Liquid Diet: Night Shift Harborside with Island Creek Oysters

Night Shift's briny new brew might be the beer of the summer.

night shift harborside

Nights Shift’s new Harborside, is a gose brewed with Island Creek Oysters. Photo provided

Gose (pronounced gose-uh), the once popular 18th century beer style, brewed with coriander and yes, salt, is finally being resurrected as American craft breweries graduate from a decades-long fascination with Belgian and British beer styles. If 2013 was the year of the saison, 2014 has proved to be the province of lip-puckering German sours like the Berliner Weisse and its alkaline cousin, the gose. Briny booze is in as we’ve seen with sommeliers championing fino and manzanilla sherries and bourbon distillers like Jefferson aging barrels at sea. But Everett brewery, Night Shift, has long been interested in salt’s ability to draw out deeper flavors and more nuance.

Last year, Night Shift released Seaglass, a sessionable pale ale brewed with Himalayan pink salt, Hawaiian lava salt, and grains of paradise. Cofounder Michael Oxton says the beer “lacked the complexity” they were pursuing, so they took the project in a different direction. The brewery collaborated with The Marblehead Salt Co. and created their first canned product, Marblehead. The low-gravity amber, brewed with caramel malts and vanilla beans, was meant to evoke salted caramel, and has since become a seasonal staple.

“Salty beers are becoming quite the trend in the craft beer community,” Oxton says. “We brewed a beer last year called Seaglass, which was our foray into salting beer. We were inspired by the traditional German goses that are out there, but we wanted to take the style and incorporate it into something that people were more familiar with, like a pale ale. Finally, after brewing Marblehead, we decided to return to our original inspiration and make a summertime beer.”

Harborside is a traditional gose in every way except one. The top-fermenting wheat beer omits the typical addition of sea salt in favor of the natural brininess of Island Creek Oysters. Night Shift has made a 20-barrel batch (or 600 gallons) brewed with 350 live oysters, that were dropped into the wort in the last few minutes of the boil.

“Boston being a seaside town, it just made total sense to incorporate something with oysters,” Oxton says. “The most shocking thing about it was that it picked up this briny, salty character to it, but it also got really lemony, which we weren’t expecting. When it was fermenting in the tank, we were tasting it and I kept asking the guys, ‘are you sure nobody added citrus to this?'”

Harborside is being poured exclusively at Night Shift’s taproom, Row 34, and Island Creek Oyster Bar. A second batch is currently fermenting, and will have a limited release in bottles. Night Shift is considering transitioning to a winter gose, so Harborside will more than likely be shelved after the summer months.

“Island Creek is farming some of the best oysters in the country,” Oxton says. “They supplied us with all the oysters and invited us down to their farm. We toured the facility and went out on the boats. It was a full day, but by the end of it we had learned about the process, understood what went into it, and had a better appreciation for the ingredient.”

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