It all started over a beer… more specifically over Oysters and Beer. For several years now we’ve “been talking” about how to do “something” in the mid cape with oysters and beer. Wellfleet has it’s world famous festival to celebrate its world famous oysters, but there are so many other fabulous oysters on Cape Cod that need a little recognition as well. So when we bellied up to the raw bar set up by John and Stephanie Lowell of East Dennis Oysters at the Taste of Dennis at the West Dennis Yacht Club, talk quickly turned to oysters and beer, and how to celebrate the lesser known oysters of Cape Cod. Jokingly we talked about how hard it would be to work with just one oyster farmer, or one grant. Given that we know so many people in the oyster business, how could we choose just one? And then the idea struck us: Why not make a beer with oyster from each town – all fifteen! Could it be done? None of us knew at the time – but at that point the challenge was thrown down, and the idea was set into motion.
The good news is that there are officials called Shellfish Constables for all 15 towns on the Cape, and with a little help from Rachel Hutchinson, who is a Constable herself in the town of Chatham and long time “friend of Cape Cod Beer”, a list was started. A call to all 15 constables seemed like an easy task – but these men and women are hard to find in late October, as oyster season looms. Over a couple days each one was contacted and told of our crazy plan. Some more eager to taste an oyster stout than others, information began changing hands. A shout out on my personal facebook page got a few more leads, and soon the list grew. Some towns are clearly more populated with oyster grants than others: Brewster, Barnstable, Wellfleet and Dennis were easy to check off the list. Provincetown, Truro, Sandwich, Bourne and Falmouth seemed a touch more challenging, but we weren’t giving up that easily.
And like any crazy plan, the details started getting in the way: Oysters may be almost as complicated as beer in terms of their legal procurement, emphasis on the term LEGAL. When people started tossing around words like HACCP, and potentially hazardous, I knew we were not fooling around. There is apparently a serious “paper trail” requirement enforced by the state, and thanks to the patience of the oyster farmers, and the wholesalers with whom we spoke, we too now understand it, and can affirm that the oysters for our beer were all attained “officially and legally” and we’ve got the tags to prove it!
Oysters used in the original brew: (We will update 2019’s details once the brew has begun)
Wholesalers helpful along the way:
- Big Rock Oyster
- Cape Cod Clam & Seafood
Special thanks to:
- All the local oyster growers who were INCREDIBLY NICE, and AMAZINGLY HELPFUL! Special thanks to those who pushed their own oysters through wholesalers, dropped off their oysters at the brewery or met me in parking lots across Cape Cod like some kind of crazy oyster drug deal.
- Big Rock Oyster Co. and Sunken Meadow Gems for throwing in a bunch of oysters for our brew crew! Very much appreciated!
- Rachel Hutchinson for helping get this thing started… and for answering 100 crazy questions along the way.
- John and Stephanie Lowell for literally helping to plant the seed.. next up.. a mid Cape Oyster festival :)!
- Tamar and Kevin Flaherty for taking me out on their Oyster grant so I could experience it myself! Photos below.
- My husband Todd Marcus for accommodating the crazy whims of the women around him!
The can design…including a make your own 3-2-1 oyster gauge!
How to make your own Oyster Gauge:
Every can of Shucker’s Reward Oyster Stout comes with a Make Your Own Oyster Gauge. We encourage anyone crazy enough to try this to please use great care as cutting cans can be dangerous. Please wear gloves and eye protection!
Once completed you can use your gauge to tell if the shellfish you are gathering or eating are of “legal” taking size. Use as follows:
- Oysters should be the longest length of the outside of the gauge ( 3 inches)
- Steamers should be length of the inside hole of the gauge ( 2 inches)
- and the hinge of the Quahog should be wider than the inside width of the gauge.
Unfortunately these length and width labels accidentally got left off of the final can art, but if you’re smart enough (and cool enough) to cut out your own gauge.. you’ll be able to remember which side measures which!
Or as our friends at Barnstable Oyster like to say “Practice Shellfishness!”
Photos from my trip to an oyster grant in Barnstable Harbor: