How to Pair Oysters and Beer

Oysters at Dusek's, Chicago.

Oysters at Dusek's.

Dusek's Board & Beer

White wine and bubbles are the traditional liquid accompaniments to oysters. And for good reason. The acid in a dry, crisp wine complements an oyster's salty brine and minerality. But as with most food and drink rules, this pairing is just a guideline to get you started. It can be broken—or at least bent—as you branch out and experiment.

In Chicago, Michelin-starred restaurant Dusek's Board & Beer specializes in pairing craft beers with food, including everyone’s favorite mollusk. It's there that Dusek's Beer Director, Matt Miller-Smulski, puts his two decades of experience to use, offering expert recommendations on which beers will enhance your shellfish-eating experience.

From sour brews and peaty Germans to refreshing pilsners, there's a beer for every type of oyster. Below, he shares six of his favorite oyster-and-beer pairings, complete with a few alternative beers that will likely be easier to find at your local bar or bottle shop.

East Coast Oysters + Marz Dilliner Weisse

According to Miller-Smulski, the Chicago-brewed Marz Dilliner Weisse perfectly complements and enhances most of your standard East Coast oysters. It's brewed with dill and spicy red pepper flakes, so it can take the place of hot sauce and vinegar-based mignonette. Also try: Off Color Spots Tiki Weisse, Evil Twin Bushido Berliner Weisse with Yuzu and Chili, Mikkeller Ich Bin Berliner Weisse Passion Fruit.

Mineral East Coast Oysters + Allagash Tripel

When it comes to more mineral-y East Coast oysters, try Allagash Tripel, which has notes of passion fruit and herbs. "The Allagash Tripel’s sublime fruitiness offers a great contrast to the mineral taste of the bivalve," says Miller-Smulski. Also try: Samuel Adams New World Tripel, New Belgium Tripel, Victory Golden Monkey.

Briny East Coast Oysters + Belhaven Scottish Stout

The Dusek's barman has already moved beyond the classic wine-with-shellfish guideline, but here he takes things a step further by breaking out a dark, rich beer. He suggests pairing briny East Coast oysters with Belhaven Scottish Stout because the salinity of the former helps to bring out the roasted malt, chocolate and coffee flavors in the latter. Also try: Guinness, Left Hand Milk Stout, Founders Breakfast Stout. 

Mineral West Coast Oysters + Dupont Saison

"Saisons work especially well with mineral-rich West Coast oysters," says Miller-Smulski. "The Dupont Saison’s barnyard nose combined with its fruity spiciness gives the oysters a sweeter aftertaste." He also notes that, if you like your oysters with a kick, the pepper and spice present in the beer can serve as a replacement for hot sauce. Also try: Allagash Saison, Moody Tongue Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison, Goose Island Sofie. 

Grilled Oysters + Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen

German Rauchbiers are known for their distinct smokiness and peaty flavor imparted from drying the malted barley over an open flame. Drink one with a grilled oyster, and you'll find a smoky match. In the case of the Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen, "Its complexity and maltiness soften the powerful smokiness and give it a more rounded flavor," says Miller-Smulski. Also try: Bret Peat Daydream, Wild Beer Co. Smoke ’n’ Barrel, Jack’s Abby Brewing Co. Smoke & Dagger.

Fried Oysters + Maplewood Pulaski Pils

"A good hop-forward pilsner pairs perfectly with fried oysters," says Miller-Smulski. "After the oysters are breaded and fried, we lose the minerality and umami flavors take over. The light, bready, highly-carbonated pilsner accentuates this, and a more hop-forward version cuts through the richness." Also try: Victory Prima Pils, Firestone Walker Pivo Pils.

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White wine and bubbles are the traditional liquid accompaniments to oysters. And for good reason. The acid in a dry, crisp wine complements an oyster's salty brine and minerality. But as with most food and drink rules, this pairing is just a guideline to get you started. It can be broken—or at least bent—as you branch out and experiment.

In Chicago, Michelin-starred restaurant Dusek's Board & Beer specializes in pairing craft beers with food, including everyone’s favorite mollusk. It's there that Dusek's Beer Director, Matt Miller-Smulski, puts his two decades of experience to use, offering expert recommendations on which beers will enhance your shellfish-eating experience.

From sour brews and peaty Germans to refreshing pilsners, there's a beer for every type of oyster. Below, he shares six of his favorite oyster-and-beer pairings, complete with a few alternative beers that will likely be easier to find at your local bar or bottle shop.

East Coast Oysters + Marz Dilliner Weisse

According to Miller-Smulski, the Chicago-brewed Marz Dilliner Weisse perfectly complements and enhances most of your standard East Coast oysters. It's brewed with dill and spicy red pepper flakes, so it can take the place of hot sauce and vinegar-based mignonette. Also try: Off Color Spots Tiki Weisse, Evil Twin Bushido Berliner Weisse with Yuzu and Chili, Mikkeller Ich Bin Berliner Weisse Passion Fruit.

Mineral East Coast Oysters + Allagash Tripel

When it comes to more mineral-y East Coast oysters, try Allagash Tripel, which has notes of passion fruit and herbs. "The Allagash Tripel’s sublime fruitiness offers a great contrast to the mineral taste of the bivalve," says Miller-Smulski. Also try: Samuel Adams New World Tripel, New Belgium Tripel, Victory Golden Monkey.

Briny East Coast Oysters + Belhaven Scottish Stout

The Dusek's barman has already moved beyond the classic wine-with-shellfish guideline, but here he takes things a step further by breaking out a dark, rich beer. He suggests pairing briny East Coast oysters with Belhaven Scottish Stout because the salinity of the former helps to bring out the roasted malt, chocolate and coffee flavors in the latter. Also try: Guinness, Left Hand Milk Stout, Founders Breakfast Stout. 

Mineral West Coast Oysters + Dupont Saison

"Saisons work especially well with mineral-rich West Coast oysters," says Miller-Smulski. "The Dupont Saison’s barnyard nose combined with its fruity spiciness gives the oysters a sweeter aftertaste." He also notes that, if you like your oysters with a kick, the pepper and spice present in the beer can serve as a replacement for hot sauce. Also try: Allagash Saison, Moody Tongue Steeped Emperor’s Lemon Saison, Goose Island Sofie. 

Grilled Oysters + Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen

German Rauchbiers are known for their distinct smokiness and peaty flavor imparted from drying the malted barley over an open flame. Drink one with a grilled oyster, and you'll find a smoky match. In the case of the Aecht Schlenkerla Marzen, "Its complexity and maltiness soften the powerful smokiness and give it a more rounded flavor," says Miller-Smulski. Also try: Bret Peat Daydream, Wild Beer Co. Smoke ’n’ Barrel, Jack’s Abby Brewing Co. Smoke & Dagger.

Fried Oysters + Maplewood Pulaski Pils

"A good hop-forward pilsner pairs perfectly with fried oysters," says Miller-Smulski. "After the oysters are breaded and fried, we lose the minerality and umami flavors take over. The light, bready, highly-carbonated pilsner accentuates this, and a more hop-forward version cuts through the richness." Also try: Victory Prima Pils, Firestone Walker Pivo Pils.

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Kevin Gray is a freelance journalist specializing in food, drinks, travel and fitness. His work has appeared in publications including the Dallas Morning News, Men's Hea...