The White Boot blog
Exploring Old Ideas In Brave New Ways


Oyster Stout Virginia Style

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster”

“He was a bold man that first ate an oyster,” wrote Jonathan Swift, the Irish poet and author of Gulliver’s Travels. But what about the brewer who first put oysters into a boiling brew?

Well, it turns out, he in fact was influenced by over 100 years of people naturally pairing beer with oysters—a marriage that dates back to Victorian England when “…porters and stouts were everyday beers,” wrote renowned beer writer Michael Jackson in The Independent in 1995. “And oysters [were] a bar snack as commonplace as peanuts today.”

To complement the briny, juicy, fleshy quality of the oyster meat, these pub-goers often chose stout beers for their bittersweet notes of roasted malt and toasted bread. The pairing became such a classic that Guinness launched an advertising campaign in the 1920s with the tagline, “Guinness Goes With Oysters.”

Toward the end of the 19th century, brewers discovered that the calcium carbonate-rich oyster shells served as a natural clarifying agent. “Lots of breweries and taverns used shells as filters,” says Washington D.C.-based beer historian Mike Stein, who gives talks on the science and history of brewing at the Smithsonian Museum. “They balanced the beer, made it brighter and fresher.”

In the 1930s, an unknown (and quite brilliant) brewer in New Zealand took the final leap by adding the oyster meat itself into the brewing process, an idea likely fueled by an urge to add subsistence and a certain quality of mouthfeel to the product, the way that lactose adds to a milk stout.

    “Oyster stout” as we know it today remained a rare offering throughout the 20th century until now as adventurous craft brewers recognize the style as a unique way to experiment with stout beers. For breweries like the O’Connor Brewing Company in Norfolk, Virginia, who embrace their coastal roots as an integral part of their identity, it’s also a compelling way to carry on tradition. Seeking the highest quality ingredients for their Bold Man Oyster Stout, with emphasis on a commitment to sustainability and supporting local businesses, they partnered with the Ballard Fish & Oyster Company, a fifth generation family company who has been sustainably raising and harvesting oysters in Virginia coastal waters since 1895.

    The O’Connor Bold Man Oyster Stout showcases Ballard’s finest oyster— the Misty Point - a tasty, plump cultured oyster grown on premium seaside grounds located at the southern tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia on the Atlantic Ocean side, that have been producing great tasting shellfish for centuries. A top-notch oyster, Misty Points can be found on the plates of some of the finest restaurants in the world. Averaging three inches in size and they are characterized by a high salinity up front that fades into bright, sweet hints of celery and grass. To attain these qualities, Misty Points go through an intense grow-out process. They are grown in an area of heavy tidal flow and are tumbled regularly. This results in their deep cups and thick shells. They begin the grow-out process in a rack and bag system in which they are placed in mesh bags on top of rebar racks. The racks elevate them off of the bottom and the bags keep them safe from predators while allowing ample water flow. After 6-8 months the oysters are transferred to cages where they finish the grow-out process.

    After they arrive at O’Connor Brewing Company, roughly 100 Misty Point oysters are cleaned and added to the boiling brew whole, shells and all, per each barrel of Bold Man Oyster Stout. The result is a rich, smooth and subtly briny brew that pairs well with oysters, although doesn’t taste exactly like them. The brewing goal is not to overwhelm the elegant culinary pairing of raw, grilled or fried oysters with an intense oyster-y beer, rather it is to touch on the perfect tasting marriage that pub-goers enjoyed so many years ago.

    Great with oysters, a creamy chowder, a spicy paella,gumbo, or bowl of steamed mussels, however you choose to enjoy it, you can certainly do so with the knowledge each sip of Bold Man was created in mindful tradition of Tidewater Virginia’s rich history of aquaculture.

    Written by Hannah Serrano, O’Connor Brewing Co?., Norfolk, Virginia

    Join us as we celebrate the special, limited release of Bold Man Oyster Stout, and the Virginia Oyster Trail. Saturday, January 28, 2017 | 2-5 p.m. | $40 per person

    Admission includes: a 6-oyster tasting flight with companion side dishes, one draft beer, live entertainment and a 22 oz. bottle of Bold Man Oyster Stout to take home, plus the chance to win a special Taste of Tidewater tour. Fresh Virginia oysters will be shucked and served on site by Ballard Fish & Oyster Company, with growers and harvesters available to talk about how oysters are grown/harvested and their importance to the health of Virginia’s coastal waterways.

