Photo © Dave McAvoy
One of the best aspects of Bay Area beer culture is that there are so many new breweries starting up, that it’s almost a full time job trying to keep track of them. Not that I am going to complain, since that also means that shelves of good craft beer stores will constantly have new and different beers to try.
One region of the Bay Area that seems to be exploding is the North Bay. Home to heavyweight Lagunitas, Petaluma is not new to the beer world, but there are some new kids on the block. HenHouse Brewing Company opened its doors fairly recently and three of their beers are being distributed around the North Bay, as well as San Francisco and Oakland. One of them is Oyster Stout.
Oysters and Stouts are a historic food and beer pairing, but using oysters in the brewing process only stretches back to the middle of the last century. For those who are intimidated by the thought of oysters in their beer, rest assured. Most Oyster Stouts only use the oyster shells and none of the meat makes it into the beer. Even if the meat is used, the vast majority of the shellfish flavor will be lost in the boil during the brewing process.
Starting off with a quick look at the bottle, the HenHouse labels are clean and attractive. The logo is simple and the label design is fairly minimal, which makes it easy to spot on the shelf.
The beer pours a very dark black color with a finger of frothy chocolate colored head forming atop. The head fades down fairly slowly leaving a nice ring of lace behind. The aroma is a mix of roasted milk chocolate with some light coffee and minerals. It is a fairly simple nose, but it’s clean and very appetizing.
The flavor starts off with some roasted chocolate malts, coffee and a bit of a mineral flavor. I should mention that mineral flavor is often considered an off-flavor in beer, but for this style it’s accepted and comes from the oyster shells, which add depth and a bit of body to the beer.
Through the middle, some sweeter milk chocolate flavors come through, with even a touch of lactose, and a bit more roastiness. The finish is a mix of roasted milk chocolate, light coffee, and a hint of dark fruit. The beer feels medium bodied with moderate carbonation. It is remarkably smooth and sessionable, and has a wonderful dry and roasty finish.
Weighing in at around 4.9% ABV, this is a stout that I could drink quite a bit of. The overall beer does not hit the palate too hard, but is very clean and has a great balance of flavors. Beyond Oysters, this could be paired with many other foods and works equally well as a great end of the day beer that will not leave you hung-over the next morning.
This is without a doubt a good start for HenHouse Brewing Company, and I highly recommend you give them a shot if you are lucky enough to come across their brews in your area.