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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Style of the Year--Oyster Stouts?

There used to be this phenomenon in Hollywood (could be there still is) wherein two studios would simultaneously get an idea for a movie so that you'd see two, slightly different takes on a similar subject. Oregonians may recall the year of two Prefontaine movies. I notice a similar phenomenon in brewing--certain styles pop into vogue. I have no idea why this happens in Hollywood, but given the level of interaction and camaraderie in the brewing world, it isn't so surprising with beers.

Anyhoo, it looks like 2010 might be the year of oyster stouts, a style only marginally more widely brewed than gose. The first I heard of this was at Upright's blog, from early last month:
So last Thursday was one of my most memorable brew days ever - in a good way. It began a couple months ago when friend and fellow brewer Jason McAdam visited Upright to bullshit around....

The only part that required a good bit of thought was how to incorporate the oysters? In the end we decided to add roughly ten gallons of oyster "liquor" that Jason picked up fresh from the coast off a train. We didn't want to brew an oyster stout without any oyster meat though so we also picked up eight dozen DeCourcy oysters from B.C. and cooked them during the kettle boil. After eating all the wort-soaked meat we cleaned and saved the shells to add later to the beer, post fermentation, like dryhopping.
And now, from The Daily Pull, I see that Fort George is going for one, too. The following is from Brady's interview with the brewery's owner/brewer Jack Harris:

Oyster Stouts were quite common a couple of hundred years ago. I first made this beer while working at Bill's Tavern a few years ago and the research I did at the time did not give me a very good idea of a process. I couldn't find any readily available commercial examples either. Descriptions of the beer varied from a nice stout with no discernible oyster character to a very briny flavor. My attempt at Bill's Tavern created a nice robust stout without much oyster evident. It did completely screw up my wort chiller with little shell flakes clogging everything up. I had to back-flush several times during knock-out and then strip the whole chiller down.

Our attempt here at Fort George used the same technique of putting two bushels of whole, live Willapa Bay Oysters into the hop-back (they were scrubbed very well on the outside first) and running all 8 1/2 bbls of beer through them. We made this beer on the evening of our Seafood and Belgian beer brewer’s dinner in hopes we could use them as hot appetizers, but after eating a couple they turned out to be too bitter for most palates. We were much more careful to not get oyster shell in the chiller.

I have yet to sink my teeth into either of these beers, but I'm looking forward to it. I may even have to make a road trip if Fort George isn't sending some our way.

Photo: Annalou Vincent


  1. I had the same thought. I wonder who will be next.... and if there's room next to CDAs for another dominant trend.

  2. I got a chance to taste the Upright oyster stout at their brewery, and it was delicious. Creamy.

  3. their is actually quite a lot of oyster stouts being brewed right now. I am working on a blog post about them all and the history right now

  4. Ugh! I love both, but this just sounds wrong. I want my oysters on the plate and my stout chasing them from the glass.

  5. i had my first, and last, oyster stout at Magnolia Brewery in San Francisco. it was...interesting. i'm not sure if i could drink it all night long, maybe just one pint with a seafood dinner.

  6. I had Fort George's Oyster Stout at the brewery a couple weeks ago -I thought it was great. (more of my notes here:

    In talking with the guys at Upright, it sounds like these two examples of the style are pretty different. I hope more breweries start doing Oyster Stouts - especially in the Pacific Northwest where we've got access to great Oysters.

    Miss Dragonfly, and others who may be apprehensive, give it a shot - the Murky Pearl from Fort George didn't have any overpowering Oyster flavor, and was surprisingly drinkable.

  7. I talked with a guy at Upright last night (NOT a brewer!) who couldn't stop raving about the recent taste(s) he'd had of the upcoming Oyster Stout. Needless to say, I'm interested in trying it. Sounds like the bottle release is a few weeks away, according to Alex.

  8. I've still yet to try one where the oysters added really anything to it. From what I've tried the oysters are a novelty, maybe a faint briny hint, but I really don't see this catching on... unless the brewers really enjoy oysters, then they get great stout marinated oysters AND a marketing marinated beer.

  9. Did you have a prob with the oyster shells as "dry hopping"? It seems that even after boiling there are so many little nooks and crannies and porous bits that contamination could happen. I imagine that it's not heavily hopped, which would make me worry about contamination even more.

  10. At the risk of going off topic, I read an article back in the era of two volcano movies, two asteroid movies, etc.

    Basically script readers get a lot of submissions most of which they file away after some poor peon abstracts it.

    Studio X will find a perfectly delightful romp on some subject--say Funny Zombies--and word will get around through the LA rumor mill. Studio Y will say, OK fine, look in the file cabinets we got anything that will work as a Funny Zombie movie? And the race is on. If both movies get far enough into the production schedule both movies are made and poor Leonard Maltin will have to pick his favorite.