    The Bold Man Oyster Stout event is made possible in partnership with O’Connor Brewing Co., the Virginia Oyster Trail, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center’s Sensible Seafood Program and Taste Tidewater Tours. A portion of ticket sales will benefit the Virginia Oyster Trail.

    CLICK HERE to purchase tickets.

    Visit the Virginia Oyster Trail Calendar of Events regularly for listings of upcoming activities and events.

    Rockin’ In the New Year with the Rockefellers

    Bon Appétit and Happy New Year!

    Continuing in the secret tradition perpetuated when the originator of “Oysters Rockefeller” took his recipe to the grave, many Virginia chefs today serve up this signature dish with an air of mystery.

    Generally consisting of a puree of green vegetables, mixed in a savory cream sauce, encrusted with breadcrumbs and baked over each half-shell oyster, this dish is as varied as they come as each chef adds their creative flair.

    Spinach? Maybe. Cheese? Possibly. Absinthe? Bacon? Capers? Chives? Breadcrumbs? Your guess is as good as ours!

    Make your 2017 resolve to hit the road and sample the many variations of “Oysters Rockefeller” that can be found at restaurants all across the Virginia Oyster Trail.

    And, don’t be surprised should you ask for the recipe only to be answered with a signature Cheshire-chef smile!

    Twist on the Classic “Oysters Rockefeller”

    Graciously Divulged from Executive Chef Ian Robbins of Cafe Provencal at the Williamsburg Winery

    Ingredients for 6 Virginia Oysters:

    • 6 strips of bacon
    • 1 tbsp of butter
    • 1 tsp of minced shallot
    • 1 tsp of minced garlic
    • ¾ cup of chopped arugula
    • ¾ oz of Absinthe of Pernod
    • ¼ cup of thinly shaved aged gouda

    First, place the oysters under the broiler or really hot oven for about 1 minute until they barely open up. Remove, and set aside. Be careful not to spill the liquid out of the shell. You don’t want to dry them out.

    Crisp 6 pieces of whatever thinly sliced cured meat you will be using. Set aside.

    Then, in a small saute pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter. Once the butter is hot, add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot and cook for about 30 seconds until just before it begins to brown. Then add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Continue to cook for about seconds more. Then add 3/4 cup of chopped arugula and cook about 30 seconds. Add 3/4 oz of Absinthe Pernod. Cook about 15 seconds more. Place mixture into a bowl.

    Shave some slices of the cheese with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Set aside.

    Next, pop the tops off the cooled oysters and using an oyster knife or paring knife, sever the abductor muscle that anchors the oyster to the bottom of the shell. Remove any bits of shell that may have fallen in with the oyster.

    Now for the assembly. On each oyster, place a piece of the crispy cured meat, add about 2 teaspoons of the arugula mixture, and top with the cheese. Return the oysters to the broiler until cheese is browned. Let cool slightly and serve.

    Bon Appétit and Happy New Year from the Virginia Oyster Trail!

    Visit the Virginia Oyster Trail Calendar of Events regularly for listings of upcoming activities and events.

    Blessed Be Virginia Oysters!

    Make Your's Virginia Oyster Stuffing!

    The Oyster: Nature’s little gift born and nurtured from the confluence of weather, water, sediment, and time. Each one of these influences standalone on their own their force unstoppable. But together, they mean much more: They become nature’s family tree, each one a root growing into a branch, working together, to create one of nature’s tastier offspring.

    The Virginia Oyster’s place at the Thanksgiving table is steeped in history. In 1607, Sir Christopher Newport, Captain John Smith, and his company of 150 men learned the value of these oysters from the native confederacy of Powhatan tribes. They encountered plentiful oyster beds in the bay, along the Lynnhaven, James, and Rappahannock Rivers. Served at the inaugural Thanksgiving feast, oysters have been a significant symbol of this American tradition ever since.

