Don your flip flops and Ray-Bans, squeeze into those skimpy Speedos and pack your bucket and spade because, this month, Beers Of The World’s voyage of beer and food discovery is taking your tastebuds down to the coast.
Yes, after a winter nibbling on cheese, chocolate and curry, BOTW sharpening its knife for a beer and seafood matching extravaganza. After all, where better to beer than beside the seaside?
You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise but beer and seafood have a long relationship dating back to the 1500s.
In these times, as a sea-faring buccaneer about to set sail for the Far East in search of spice, vice and all things nice, barrels of freshly brewed beer were an essential companion to any ocean-bound voyage.
Grog, it turns out, was a necessity rather than a luxury. Jam-packed with hops to preserve it and brimming with protein, vitamins and, ahem, morale boosting alcohol, beer was preferred to water which, apart from tasting pretty boring, was vulnerable to infection and contamination.
These eye-patch wearing, cutlass-waving swashbucklers would use the beer to wash down freshly caught fruits of the sea and the rapport between fish and seafood and beer was born.
Thankfully, beer and seafood’s relationship has developed beyond mere rancid, washed-up sea-skank spooned into a weary salt-rimmed mouth betwixt gulps of molten, musty beer.
Today, gastronomic adventurers are able to cast their net far and wide when looking for suitable beers to accompany the myriad of flavours offered by crustaceans, shellfish and other oceanic fodder.
No other food divides opinion quite like oysters. Loved by many for their decadent freshness, silky texture and aphrodisiacal powers yet loathed by others for tasting like seal’s snot with sand in, they are the Marmite of the seafood world.
Regardless of one’s standpoint, however, there seems to be little disagreement as to the best style of beer to accompany oysters. Chasing the slimy little blighters down with either a stout or a porter is a classic gastronomic ritual, dating back to Victorian times.
Back then, oysters were commonplace in the waters of England and Ireland and were consumed widely by the working classes. They’d be available on the bar tops of Victorian taverns, much as peanuts or pork scratchings are today, where they’d be washed down with a porter or a stout – the principal pints of the time.
Today, although oysters are a luxury (there’s not so many knocking about anymore) and porters and stouts are way down the priority list of the lagerdrinking masses, the combination of a fresh oyster and either a porter or a stout remains a glorious one.
Dry and bitter varieties of the beer are generally considered better options than sweeter oatmeal stouts as their bitterness fearlessly squares-up to the salty, metallic and briny character of the oysters. What’s more, both the oyster and the beer, stout in particular, boast a similarly magnificent creamy texture is yet a further reason to bring the two together at the dinner table.