Emsworth was once famed for oyster production, where the muddy seabeds around the harbour were the perfect conditions for what some described as the best oysters in the world. 100,000 oysters a week were sent up to the London markets where they were sold to Europe’s best hotels and restaurants.
The harbour was alive with industry. Smaller vessels unloaded the large trawlers out in the channel and ferried the oysters to holding ponds in the harbour. That was until 1902 when an Emsworth oyster killed the Dean of Winchester at a mayoral banquet. Today, the only place you are likely to find an oyster in Emsworth is on a menu!
Oysters were not always food for the social elite, once upon time oysters were so cheap that they would be used to bulk out meat pies and were considered a poor man’s food, rich in nutrients and minerals, cheap and easily available they formed part of a staple diet. Although Emsworth’s oyster industry never really recovered, oysters are now a popular choice on lots of menus.
We have reinvented two traditional recipes to celebrate Emsworth’s heritage and British Food Fortnight.
The first which is still available in cans and tasting great was a collaboration with Staggeringly Good Brewery in Portsmouth. Emsworths ‘Bishop Slayer’ Oyster Stout. The second is our famous steak and oyster pie available on the menu during British Food Fortnight or to make at home with the attached recipe.
Oyster & Ale pie
Oyster stouts you may think are just another wild concoction stewed up in the modern heights of craft brewing madness. However, they’ve actually got honest, time-tested roots going back more than a century to Victorian England, when many London pub-goers ate oysters on the half shell while sipping their favourite beers. Often, these were stouts, whose bittersweet toasty flavours happened to complement the briny, juicy flesh of the shellfish. “Oyster Stout” was simply the ‘happy hour’ of the day, a term that referred to a pub session at which oysters were slurped between sips of beer.
It is not known how these slippery molluscs managed to find their way into the beer, but in the 1800s, brewers discovered that oyster shells, rich in calcium carbonate, served as an effective clarifying agent for finished beer. Sometime after this, the oyster meat itself was added into the boiling beer wort, no one seems to know by who, but rumour has it that it first happened somewhere in New Zealand around 1929. The transformation was complete. The oyster stout was born, evolving from a happy hour advertising term into a full-fledged beer.
Our story is not too dissimilar having been looking for somebody to brew my hair brain idea, and being knocked back by many, Staggeringly Good Brewery were brewing their own test batch with some left-over oyster shells from a saison beer and oyster night. After a few exchanged text messages we were pencilled into the brewing schedule, and like the Emsworth oyster industry the rest is history!!!
This rich, intense stout is made with fresh South Coast oysters that impart a deep, layered minerality and smooth mouthfeel to the blend of 5 speciality malts and supports the Solent Oyster Project.