    Oysters on the half shell, oyster stew, oyster stuffing, roasted and fried - nothing says Virginia Thanksgiving like serving oysters from the Bay! (Signature recipe below)

    Rockafellers’ Signature Oyster Stuffing by Executive Chef, Joy Summers

    • 2 loaves French bread; cut bread into 1/2” cubes
    • 6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1â „4-inch strips
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
    • 6 shallots, thinly sliced
    • 4 ribs celery, thinly sliced; 1/8” slice
    • 1 lb shucked oysters ( 30-40 medium size); reserve the liquor
    • 1 cup chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup sherry
    • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 2 tbsp. chopped thyme leaves
    • 2 tbsp. chopped sage leaves
    • 1/2 tsp. hot sauce
    • 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
    • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, t.t.

    Heat oven to 250. Arrange bread cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake, stirring occasionally, until dried but not browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

    Put bacon into a large skillet; cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until crisp and its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes. Add 4 tbsp. of the butter and heat. Add shallots and celery, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and translucent. Add oyster liquor, stock, sherry, parsley, thyme, sage, hot sauce, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the bread cubes and oysters. Set aside to allow the flavors to come together for 10 minutes.

    Raise the oven temperature to 400. Transfer mixture to a greased baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil, drizzle with remaining butter, and continue baking until golden brown and crusty, about 15 minutes more. Serve!

    Written by Ben Stone, Rockafellers Restaurant, Virginia Beach

    Visit the Virginia Oyster Trail Calendar of Events regularly for listings of upcoming activities and events.

    A Day in The Life of Oyster Men and Women

    The Rappahannock River. Lynnhaven River. Church Creek. Mobjack Bay. Tangier. Nassawadox Creek. York River. Hog Island Bay. Choptank River. Nanda Creek. James River. Hungars Creek. Chincoteague Bay. Little Wicomico River. Piankatank River. Wright’s Cove. Urbanna Creek.

    A few of the local waterways that contribute to making Virginia the oyster capital of the East Coast.

    Gallivan. Vogt. Ludford. Leggett. Croxton. Kellam. Bevans. McGee. Pruitt. Terry. Clark. Ruark. Land. Crabbe. Arnold. Nutt. Kellum. Saunders. Moore. Dise. Rose….and many more!

    Lesser known and equally important are the names of the women and men on the frontlines of Virginia’s oyster resurgence. A strong sense of obligation to Virginia’s waterways and traditions drive this dedicated small group of individuals who share the Bay’s bounty.

    Together they breathe life into Virginia’s waterways.

    Spend a few minutes with the women and men who make their life and living on the water and it’s clear that oyster fishing and farming is a calling. A challenging yet rewarding way of life, not a job.

    By the time the sun peeks over the eastern horizon each morning, they are already on the water dredging or pulling oyster cages (some up to 800 pounds when full), fixing equipment, cleaning their boats and cages, and sorting oysters ready for market.

    Adding to the physical demands, Mother Nature tests the resilience of oyster’s watermen & women daily with howling winds, driving rains, icy waterways, frigid temperatures in the winter months and intense heat and humidity in the summer.

    After a full day on the water, back at the dock or oyster house, the job of cleaning the freshly-harvested oysters begins, along with packing the oysters for transport and delivery, fixing equipment, and compliance paperwork.

    Many oyster operations are small, multi-generational family-owned businesses where often the oyster man/woman is also the boat mechanic, delivery person, accountant, marketer and public face of the business. Year ‘round planning and prepping is a constant extended-day routine as they cover all the bases to ensure their livelihood and the quality of their bounty.

    Pre-dawn wakeup call, solitary work on the water, often in challenging conditions, cleaning and packaging, driving across the state to deliver fresh oysters to restaurants and markets, evening events to shuck and share their bounty with customers, late night return home for compliance paperwork — a day in the life of oyster men and women is a long, rewarding one.

    Written by Frank Morgan, Author and Creator of Drink What You Like Wine Blog

    Visit the Virginia Oyster Trail Calendar of Events regularly for listings of upcoming activities and events.

