Drink This Now: Saison Dell’Aragosta, by Oxbow Brewing
If you’re trekking up to Maine for Fourth of July weekend, chances are you’ll want to enjoy a plate of the state’s fresh lobster. But what about a lobster beer?
Did we lose you? If you’re still reading, and intrigued, keep your eyes peeled for bottles of Oxbow Beer’s Saison Dell’Aragosta, which hits Pine Tree State shelves this Friday, July 1.
The “gose-inspired” farmhouse ale, whose name translates simply to “lobster saison,” is a collaboration between Oxbow and Italian brewery Birrificio del Ducato, brewed with local sea salt and live Maine lobsters. The beer will be available in 500 mL bottles at Oxbow’s Newcastle brewery and its Portland taproom, before it rolls out to local outlets.
This is the second summer Oxbow has released the 4.5 percent ABV lobster sipper. Last year, Ducato’s Giovanni Campari visited Maine to brew with Oxbow brewmaster Tim Adams, and inspiration struck at the last minute.
“We had already intended on doing a gose-inspired saison, and [Campari and I] were out to dinner the night before the brew day,” Adams says. “Giovanni was in from Italy, so of course we were eating Maine lobster at Eventide Oyster Company in Portland. We were enjoying their lobster rolls, and out of nowhere, Giovanni said that he wanted to put lobster in the beer.”
The two formulated a recipe to do just that. Campari didn’t fly in from Italy to make the second batch, but Adams says the brewing approach hasn’t changed. During the first half of the process, the live, local lobsters are tossed right into the beer and briefly boiled until they’re cooked through. The brewers then remove the meat, and the shells are used throughout the second half of the brewing process—but not before Adams and his team enjoy their beer-soaked lobster.
“It was the best lobster I’ve ever had in my life,” Adams says. “The sweetness from the wort was just spectacular.”
Adams says it only takes about 12 lobsters to brew the beer, since the crustaceans are reused throughout the brewing process. Since Saison Dell’Aragosta is a traditional farmhouse ale, it takes the better part of a year to produce, including additions of brettanomyces yeast and nearly 11 months of aging.
“As a Mainer, I’m really excited to present lobster as a food item in a way that Maine has never seen before,” Adams says.
What does the crustacean add to a beer? With Saison Dell’Aragostra, expect tart and salty flavors and an underlying ocean funk, as well as some lemon character. Adams says the funk makes the beer a perfect pair for seafood, like lobster and crab.
“The lobster is definitely a background note in the beer,” Adams says. “People tend to be surprised or intrigued by the tartness and acidity, as well as the funk and fruitiness that developed from the extended aging. The lobster contributes just a bit of brininess, as well as bit of sweetness. Lobster meat is actually somewhat sweet, which I love because it’s balanced out by the tartness.”
If there isn’t a trip to Maine on your weekend itinerary, don’t lose hope. Night Shift is releasing the latest batch of its Island Creek Oyster-salted Harborside gose this Sunday, July 3, if you’re set on trying a marine brew. And later this year, Oxbow plans expand Massachusetts distribution of its core beers, like the flagship Farmhouse Pale Ale and Crossfade, a hop-forward, funky saison. Saison Dell’Aragosta could make some appearances, as well.
“It’s not going to be readily available anywhere, but as we focus a bit more on the Boston market over the next year, we’ll make sure the beer makes it down there so Bostonians can get a taste of one of the more eclectic Oxbow offerings,” Adams says.
Oxbow will test that dirty water with a few Boston events and pop-ups in the coming months, so keep an eye on social media.
Oxbow Brewery, 274 Jones Woods Rd, Newcastle, 207-315-5962, 49 Washington Ave., Portland, 207-350-0025, oxbowbeer.com.