Nothing screams “New England summer” quite like lobster – except maybe lobster-infused beer. The idea for this shellfish spin comes from Tim Adams, head brewer at Oxbow Brewing Co. in Newcastle, Maine and Giovanni Campari, brewmaster at Birrificio del Ducato in Parma, Italy, who together conspired to create a “salted, funky-tart saison” to which they just had to add lobsters.
Adams told The Boston Globe that he was hesitant at first, saying, “We get pretty wild at Oxbow when it comes to fermentation and aging and barrels…but we don’t even spice our beers at all. So the idea of doing something so wild and unconventional, we were taken aback a little bit.”
According to the brewery’s website, Oxbow is an American farmhouse brewery specializing in traditional Belgian-style ales with contemporary influences. They brew small batch beer in a renovated barn in rural Maine. Quaint, eh? Oxbow has created some truly sophisticated beers, from French-style country ales (Space Cowboy) to barrel-aged ale blended with fresh peaches (Momoko).
Their inspired, refined version of lobster beer is based on a mixed fermentation Gose, a take on German beer brewed with salt and coriander, and they added a “light-handed” lobster twist to add a “sort of maritime funk to the beer.”
The dozen lobsters they added to the boiling kettle of grain came from a nearby lobster pound, where they cooked in the mash for twelve minutes. The team enjoyed the meat, reportedly some of the tastiest they’d ever had, and used the shells during other parts of the brewing process.
The beer, dubbed Saison Dell’Aragosta, has been brewed the same way for the last three years, and has a floral, fruity, citrusy aroma. Gary Dzen reports that the flavor is salty and tart, “like squirting a lemon onto your oysters – albeit with less briny character.” It clocks in at 4.5 percent ABV, slightly boozy and perfectly refreshing for an evening clambake.
Oxbow isn’t the first brewery to add live lobsters to beer; Dogfish Head’s Chocolate Lobster has been brewed since 2012, originally created to be paired with chocolate lobster bisque and white chocolate lobster salad sliders (um, what?). Dogfish Head’s version uses a porter base, live lobsters, dark cocoa powder and basil tea, resulting in a “rich dark ale with notes of bittersweet chocolate and roast, with a slight herbal nuance and a subdued taste of the ocean in the finish.” It’s brewed every summer with Maine lobsters.
Getting back to the all-Maine brewery, Adams notes “There’s a little bit of sweetness from the lobster that provides a nice balance. But when you pour yourself a glass of this beer, you’d never say, ‘Oh my God, this tastes like lobster.’ It is really more of a background note, which is probably a good thing.”
I love lobster, but I’m gonna agree with the expert on this one.