So You Wanna Brew a Beer is a Surly pilot brewing program that allows non-brewhouse employees to experience the brewing side of the business. They’re fully immersed in the entire process, from formulating the recipe to sourcing the ingredients to creation. We even put some of it on in the Beer Hall for consumers–our last one, Chase Smiley’s You Basic (a salted caramel milk stout), was an Untappd hit.
Our newest one, Call Me On My Shell Phone, is an oyster stout created by Senior Marketing Manager/Brian Kelly apologist Holly Manthei. Here’s the backstory in her words:
I used to live in Maryland, and my time there afforded me an extraordinary amount of time visiting/partnering/learning/eating oysters with the Oyster Recovery Partnership and local farmers on the Chesapeake Bay. (Footnote: Don’t let anyone tell you different–those Kumamotos and the like can fuck right off. East Coast oysters are the hands-down best. It’s the brackish water that makes the Bay so special. Just trust me on this. Rappahannock River Oysters, Choptank Oyster Company, Barren Island Oysters, et al. These guys know what’s up.)
Allow me to use my relatively useless history degree for a moment. The “oyster stout” beer style began in the 1800’s in Victorian England when pub-goers ate oysters on the half shell while sipping their favorite beers. Frequently, these beers were stouts. The roasty, toasty flavors complemented the briny, juicy flesh of the mollusks. Cross the pond and fast-forward to the 1900s, when oysters and bars often went hand-in-hand because oysters were seen as a cheap food to serve with beer. They were like Chex Mix–salty and cheap. Their plentitude made them a protein-rich food source at all socio-economic levels. In a way, the early 20th century was one of the few moments of culinary history when a single food like the oyster was accessible and commonplace for everyone. And then of course we had to go and ruin all that. The oyster harvest began to decline due to overfishing and increased pollution of the waterways that host shellfish beds.
Historically, beers labeled “oyster stout” rarely contained oysters or oyster shells. They were simply intended as a style of stout meant to pair with mollusks. East Coast breweries have been adding oysters to their stouts for years as both a tribute to the region and, more importantly, as a way of imparting a unique touch of minerality to the beer. So that’s what we did.
100% of the credit for the successful outcome of this beer goes to Brenton Tuominen for developing the recipe, letting us put actual oysters in a beer, and doing a bang-up job heading up Surly’s pilot program. Special thanks to Bob “The Cobra” Galligan for doing all the research/sensory/training for this weird beer, to Ben Peine for sourcing all the oysters, and to Drake for writing catchy lyrics. We’re all pretty pumped with the outcome and hope you are, too.
Call Me On My Shell Phone Oyster Stout taps at Surly’s beer hall today at 4:30 pm.