Upon first glance at a bottle of Twin Sails Brewing and Quebec’s Brasserie Dunham’s recent collaboration, Biére de Crabe, you might naturally ask yourself, “Is this beer really made with crab? Crab beer? Is that a thing now?”
First thing’s first: Yes, this beer is made with Dungeness crab shells. 50 friggin’ pounds of them, in fact. So if you have a shellfish allergy, avoid this beer like the plague.
Now, if you’re wondering what would possess someone to add seafood to a perfectly good beer, well, there’s actually quite a bit of precedent. Oyster stouts have a long history in the UK, where brewers would add whole oysters, or often just the shells, to impart a briny flavour and to clarify the beer. Isinglass, a kind of gelatin obtained from fish, is also commonly used as a clarifying agent in beer.
So there’s method to the madness here, which is immediately apparent when you try the beer. It’s pretty damn delicious, which should come as no surprise given the breweries involved.
Style-wise, Biére de Crabe falls somewhere between a biére de garde and a saison, with a round, soft, coating mouthfeel and plenty of tart fruit and spice. What it doesn’t have, mercifully, is a lot of crab flavour. I’m a born and bred West Coaster, so I love my Dungeness, but it’s not a flavour I necessarily want front-and-centre in my beer. But by using just the shells, the beer is delightfully briny, and is further complemented by the addition of lemon peel.
So, yeah, crab beer. Some ideas are just crazy enough to work.
Biére de Crabe by Twin Sails Brewing + Brasserie Dunham (6.1% ABV)
Appearance: Hazy gold, with a dense, persistent white head.
Aroma: Lemon, fruit, pepper, herbal hop notes, white bread.
Flavour: Lemon, pepper, tart, fruit and spice, banana, brine, mild bready malt character, subtle herbal hop character with a distinct absence of crab (thankfully).
Body: Soft, medium bodied with a tart, semi-dry finish.
Pairs with: Seafood (obviously), lemon pepper chicken, hip waders and picnic tables covered in newspaper.