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Excuse me, did you say “oyster stout”?

January 28, 2010

Last Thursday was a day for the Harpoon history books. It was the first time that a Harpoon beer has been brewed with shellfish. You read that right – we brewed a beer using shellfish. Oysters, to be exact. January 21st was the brew day for the 30th offering from the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series; the Harpoon Island Creek Oyster Stout. Harpoon brewer Katie Tame came up with the recipe and brewed the beer. She even helped shuck the oysters that went into the beer.

Surprisingly, brewing an oyster stout is not exactly a new concept. Oyster stouts have been around for many decades. One of the all-time great beer writers, the late Michael Jackson, offers an interesting synopsis on how oyster stouts came to be on his website.

The story behind the Harpoon Island Creek Oyster Stout is more of a “buddy” story. A few years ago some Harpooners were out having pints in Boston and happened to strike up a conversation with some folks from Island Creek Oysters. The conversation eventually led to pairing beers with oysters, and at that moment was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Harpoon and Island Creek Oysters started hosting beer and oyster pairing events at the brewery and, at times, out at restaurants in Boston. It didn’t take long for the idea of a beer collaboration to take shape. However it did take the guts of Katie Tame to bring the beer to fruition.

And that brought us to the brewing of the 30th installment of the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series on Thursday. I asked Katie why she wanted to actually put the oysters in the beer (while oyster stouts are often bear their name because they pair well with oysters, Katie took it a step further by actually including oyster bodies in the recipe). This isn’t the first time it’s been done, but it is certainly less common for the style. According to Katie, the oysters will add some nice protein to the beer and provide a little extra head retention. Sounds good to me.

Shore and Erin from Island Creek Oysters doing some oyster shucking at Harpoon

So right there on the brewhouse platform for about 2 hours we shucked oysters that had just been harvested that morning at the Island Creek Oysters farm on Duxbury Bay. We shucked several hundred oysters. I shucked my first oyster ever. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy (I have a new-found respect for those speed shuckers). Around 7:00 pm Katie added the oysters to the brew kettle.

Now the beer is in a tank fermenting and conditioning, waiting to be bottled and racked on Friday, February 5th. I, for one, can’t wait. I have never tried an oyster stout before. I’m not going to lie – oysters are ugly little suckers and perhaps not the first thing I might think about adding to your beer. But I won’t let that stop me from trying this beer. Isn’t trying something new and different like this part of the beauty of being a craft beer lover?

Katie pouring the oysters into the kettle

Katie with the Island Creek Oysters gang

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura S. permalink
    February 4, 2010 5:41 PM

    Your oyster stout sounds incredible. I can’t wait to try it. Not much gets me out there to try something new, but novel is V-E-R-Y I-N-T-E-R-E-S-T-I-N-G! Look forward to finding it in my local store, Walpole Wine & Spirits! And with a half dozen shucked oysters, I bet it’s an even better taste treat. I’ll be looking for it!

  2. Sue Mastroianni permalink
    February 17, 2010 7:33 PM

    I had this beer last Friday night on tap in W. Spfld, MA (before I knew about REAL oysters being added) and it was wonderful. Altho, I did find it more like a Porter than a Stout but that could just be me. I will definitely try to have it again.

    Great job Harpoon!

    • Donna Guyer permalink
      February 19, 2010 5:44 PM

      I’m from West Springfield. Where did you find it on tap? I can’t wait to find out!!!

  3. March 22, 2010 6:29 PM

    Hey guys, had a chance to sample your Oyster Stout this weekend..was delicious. Especially when I paired the Stout with some actual oysters..seems like once I did that the oyster/brine in the stout really came through.

    Actually so compelling that within an hour of drinking one I went out and picked up a bag of Wellfleets and brewed my own the following morning.

    Cheers, and thanks for the inspiration!

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