SALTS: Black Narrows Brewing Tart Oyster Wheat Recipe
I remember exactly where I was the first time I homebrewed. It was a cool Spring evening in Denver, Colorado at my sous chef ’s house. At the time, I was working on the line for the city’s best restaurant, Mizuna, trying to keep up and learn on the fly in one of the most intense work environments I’ve ever known. But in my friend’s tiny rowhouse that night, with a garden hose hanging through the kitchen window and a cookie sheet full of roasting barley in the oven, lightning struck my brain. In homebrewing, I had all the creative freedom of cooking—time, temperature, flavor profiles—but the beer was alive! It could change and evolve, become more cohesive and complex. I got to be a part of the process, to be surprised by the outcome.
My story isn’t unique. Many professional brewers have a similar beginning. As a homebrewer, the excitement of creating a recipe, the hands-on enjoyment of brewday, and the anticipation of the final product are the pinnacle of self-expression. It was, and continues to be, a refuge, an outlet, and an opportunity for inspiration. I hope the chance to brew something so near and dear to my heart affords you the same joys. If you’ve never homebrewed before, check out my favorite homebrew magazine, Brew Your Own. They’ve been inspiring first time folks and experts alike for years.
OG - 1.036sg
FG - 1.010sg
IBU – 16
ABV - 3.5%
Finished Volume - 5 gallons, assuming 70% Mash Efficiency
6 pounds Pilsner Malt
4 pounds Raw Wheat
HOP AND OYSTER ADDITIONS
.15 ounce Chinook @ 60mins
16 ounces oyster flesh @ 10mins (it’s best to use small muslin bags to contain them)
1.00 ounce Hallertau Blanc @ flameout
32 ounces oyster liquor
A note about oyster liquor: Often times this beautiful juice is left as a waste product during busy packaging times in a shucking house. If you can find a local waterman, it’s well worth a friendly conversation to see if they can collect the liquor during a frantic shucking session. Offer to trade oyster liquor for beer, as I firmly believe beer is one of the great bartering tools in human history. If you can’t find oyster liquor, up the oyster flesh to 32 ounces.
YEAST AND BACTERIA
Omega Yeast Labs Lactobacillus Blend
Omega Yeast Labs Belgian Ale-W
We use a strain of yeast isolated and cultivated off of a Chincoteague Salt. It’s fruity and floral and very attenuative. I like Omega Yeast Labs Belgian Ale-W as an alternative. It’s got great fruit and just enough earth and spice to round the whole thing out.
We’ve built a great relationship with local farmers and malt producers. All of our base malt at Black Narrows comes from Virginia’s own Pilot Malt House. Our raw wheat comes from Aaron Cooper’s Cut Fresh Organics, and it’s wonderfully tangy and nutty. Being that the wheat is unmalted, I really prefer to do a two-step mash to get a good gelation of the wheat starches. The key I’ve found for step-mashes is to stir frequently while raising the mash temp to avoid scorching the bottom of the kettle.
Step 1 - Mash in at 122°F, rest for 15 minutes
Step 2 - Raise the mash temp (stirring frequently) to 150°F, rest for 60 minutes
Once both rests have been completed, sparge as normal to collect 6.25 gallons of wort. Bring the wort just to a boil, and then cool to between 105°F-110°F. At this point, pitch in the lactobacillus and let the wort acidify. This process can take anywhere from 1-3 days, depending on how tart you’d like the beer to be. Once the desired level of acidity has been reached, return the wort to a boil, add the hops and oysters per the boil addition schedule, cool to 68°F and pitch the brewer’s yeast. We use a strain of yeast isolated and cultivated from a Chincoteague Salt. It’s fruity and floral and very attenuative. I’d suggest Omega Yeast Labs Belgian Ale-W. It’s got great fruit and just enough earth and spice to round the whole thing out.
>Black Narrows Brewing Co., 4522 Chicken City Road, Chincoteague Island, Va., blacknarrowsbrewing.com