This week on Brew Blog, our discussion of a choice beverage is (for once, maybe twice) timely.
Strolling through Central Market last week, we tripped over an offering from Harpoon, a Boston brewer we hadn't seen. The beer guy said the brewery's Island Creek Oyster Stout ($5.99 for 22 ounces) had just arrived that day, and we leapt for it. After all, we love our oysters here in the Gulf.
The brewers say their invention is made with oysters plucked from a nearby stream, blending the animals' "mineral flavors" with the smooth darkness of the stout.
Leaning into the glass, we might have invented a whiff of marine smell, but perhaps not. On first taste, the notion of minerals, mineral water and the accompanying flavors made sense. (Granted, they're not going to slap "brewed with swamp water" on the label).
Let's get this straight: Oysters don't pack the flavor punch of say, a clove of garlic (an awful idea for a beer, by the way). But we're fairly confident in saying the beer had a slight oyster tinge to it. It was subtle, clean and cool at the back left and right of the tongue. Those flavors, that tinge, made the beer refreshing in a way a stout normally isn't. We thought it not so much a flavor as a feel.
Still, we never really put our doubts about the contribution of the oysters to rest. This is a solid stout that brings some pretty heavy flavors with it by default. It wouldn't take much to cover up subtle flavors of any kind. This one isn't malty, isn't coffee-tasting (and not burnt, thankfully). It's an unapologetic stout (though only 5.5 percent booze).
The debate, at least in our heads, will go on. But oysters or no oysters, it's a good beer. Also -- we'll let you know when our homebrew batch of garlic-swamp water beer is ready to sample. Kidding.