Following up on my earlier screeds on oyster stout and my review of Flying Fish's Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout, Nick Green of Harpoon Brewery graciously supplied me with a review bottle of Harpoon's recent 100-barrel Series release, Island Creek Oyster Stout.
The video below from Harpoon and the Boston Herald shows more on the making of this beer back in January. Note that the brewer responsible for this beer is Katie Tame, another of an increasing number of female brewers in the trade:
The beer pours bright, dark but not opaque, like a good stout, with a nice brown head. The nose is that of a classic stout, good roast barley nose with a huge whiff of what resembles sea breeze, with hints of seaweed and salt air (no, I am not being overly dramatic--it smells like the seashore sand.) The flavor is very dense, a mineral-laden, almost chalky stout with just a hint of sweetness in a medium roast. The body and mouthfeel are ridiculously thick and creamy, especially for a beer that's only 5.5%. There's a thick mineral component to this, like salt without the salty taste, or fish minus the "fishy" oily taste. It's possibly the most complex beer flavor profile I've had of late aside from more brazenly spiced or fruited beers. Would I know it was an oystered beer if I hadn't been told? Maybe not, but it definitely has all the characteristics one asks of an oyster stout, and then some. If I were trying to make this beer, I'd want a touch more residual sugars to balance out the dryness of the stout's roast and emphasize the ale character, but all in all it's an excellent example of the style and an excellent beer.
The resident sea otters here, including Gilligan, a refugee from the Gilded Otter brewpub in New Paltz, NY, agree wholeheartedly. <:-)
Sadly for them, Green reports that this beer was a fast seller, and only a few stray bottles remain on shelves in the Maryland market. Grab one if you see it.
(Label art courtesy of Harpoon)