Review by: Cory Smith
The night is winding down, the fireplace is roaring, and I just want to curl up with a nice Oyster Stout. Wait… what? Yes, you read that correctly — there is a stout made with oysters, and I’m going to try it.
Flying Dog Brewery has partnered up with the Oyster Recovery Partnership with this brew by donating proceeds to the organization which helps restore oysters to the Chesapeake Bay. To say it simply, I love this idea. I didn’t know there was an oyster shortage, but I think it is great that Flying Dog is giving back to the community by brewing up something strange and unique.
I’ll be completely honest, I’m nervous about this beer. I’m game for trying just about anything there is to eat or drink, but this combination doesn’t even sound appealing. But, then again, it’s so unappealing that I can’t stay away. It’s like my brother at the sushi bar; ordering raw quail eggs in his sake and sea urchin roe on his rolls; it just sounds too weird not to try! My willingness to try new things doesn’t always end up with me as a satisfied customer (i.e. quail-egg shots), but I’m going to swallow my doubts, swallow my fears, and, hopefully, swallow this stout with a smile on my face.
Jet-black and opaque, Pearl Necklace is everything you want your stout to look like. the head is a thin layer of tan fluff, that clings to the sides of the glass. Holding this beer up to light, it looks a lot like cola — it only lets light through around the edges of the glass, and the light turns the beer a dark-cherry hue. Ascending bubbles assure me that this will not be a flat stout like a Guinness usually is.
I’m scared! Ok, actually, there is no smell of oyster anywhere. I know that fresh oysters shouldn’t be stinky, but I’m trying to search for any hints of saltwater fishiness, and only come back with a lot of burnt aromas. Notes of chocolate and coffee pour through, as well as roasted barley. It smells amazing!
Pearl Necklace isn’t the thickest stout I’ve ever had. That isn’t a bad thing, but normally when I think stout I picture myself pulling away from the glass with a foam mustache. It’s on the lower side of “full bodied” with a refreshing burst of carbonation. The carbonation really cleans the palate as I go in for another sip.
Well, I’m torn. On one end, I don’t want a stout with heavy seafood flavors and oyster juice bombarding my taste buds, but on the other hand, SOME oyster flavor would be fun! All I get is a big bitter burnt grain bill including chocolate, roasted/smokey, and coffee flavors. At the very end, if I convince myself it’s there, I can taste the saltwater. Had you told me this was just a stout, I’d never be able to taste the difference.
I will say that the flavors are enjoyable and in great balance. The subtle hop profile works well with the strong malt flavors. It is dry, but not boozy, and the chocolate and coffee characters grow as the beer warms. I’ve never been a fan of pouring a beer warm, because I’d rather wait for it to warm than be mad that it’s too hot, but this beer is definitely better as it sits.
So I got all worked up about nothing. Oysters in beer sounds terrifying, disgusting even, but Flying Dog pulled it off without making me regret my purchase. I am a little disappointed that there isn’t a bigger profile of oysters, but, then again, how could there be? Oysters are a fairly neutral flavor in comparison to the rest of the seafood world. They’re briney and salty, but never smell or taste like fish. It’s all a mind game and I am glad I gave it a try.
I would give Pearl Necklace a score of 83 out of 100 or a B. Nothing about this beer blew me away (except my own fears of drinking it), but nothing was bad either. It is a great example of a dry stout that would go well with (obviously) any kind of oysters. I am sure that’s just another mind game that the name has played on me, but I really do have a craving for a dozen oysters on the half-shell with some cocktail sauce. The bold flavors of the beer would pair well with any clean and refreshing seafood, or white meat that isn’t overly spiced. If you see this on tap or in the store, do yourself a favor and give it a whirl, if nothing else just to say you did it.