Brewery: Black Narrows Brewing Co. (Chincoteague, VA)
Style: American Wild Ale
4.4% ABV / N/A IBU
Salts is a tribute to Black Narrows Brewing Company’s origins at the site of a historic oyster shucking house in Virginia’s Eastern Shore. It also features two particularly bizarre ingredients: oysters and a house strain of yeast cultivated from locally-sourced Chincoteague salt. OK, having a “house strain” seems to be the norm these days with breweries experimenting with bacteria culture. But bay oysters? Oysters on the half shell with an easy-drinking wheat beer on the side—sure thing. But together in the same bottle?
There’s a precedent for this, of course: the oyster stout, which is typically brewed with oyster shells, treating the wort like a giant pot of stock. Salts incorporates that technique, plus a small quantity of the oyster flesh and a larger quantity of oyster liquor. The latter is part of the genius of this Black Narrows brew. Oyster liquor – the juice surrounding the oyster inside of its shell – is arguably the best part of a freshly shucked oyster. In Salts, it functions as an Umami bomb, imparting a briny flavor that is completely different than the sea salt profile of a gose.
The base of the beer is a pretty straightforward mix of pilsner malt and raw wheat, but the Black Narrows house strain of yeast is also an incredible difference-maker here. The lemon flavor from the lactobacillus is pleasingly tart and evokes the German tradition of pairing witbiers and hefeweissens with citrus. You can also get a hint of the complexity of this beer from its nose, which is both floral and grassy. Few brewers are bothering to do anything with under 5% ABV beers, let alone something this funky and offbeat; Salts states a pretty persuasive case for why sessionable wild ales might be the next big thing.
For more info, check out Black Narrows Brewing Co here.