The holidays are upon us, and it’s show time for Chesapeake oysters. Those scrumptious bivalves deliver seasonal cheer, especially when they’re accompanied by local craft beer. If you want to treat out-of-town guests to our unique Bay delicacies or give your yuletide cook a break from the kitchen, then visit these 12 places to sample Maryland’s best brews and slurp briny oysters.
Charting a holiday oyster quest through the region introduces you to people who have spent centuries blending hops and barley for brewing beer that pairs perfectly with Bay oysters. The state’s long tradition of raising frothy mugs dates back to 1703 when Benjamin Fordham opened the first brewery in Annapolis. From the iconic Natty Boh to today’s specialty ales, Maryland digs suds with bivalves. More than 50 breweries call the state home and a slew of new craft brew meisters are on the way.
Steamed crabs are often considered the darlings of the Bay’s seafood scene, but oysters have played a pivotal role in Maryland’s commerce and culture since Colonial times. Local bivalves grew so abundantly and were devoured so voraciously that Chesapeake towns such as Crisfield and Solomons were built upon discarded shells.
During the 1800s, Chesapeake oysters were a global delicacy that everyone wanted to bring to their lips. Today, Maryland aquafarmers are rekindling the region’s oyster mystique by branding Bay bivalves with alluring labels such as Skinny Dippers, Chesapeake Golds and Sweet Jesus oysters. A dozen of these with an icy brew and you’re on the road to heaven.
The cherished ritual of washing down oysters with a hearty stout harkens back to the Victorian Era when briny bivalves were so plentiful that pubs handed them out free to inspire alcohol consumption. Last year, a Baltimore partnership tapped into the past to create a modern-day stout that’s brewed with a burlap sack filled with 100 Maryland oysters. On the Oriole’s opening day in 2016, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin ceremoniously christened “The Local Oyster Stout,” a tasty hometown brew that was collectively crafted by the owners of Waverly Brewing Co., True Chesapeake Oyster Co. and The Local Oyster.
To help you discover the holiday bliss of beer and bivalves, the authors of Chesapeake Oyster Lovers’ Handbook are pleased to present a dozen Maryland destinations to visit on a yuletide oyster crawl.
MARYLAND’S TOP 12
OYSTER & ALE HOUSES
1) THE LOCAL OYSTER (Baltimore, www.thelocaloyster.com)
2) HEAVY SEAS ALEHOUSE (Baltimore, www.heavyseasalehouse.com)
3) DYLAN’S OYSTER BAR (Baltimore, www.dylansoyster.com)
4) BOATYARD BAR & GRILL (Annapolis, www.boatyardbarandgrill.com)
5) MUSSEL BAR & GRILL (Bethesda, www.musselbar.com)
6) REPUBLIC (Takoma Park, www.republictakoma.com)
7) THE WALRUS OYSTER & ALE HOUSE (Oxon Hill, www.walrusoysterandale.com)
8) RYLEIGH’S OYSTER HUNT VALLEY (Hunt Valley, www.ryleighs.com)
9) SHUCKIN’ SHACK OYSTER BAR (Frederick, www.theshuckinshack.com)
10) RUDDY DUCK BREWERY & GRILL (Piney Point, www.ruddyduckbrewery.com)
11) AWFUL ARTHUR’S SEAFOOD COMPANY (St. Michaels, www.awfularthurs.com)
12) OCEAN ODYSSEY (Cambridge, www.toddseafood.com)