If you love oysters, you've probably heard of the "R" rule, which stipulates not to eat the bivalves in months that don't contain an "R" (i.e. May to August are out). It’s tough to reconcile this concept with the fact that crisp, briny oysters on ice—the flavors of the beach in every half shell—are pretty much the perfect thing to eat all summer long. Luckily, the rule is bunk. Julie Qiu, who writes inahalfshell.com, confirms that in the modern era of refrigeration and water and harvest regulations, there are no longer safety issues related to eating professionally grown summer oysters.
So, what to drink? Beer is excellent with oysters, but the traditional pairings—like dark oyster stouts—are best suited for fall. In spring and summer, we beer drinkers want something a bit fresher with our chilled oysters. Luckily, there are plenty of options. See below for three refreshing beers that are amazing with oysters.
S.I.P.A. Session IPA from Ipswich Ale Brewery is a low-alcohol “session” IPA brewed with Simcoe, Ella and Mosaic hops, all of which are at the zesty, aggressively citrus end of the spectrum. At 3.9 percent ABV, you can drink it all day, and the hops are lemony enough that the oysters don’t need a garnish.
Tart, Fruity Wheat Beer
White Birch makes a blueberry and raspberry Berliner Weisse that’s a new and different idea for pairing. “The tartness is ideal with the brine, it's low alcohol for summer drinking, and it’s definitely a thirst-quencher,” says Mike Moser, beer auction specialist at Skinner Auctioneers in Boston.
At a recent cask ale festival held at Blue Point Brewing Company on Long Island, New York, we were pleasantly surprised to find oysters paired with a variety of cask ales. The unobtrusive carbonation in a cask ale lets the delicate flavors of the oyster shine through. Often cask ales have heavier malts and lower hops, but if you find a cask ale brewed on the lighter side, it’s a perfect match—in some ways similar to those Victorian pubs where oyster stout became popular. It’s impossible to recommend just one, as cask ales are often brewer’s “one-offs,” but don’t be afraid to pair them with oysters when you see one on a menu.