Oysters, when carefully picked, shucked, and served fresh can be a decadent treat. The same is true for a well-made stout. The combination of the two is a celebrated beer style that has taken a backseat in recent years to the sweet-forward stouts.
On the rare occasion when you come across an oyster stout in the wild, it has an almost irresistible pull. The sweet roasty stout mixed with the briney savory taste of the mollusk is a combination that just works. Brewers have known this for a long time and have worked to find the right balance of flavors—not too brackish, but retaining the flavors of the bivalve.
There are several different ways to get the flavor into the beer. There’s using the meat, of course: freshly shucking the oysters, getting them into a mesh bag, and then adding them to the mash, whirlpool, or bright tank. Adding them on the hot side has its benefits—cooking the protein helps keep the beer unspoiled for longer. Plus, you have a snack to munch on during your transfer. Adding them on the fermentation or finishing side might produce a brighter flavor, but time to consume becomes a factor. And then there are the shells. Brewers like using the shells because of the salty exterior, along with some of the remaining liquor. In fermentation, the shells double as fining agents.