I love food, especially how it interacts with beer.
Recently, I’ve written about an uptick in high-quality restaurants and local brewers coming together to find more and more ways to pair food with varying kinds of beer styles. But one pairing continues to be systemic in its popularity, oysters and stouts.
Why do oysters and stouts go so well together? When you think about it, the pairing of the two doesn’t seem so likely, but according to the Pangea Shellfish Company out of Boston, their going together makes perfect sense.
Stout is typically a dark beer with chocolate, coffee and caramel aromas, with a slight bitter and mineral finish. Brewed with heavily roasted malt, this viscous beer can be a meal within itself. More stereotypical oyster pairings tend to include dryer white wines, champagne or a pilsner, but the oyster and stout pairing is an even better match.
The balance of any mouthful is a play on the five tastes; sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. These tastes play off one another to create various levels of enjoyment from palate to palate, and explain various reasons for why we eat the way we do. For instance, a hot cup of black coffee has nutty and roasted aromas, and can be bitter and sour. Some people like this flavor, so they drink it black. Others may find it too harsh, so they will lessen the bitter with sugar and mute the sour and the rest of the bitterness with cream or milk.
Now, apply this concept to our stout and oyster pairing and we can see why it works. The sharp bite of brine in an oyster and the toasty chocolate of the stout will pop. The sweetness in the oyster will then, in return, lessen the bitter finish of the beer, leaving behind the creamy texture that any good stout should have.
Now, let’s put the theory to the test, at the 20th annual Stout & Oyster Festival. Schlafly flies in almost 80,000 oysters (overnight, to be the freshest possible) from both coasts; hosts 25 seasoned oyster shuckers to shuck oysters live all weekend long; and brews 10 stouts exclusively for the festival.