May 22, 2013

Stout stuff: Portland's newest brew adds notes of bivalve

Bunker Brewing and Eventide Oyster have teamed up to produce a new stew ... er, brew. Dirty Pearl, anyone?

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — Slurp down a half dozen oysters on the half shell, and chances are you’ll be washing them down with beer.

click image to enlarge

Eventide Oyster Co. at 86 Middle St. in Portland is having an oyster stout release party at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Press Herald file photos

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Eventide Oyster Co., pictured here, is teaming up with Bunker Brewing to produce a new brew.

And it’s not just oysters they’re brewing beer with

Lobster boiled in beer – doesn’t that sound good?


Apparently it is, according to the makers of Redhook’s new Black Lobstah Lager, a whimsical New England take on an old world oyster stout.


Black Lobstah Lager is made with live whole lobsters from the Portsmouth Lobster Co. The lobsters were immersed in the boiling wort during the last 10 minutes of a 75-minute boil, according to Andy Schwartz, the Redhook brewer who oversaw the brewing of Black Lobstah Lager.


“We chose this time to add the lobsters for two reasons,” he wrote in an email. “First, and foremost, is because it is, not coincidentally, just about the perfect amount of time to cook a lobster. And trust me, they were delicious afterward.


“Second, by limiting the amount of time in the boil, we don’t lose any of the flavor and aromatics due to evaporation out the kettle stack, thus retaining all that lobster brininess and goodness. We also used a splash of custom made, fresh lobster stock to enhance the briny quality that harmonizes so well with the roasty quality of the Black Lager.”


Black Lobstah Lager is available only in New England, both on draught and in 22-ounce bottles. In Portland, it can be found at Whole Foods Market, Free Range Fish and Lobster, and Sam’s Smoke Shop.

– Meredith Goad, Staff Writer




WHEN: 5 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Eventide Oyster Co., 86 Middle St., Portland

INFO: 774-8538


But how many people have tried oysters in their beer?

You’ll soon get your chance, because Arlin Smith of Eventide Oyster Co. and Chresten Sorensen of Bunker Brewing Co. have been collaborating on an oyster stout using Maine Winter Point oysters.

They’ll share the results of their labor at a release party at Eventide next Tuesday that will include a Bunker tap takeover. The fun begins at 5 p.m.

The name of the new brew has been a point of considerable debate, but it looks like the winner will be “Dirty Pearl.”

Smith and Sorensen consider their partnership over the oyster stout a true collaboration between the restaurant and the brewer, a giant step forward from simply hosting a beer dinner or cooking with a brewer’s beer. The owners of Eventide got involved in the process, actually smoking the 11 pounds of barley malt used to make the brew over apple wood, in their hot smoker.

Daniel Kleban, president of the Maine Brewers Guild, said he was not aware of any other collaborations this close between a restaurant and craft brewer in Maine.

How did it happen?

“Last summer, when we started carrying (Sorensen’s) beer, he was probably one of our biggest supporters, coming in all the time,” said Smith, who is a former craft brewer himself. “We were chatting about how he brews, and I have a brewing background, so I’m always intrigued about his set-up.”

Sorensen used to work in restaurant kitchens, so “I still want to have that connection to food,” he said.
Sorensen suggested to Smith that they try making an oyster stout together.

Oyster stout, a brew produced using the shells and/or meat of oysters, is nothing new. Its roots reach all the way back to the 18th century, some sources say, when a pint of stout and a bowl of oysters was the everyman’s meal in local taverns.

At some point, brewers actually started using oyster shells to the beer-making process, adding them during the boil to draw out the minerals in the shells. Eventually, they started using the oyster meats as well.

Oyster stouts pretty much disappeared during the second half of the 20th century, but as the craze for craft brewing began to rise, they started reappearing. They are still not common, but there are at least several on the market here in the United States. Some of them are oyster stouts in name only, however – called oyster stouts because they pair well with oysters, not because they were made with oysters.

“Stouts in general go well with shellfish because they’re dry,” Smith said. “They have a really nice mouthfeel with a little bit of sweetness, which if you think about an oyster, it’s a similar profile. That’s why they go so well together.”

Dirty Pearl is an imperial stout made with Winter Points harvested by John Hennessey that are perfectly fine and delicious as far as their meat and liquor are concerned, but they wouldn’t look good on the half shell because of their size or shape.

Smith and Sorensen added 35 large oysters and about three quarts of oyster liquor (saved and filtered from the oysters they use at the restaurant) to a 60-gallon kettle.

The oysters are tossed into the wort at the end of the boil, just before adding the yeast. The oysters stay in the kettle for about 20 minutes, and the heat opens up the shells and releases more oyster liquor.

When they come out, they’re tossed away because spending that long in boiling wort gives them a weird texture.

(Continued on page 2)

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