    Where Delicious Adventures Await You!

    New Video Celebrates Virginia Oyster Month!

    November is Virginia Oyster Month and you are in for a treat as our trail sites and their communities kick off their fall season and look forward to welcoming you!

    Check out our NEW video featuring several trail sites found within Virginia’s coastal region and be sure to use the NEW digital map on the website to navigate your oyster adventures.

    Did you know that Virginia is the largest producer of fresh, farm-raised oysters on the East Coast, providing eight regions of distinctive flavor? From the seaside salts of the Eastern Shore, to the inland sweets of the Rappahannock River, you are invited to take a delicious journey of discovery along the Virginia Oyster Trail.

    Visit the Virginia Oyster Trail Calendar of Events regularly for listings of upcoming activities and events.

    Eat Your History, and Drink It Too!

    What's Your Favorite Virginia Oyster Recipe and Wine Pairing?

    The history of oysters in America is forever and indelibly linked to the history of Virginia.

    On April 26, 1607, Captain Christopher Newport and the Virginia Company colonists, including 104 men and boys, had been crammed in three small ships for almost five months sailing from England, landed at present day Cape Henry in Virginia Beach.

    The day after landing at Cape Henry, a group, which included diarist George Percy, begin to explore, marching “eight miles up into the land,” probably around the present site of Lynnhaven Bay.

    There, Percy writes,“We came to a place where they (the Native Americans) had made a great fire, and had been newlyroasting Oysters. When they perceived our coming, they fled away to the mountains (large sand dunes), and left many of the Oysters in the fire. We eat some of the Oysters, which were very large and delicate in taste.”

    That’s the first written record of prepared food in what would become English-speaking America; the first food review, if you will, and it seems the roasted Lynnhaven oysters were a critics choice. More than 400 years later they still are.

    In fact, Virginia has been known by oyster lovers as having offerings unparalleled elsewhere. There is no place that offers the oyster experience like the commonwealth, or offers the vast array of oysters not just from the Lynnhaven, but indeed from all eight distinct oyster growing regions.


    October is Virginia Wine Month, a time to celebrate one of the commonwealth’s agricultural treasures. In fact, oysters and wine go perfect together; I love to have friends over and set up an oyster and wine bar.

    Here’s how I do it:

    In long, lipped trays set on top folded towels to catch condensation, I put a layer of crushed ice. On top of that I put freshly shucked Virginia oysters. If I have some from different growers or different regions, I write the name/region number on a small placard and place in front of the bivalve.

    At the end of the trays I put out a number of accoutrements: freshly grated horseradish, a classic mignonette, lemon wedges, and cocktail sauce (see recipe below).

    On another table, I put tubs filled with ice and an assortment of Virginia wine. There are many great wines across the region, and the varietals/styles I look for are:

    Chardonnay, especially stainless steel fermented, are great for dishes like Oysters Rockefeller where the bright, crispness of the wine cuts through the cream and cheese of the food, and the citrus notes enhance the earthiness of the oyster and parmesan. This is a great choice, too, for saltier oysters on the half shell, like those from Region 1, and lower Regions 3 and 7. An oaky chardonnay would be a good choice for a broth-based chowder, and for sweeter oysters on the half-shell, like those from Regions 2, 4, 6, 5, and 8 and upper Regions 3 and 7.

    Sparkling wine is good for oysters across the board, but I love it especially with fried oysters, where the effervescence plies through the crispy layer of coating goodness and gets right down to the meat of the matter. It’s great with any of the oyster regions for bivalves on the half-shell, but I especially love it with the saltier varieties, like oysters from Region 1, and lower Regions 3 and 7.

    Viognier is Virginia’s signature grape, and I love this lush wine, with a bit of minearlity and often full of floral, citrus and stone fruit notes. Enjoy this with steamed oysters, where the fruit bomb of the wine accents the subtleness of the oysters; it’s great too when the steamed oysters are served with a cocktail sauce. For oysters on the half-shell, I like it with any of the regions, but especially those that have a bit of sweetness and a bit of saltiness - Goldilocks, if you will - such as Regions 3, 5 and 7 - but try it with them all.

