It sounds fishy, but there’s a brewery in Maine infusing its beer with lobster.
Yes, you read that correctly. Oxbow Brewery in Newcastle, Maine, made a beer called Saison dell’Aragosta. Aragosta means lobster or crayfish in Italian, and the choice of language is an homage to one of the masterminds who came up with the weird idea in the first place.
“We brewed in collaboration with a good friend of ours named Giovanni Campari, the brewmaster at Birrificio del Ducato, one of Italy’s best breweries,’’ said Tim Adams, co-owner and head brewer at Oxbow.
Campari crossed the pond last summer to work with Adams. They planned to brew “an esoteric German beer that was low in alcohol and used wheat along with barley,’’ Adams said. He and Campari wanted the flavor profile to be tart and acidic, with a salt character to it, as well.
The two ate lobster rolls at Eventide in Portland the evening before they were set to get to work. But the lobster would prove to be more than dinner. It was inspiration.
“Giovanni turns to me and says, ‘We gotta put some lobster in the beer we’re brewing,’’’ Adams said. “I was slightly taken aback and hesitant, but I couldn’t say no to him. The guy traveled all the way from Parma to Maine.’’
Oxbow doesn’t usually use unconventional ingredients in their brewing process, but in this case, lobsters made sense. The idea was for the crustaceans to provide the salty flavor profile Adams and Campari were after. They helped it along with some Maine sea salt, a gift from the chef at Eventide that came with “blessings and good wishes,’’ according to Adams.
“We got the lobsters from the lobster pound and put them live in a mesh bag, and suspended that bag into the kettle of boiling wort—that’s the term for beer before it’s been fermented,’’ Adams said. “We cooked the 12 lobsters until they were done, and then we pulled them out and we ate them.’’
How’d they taste?
“I grew up in Maine,’’ Adams said. “And I’ve eaten plenty of lobster. But this was the best lobster I’ve ever had in my life.’’
Since Oxbow always brews double batches, Campari and Adams then brewed more beer, this time using the shells of the lobsters. As for the beer, Adams described it as “a balance between the sweetness of the lobster, the sharpness of the acidity, and the salinity of the salt.’’
To find out for yourself, go to Maine. The beer—about 3,000 bottles-worth—is available at Oxbow’s brewery in Newcastle, their Portland storefront, and select Maine bars and restaurants.