A few years ago I got enthusiastic about craft beer and I am thrilled that there is a group of women with the same interest, known as the Boston Area Beer Enthusiasts Society (BABES). The BABES hold functions for people who are passionate about beer and beer brewing. They have frequent events which include tours at local breweries, tastings, trivia, and many beer related social activities.
I was excited to attend their April event, an oyster and beer pairing at Row 34 with Meghan Parker-Gray, the restaurant’s beer director. The thought of an oyster and beer pairing seemed like an unusual event, but due to both of their vast taste profiles, it turns out one can find many matches.
An oyster can claim a unique flavor through a combination of key factors including breed, environment, and cultivation. Not only does the oyster’s region (Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, etc.) have a role in the taste, but the farming methods used have an effect. For example, the tumbled method tends to give oysters more meat by occasionally tumbling the oysters in a mechanical rotator for a “work out.”
Megan Parker-Gray oversees the beer list for Row 34, a job that includes coordinating the beer taps and collaborating with local and international breweries. She kindly provided us with a discussion about oysters and working in the craft beer industry. The menu for this event featured three beer and oyster pairings. Most of the oysters tasted are often listed on Row 34’s raw menu while the beer list changes often.
Before the tasting started, I ordered a Cuvée des Jacobins, a Flanders red ale. To be honest, I just felt like a sour beer and figured that it would be good based on its Belgian origin. I had no idea that sour beers complement oysters so well. Megan expressed her fondness for a good sour (high five Megan!) and explained how the acidity from the beer prepares the palette for the salinity and brine of the oysters. The refreshing tartness is akin to a mignonette, the sauce normally served with oysters. I wholeheartedly agree that a sour beer is a great alternative for the condiment, and not just because of my love for sour beers!
The first pair was Island Creek oysters with Tannenzäpfle Pils from Rothaus brewery in Germany. Island Creek oysters are grown in Duxbury, Massachusetts and source many restaurants in Boston. Baby oysters are cultivated by the rack and bag method, where upwellers (a weave housing for the tiny babies) are suspended in water. When they reach a certain size, the oysters are scattered throughout the muddy bottom of Duxbury bay, called bottom planting. They live there for a few more months before harvesting.