    CLICK HERE to Learn about Virginia’s 8 Oyster Flavor Regions


    Here is my recipe for a classic cocktail sauce; it’s quick and easy to make and really shines when dolloped atop a freshly-shucked Virginia oyster.

    In a medium bowl, whisk 1 cup ketchup, 1 cup chili sauce, 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, 1 tablespoon Asian hot sauce such as Sriracha and 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice until combined. Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving. Yields approximately 2 cups.

    WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE OYSTER RECIPE AND WINE PAIRING? Send us the recipe for your favorite Virginia oyster dish with a recommended Virginia wine pairing and we may feature it in one of our upcoming blogs! Be sure to tag your recipe to us via Twitter in two ways: @vaoystertrail and #vaoystertrail.

    Our author: Patrick Evans-Hylton is a Johnson & Wales trained chef, food historian and award-winning food journalist who has covered Virginia food and foodways in print, broadcast and electronic media since 1995. He is author of the cookbook/travel guide “Dishing Up Virginia” and publisher of the statewide “Virginia Eats + Drinks Magazine” which offers free subscriptions at,





    Virginia’s Oyster Renaissance

    Exploring Old Ideas in Brave New Ways

    In her classic culinary book, Consider the Oyster, renowned American food writer M.F.K. Fisher wrote, “often the place and time help make a food what it becomes, even more than the food itself.”

    As much as any food, oysters from Virginia waterways played an important role in early America; from the time settlers arrived centuries ago until disease and overharvesting took its toll in the early to mid-twentieth century.

    Today, Virginia is at the threshold of an oyster renaissance thanks to a fraternity of women and men fiercely dedicated to Virginia’s waterways and preserving the traditions of oyster cultivation.

    While technology has contributed to the state’s oyster resurgence, traditional tools of the oyster trade remain the same — tireless work ethic, love of life on the water, a boat, overalls and white rubber boots.

    Sometimes called Guinea boots, Tidewater tennis shoes, Chesapeake Bay house slippers, or just sea boots, depending on the region of Virginia, white boots are as much a symbol of oyster culture as wind-kissed cheeks and salt-chapped, calloused hands.

    Less expensive than other boots, easier to clean, cooler on the feet in the sun than darker boots, and less likely to scuff the deck of the boat, white boots are worn by oysterman out of necessity, community and tradition.

    The Virginia Oyster Trail provides culinary enthusiasts the opportunity to explore the rich traditions of the state’s waterways and taste an important part of the Old Dominion’s culinary past and future.

    Comprised of eight distinct regions, the Virginia Oyster Trail showcases the diversity of the state’s waterways: from briny oysters grown in the Lynnhaven River to the salty oysters of the lower Bay and seaside to the buttery sweet oysters of the Rappahannock and upper Bay.

    A tour of the trail provides adventurous epicures a delicious lesson from the women and men on the frontline of the state’s oyster resurgence.

    The White Boots Blog — a nod to the convergence of necessity and traditions of life on Virginia’s waterways — will serve as a resource by sharing the stories of yesterday and those of the women and men responsible for making local oysters a prominent part of the Virginia culinary narrative again.

    Written by Frank Morgan, Author and Creator of Drink What You Like Wine Blog

    On Facebook:
    On Twitter: @DrinkWhatULike
    On Instagram: DrinkWhatYouLike

    Click the link below to check out these Virginia Oyster specials on the Virginia Oyster Trail:

    Special menu at the Aberdeen Barn in Williamsburg, VA featuring Tommy Leggett’s York River oysters

    Every Saturday & Sunday Through November: Wine & Brine at the Gabriel Archer Tavern, Williamsburg Winery, Williamsburg, VA

    Fridays: Oyster Happy Hours at Piankatank River Golf Course, Hartfield, VA

    Saturday, October 8: Oyster & Art Festival at Rice Rice’s Hotel / Hughlett’s Tavern in Heathsville, VA

    Sunday, October 9: Taste Tidewater Tours, VA Beach - East Coast Exclusive 3 stop Guided Local Oyster and Craft Brew Tour with Patrick Evens-Hylton

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