drinkers to ask practical questions like: “Wait, are there actual oysters in it?”
Unless something goes wrong, you should not be cleaning oyster meat from between your teeth after drinking an oyster stout. But for years now brewers have been using oysters in the brewing process, gleaning the salinity of the shellfish to counteract the richness of milky stouts.
Appropriately, Cape Cod’s Devil’s Purse Brewing Company is the latest brewery to release such a beer. Intertidal Oyster Stout was released in mid-December. An initial batch, brewed with oysters from East Dennis Oyster Farm, was released this past September. This time around, the oysters are coming from Chatham Shellfish Company, which has been cultivating in the same spot since 1976.
Devil’s Purse cofounder Matt Belson says it was important to capture a bit of local flavor in the brews.
“Commercial fishing is deeply ingrained in all of our communities on Cape Cod, be it on the waters off shore or harvesting shellfish on the inlets, bays, and tidal flats,” says Belson.
Says cofounder and head brewer Mike Segerson, “I have always been fascinated by oyster farming. Like wine and terroir, oysters are the easiest things to connect with where they are grown.”
To make the beer, Segerson secured six dozen Chatham oysters in a mesh sack, then added them to the wort during the boil. The goal here is to capture not only the salinity of the oysters themselves but also the calcium from the shell.
“This minerality from the oyster adds a truly unique layer of complexity to the beer,” says Segerson, who compares the earthiness here to what one might find in a sturdy red wine.
Lest the most wary drinker be concerned, Intertidal Oyster Stout isn’t fishy, the briny notes balanced by a grain bill of Maris Otter and roasted barley (think milk stout with a salty kick). You could bring this beer to a party, pass around little glasses, and have everyone say in unison how surprisingly good it is.
Intertidal Oyster Stout is available at the brewery, as well as select draft accounts on Cape Cod and the South Shore.