Dry, roasty stout pairs well with subtle, fresh oysters. Let me tell you why.
My wife and I once spent a leisurely winter week roaming the venerable hills, freshwater lakes and craggy shoreline along Ireland’s western coast, savoring striking natural beauty — majestic Cliffs of Moher, rocky Burren badlands and the primeval tableau of Connemara — and plotting an oyster strike.
Eventually we checked into a bed and breakfast outside the village of Kilcolgan. The confluence of waters in the estuary bordering the green fields of nearby Clarinbridge, where fresh river water meets the sea, is home to a particularly succulent variety of Galway Bay oyster.
Our destination was Moran’s Oyster Cottage, located “on the weir.” Our host urged us to leave immediately and enjoy a sunset stroll behind Moran’s along the waterfront bluffs overlooking the 700-acre oyster bed. The “weir” is an old wall built across the river for the purpose of catching salmon, and it has become local patois for the vicinity.
Moran’s is operated by the sixth generation of its founding family. For much of its long working life, Moran’s was a typical Irish country pub. In the 1960s, the decision was made to carry on by concentrating on two things: oysters and stout.
Good call! I started with a dozen oysters on the half shell and a pint of Murphy’s Stout, while Diana opted for 12 garlic-fried mussels. A basket of rich brown bread with butter accompanied. Her choice was delicious, but on this occasion, the local oysters dominated the proceedings: silver dollar-sized, crazily plump and mouthwateringly redolent of the estuary from whence they’d only recently come.
Murphy’s proved to be a perfect foil. Ireland’s “second” stout is softer and fruitier than Guinness, but still maintains the dignified dryness demanded by the oyster’s texture and flavor.
Don’t forget: oysters and stout. Class dismissed.
Roger Baylor is co-owner of the New Albanian Brewing Co. in New Albany. Visit www.potablecurmudgeon.com for more beer.