Photo courtesy of Schlafly Beer
Certain tastes go together like, well, peanut butter and jelly. Beer and burgers. Red meat and red wine. Nachos and margaritas.
Which is why it initially seems like heresy to suggest that there could be a more perfect pairing for oysters than Champagne. The two are inextricably linked for many bivalve lovers — a crisp glass of bubbly and the briny swish of a freshly shucked oyster seem like the ultimate lazy afternoon indulgence.
But while Stephen Hale, the ambassador brewmaster for St. Louis' Schlafly Beer, understands the appeal, he's actually a firm believer that oysters and stouts are an even more felicitous combination. "The robust roastiness of a stout balances out the cold brininess of the oyster," he explains. "Especially in the winter, a stout makes much more sense."
This weekend, Schlafly brings its annual Stout & Oyster Festival to the Tap Room, with more than 50,000 oysters on hand for shucking and 10 stout beers on hand for purchase. It's the perfect opportunity to see if Hale has it right.
Here are three reasons that a stout just might blow a glass of Champagne out of the water.
1. Contrast is everything.
"Champagne may have its strong bubbly character and other reasons why people love it, but it’s just a bit delicate to go with the cold, raw, salty character of an oyster; those flavors and characteristics require a brawny, roasty flavorful stout," Hale says. A buttery sweet oyster like a Kumamoto might make sense with Champagne, but for many oysters — think a fat, briny oyster like a Blue Point or a Penn Cove Select — stout provides the necessary contrast.
2. Beer is more versatile.
Sure, a nice dry glass of Champagne might be delicious with a raw bivalve dressed only in mignonette, but (heresy though it may be to purists), there are other ways to eat an oyster. Stouts also pair well with a variety of presentations — not just raw oysters, but also an oyster po'boy or oyster stew. And if you're someone who likes their bivalves doused in Tabasco, a stout stands up well to that, too.
3. With stouts, you can drink more.
Champagne has an alcohol by volume, or ABV, of ten to twelve percent. For stouts, it's typically more like five or six percent, Hale says. That means you can literally drink nearly twice as much without getting hammered. And that means more oysters — and more fun. Sounds like a game plan to us!
For more on Schlafly's Stout & Oyster Festival, see their website
See also: Photos from the 2013 Stout & Oyster Festival
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