We don’t often hear about seafood in our beer but it’s actually not new. Oyster stout was the traditional seafood beer in the 18th century when regular stouts were accompanied by oysters in local taverns and pubs. Later, oysters were incorporated into the brewing process which was first documented in the 1930s. That’s what we call “oyster stout” today. It fell out of fashion for a few decades but as craft beers become increasingly popular in New England, several brands are coming out with their own take. Harpoon did an oyster stout a few years ago and, last year, Dogfish Head made a very bitter chocolate lobster beer.
Now, the Seattle-based Redhook Brewing company, which has a brewery in Portsmouth, has added its own twist. Black Lobstah Lager is made entirely with New Hampshire lobsters in partnership with NH Fresh and Local Seafood, a marketing brand spearheaded by the UNH Cooperative Extension and NH Sea Grant.
I got a chance to try the beer this past weekend during a kickoff of the fishing season hosted by NH Fresh and Local Seafood.
“We added lobsters, about 60 of them, at the last ten minutes of the boil along with a little bit of lobster brine that gave a little bit of that sea air nuance to it,” says Redhook Brewmaster Billy Smith. “The idea,” says Smith, “is to keep the integrity of the beer there and then the extra ingredients are supposed to come in at the finish. So it’s a good, drinkable, Schwarzbier (dark lager) and then it has a little surprise at the end.”
I told Smith that I honestly couldn’t taste the lobster. He told me that they wanted it to be subtle. “We did some pilot batches on this where it was very predominant. Where it was almost like running through a fish market with your mouth open. And that’s not what we were going for.”
I’m glad they didn’t go overboard with the lobsters. And, personally, since I’m not a fan of the often heavy and creamy stouts, I’m also pleased they made it a dark lager. Smith describes what makes a dark lager a good choice for this batch. He says, “the lagers tend to be crisper, cleaner and dryer in the finish, so you don’t get the full-bodied feel to it. So you get the delicacies of that beer; the light roastiness, the really clean finish, then you get a little bit of that saltiness to it.”
Black Lobstah Lager was released in April and was the latest in its “Backyard Series” of local small batch brews. It was the first in the series to be released in 22 oz. bottles.
Unconfirmed reports state that one local woman, upon hearing that the beer was only a limited release, loved it so much that she began hoarding nearly a hundred bottles in her basement. I suspect this may be a slight exaggeration.
The next beer of theirs to look for is their summer beer: Wise Cracker Wit. They changed the name from simply “Wit” this year in an effort to boost sales. Since, as Brewmaster Billy Smith tells me, that seemed to help their IPA sales when they renamed it Long Hammer IPA. Wise Cracker Wit is a traditional Belgian wheat beer with a snap of ginger that Redhook added to make it their own.