Much like coffee beans and wine grapes, oysters and hops owe much of their flavors to terroir: the environments in which they’re cultivated. Mineral rich soil and long summer days in Oregon’s Willamette Valley give Centennial hops a floral aroma and resinous pine-like bitterness, while the cool waters of San Diego’s Agua Hedionda Lagoon gives Carlsbad Luna oysters a clean brininess and melon-like finish. With hundreds of hop cultivars and oyster appellations, there are virtually limitless options for pairing fresh oysters with hoppy beers.
Hoppy Beer and Oyster Pairing
Pairing: Tower 10 IPA – Without any garnish, Tower 10’s caramel malt undertones draw out the oyster’s sweetness. Add a little lemon juice and you’ll boost the zesty grapefruit flavors of T 10’s Cascade and Chinook hops.
Coast Kumamoto – Originally a Japanese appellation, Coast Kumamoto oysters are farm-raised in Humbolt Bay, California. They’re sweeter than the Sweetwater and fruitier than the Carlsbad Luna, making them a natural match with fruity Belgian IPA’s.
Pairing: Blackball Belgian IPA – Warm fermentation with a Belgian yeast strain, combined with Curacao orange and citrusy Pacifica hops gives Blackball the perfect mix of flavors to complement the sweet and fruity Kumamoto oyster.
Carlsbad Luna – Carlsbad Aquafarm has been sustainably raising shellfish in San Diego’s Agua Hedionda Lagoon for the past twenty-five years. Their Luna oysters have a mild salinity and melon-like fruity finish. Look for them in San Diego restaurants or at a number of local farmers’ markets.
Pairing: Big Barrel Double IPA – The tropical fruit flavors of the Nelson Sauvin hops draw out the natural fruitiness of the Carlsbad Luna.
Blue Point Oysters – Cultivated by Blue Island Oyster Co. in New York’s Great South Bay, this world-famous variety has a crisp texture, clean salinity, and hints of celery and pine.
Pairing: Boardwalk Black Rye IPA – Boardwalk’s complex toffee and spicy malt profile balances the salinity, while its bracing Centennial hop bitterness draws out herbaceous undertones.
Every so often a small but dedicated group of our employees gather to talk beer and food. The group includes our Executive and R&D Chefs, our Brewmaster, and a few other foodies lucky enough to make the guest list. During these discussions we chat about great beers we’ve tried, restaurants we’ve visited, and even dishes we’ve prepared at home. By taking ourselves out of “work” mode, we’re able to get great work done. Our Chefs Gunther and Corey use these gatherings as an opportunity to prepare and share their latest beer and food pairings. Over the years these guys have done some truly remarkable things with beer in the kitchen – and this month’s post is a homage to their passion for beer and food. Below is a recipe inspired by their Belgian IPA Mussels, created especially for April’s menu. This version uses ingredients available at local farmers markets, including the Carlsbad Aquafarm mussels we use in our brewery restaurants. I picked up the mussels, produce, and bread at Sunday’s Hillcrest Farmers Market.
Ingredients: Prep Time – 25 Minutes
2 lbs Carlsbad Black Mussels (cleaned and de-bearded)
6 Slices Bacon Chopped (pre-cook and pat dry before chopping)
½ Cup Finely Chopped Yellow Onion
½ Cup Finely Chopped Fennel
1 Shallot Finely Chopped
3 Garlic Cloves Crushed
4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Tbs Clover Honey
2 Tbs Butter
½ Cup Heavy Cream
1 ½ Cup Blackball Belgian IPA (room temperature)
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
Step 1: Scrub mussels with a coarse brush under cold running water. Remove any beards and discard any mussels that are broken or open. Reserve cleaned mussels in a large bowl of ice water until ready to steam.
Step 2: Melt butter in large saucepan. Add bacon, fennel, onions, shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Sauté on medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
Step 3: Add Blackball Belgian IPA and bring to a boil. Add mussels, cover, and steam until mussels have opened (4-5 Minutes). Remove from heat and discard any mussels that have not opened.
Step 4: Transfer mussels to serving dish, reserving the broth in the saucepan. Return broth to medium heat and stir in honey and cream. Ladle broth over mussels and serve with grilled French bread.