The inspiration for this recipe came from leafing through the beer resource, “Designing Great Beers,” by Ray Daniels. In the stouts section, the book described the “Oyster Stout.” Traditionally, either the oyster meat, brine, or even the shell were added to the list of ingredients to create the final beer. That sounded like an interesting idea – so we decided to give it a go for our next homebrew recipe!
The goal here is for the oyster to impart its flavor to the beer – in all its salty goodness. Whole, fresh oysters were sourced from the local seafood market. The meat of the oyster was added 15 minutes before the end of the boil. The oysters were left in the primary fermenter. Going forward, the oyster may be taken out of the wort before going into the carboy.
Since the oysters were put into the wort with a whole fifteen minutes left to boil, any and all germs were killed off – with fifteen minutes of boiling being sufficient to kill anything, oyster germs included. If you’re reluctant to put oyster meat into your brew, there are alternatives. Consider the oyster shells themselves, oyster brine, or simply salt. Even a small amount of the latter should make the biggest impact.
For our brewing for the weekend, we milled the grains twice in an attempt to hit our target gravity. Our previous weekend of brewing landed us short of this mark. Running the grains through the mill a second time only takes a few more minutes but gets us closer to our target brew.
Our target original gravity for this recipe was 1.050. We struck 1.053. Naturally, milling the grain twice did the trick. Alternatively or additionally, the grains could be “sparged” by pouring additional boiling over the grains (when the grains are in a strainer atop the brew kettle).
When we sampled the wort it came across as a regular wort stout. The addition of the oysters were indistinguishable. Since fermentation had not yet begun, the wort was sweet. Were the oyster meat to make an impact to the beer, it would do so over the four weeks that the oyster meat was left to hang out in the fermentation vessel.
Six weeks from brew day, the oyster stout was ready to enjoy. And my only response is:
where’s my oyster at?
Unfortunately, this brew tastes just like any old stout. It’s a good stout – but there is nothing crazy about this one. There is most certainly nothing oyster-ery about it.
However, the lack of any oyster flavor seems to be the consensus among all the oyster stouts I’ve ever enjoyed. One example being “Marooned on Hog Island” by 21st Amendment Brewery. Like our own oyster stout attempt, the brew proudly states the use of oyster ingredients front and center (the label is above). Yet, any oyster flavor is indistinguishable.
Oyster Stout #2
Tweaking the amount of the oyster added – and how long it stays in there – would be the number one variable for this recipe. For the next recipe, we could add more oysters towards the end of the boil. Alternatively, we could take oyster meat out of the wort before putting everything into the primary fermenter. However, given the lack of any strong oyster flavor in the brew, this latter suggestion is less likely.
Another idea would be to add salt to the recipe. This could be done in addition to the oysters, or as an alternative to. Using salt alone would make the logistics of the recipe much simpler. Salt could also be added to the secondary fermenter – two weeks after fermentation has begun.