Adelaide Oyster House

Adelaide Oyster House | St. John’s, NL

Paul Bradley is the head oyster shucker and craft beer aficionado at Adelaide Oyster House. It’s his day off and he has kindly offered a guided tour of their taps. Very excited about Newfoundland craft brewery Port Rexton Brewing, Paul suggests that the tour start with their beers. Standouts are the Mr. Wheaty Pants, an American Wheat, and Chasing Sun, a New England IPA. New England IPA is a relatively new arrival on the Newfoundland craft beer scene, but Chasing Sun is true to its essence: cloudy, fruity, and refreshing. It has summer written all over it.

‘Under represented’ is a descriptor that until recently applied as much to craft beer as to summer itself in Newfoundland, but that’s changing fast. Pioneer breweries like Yellowbelly and Quidi Vidi have lead the way for a new generation of brewers like Western Newfoundland Brewing Co. and the aforementioned Port Rexton. 

Paul is passionate about Adelaide’s beer list and says that, like the oysters and dishes served, he enjoys guiding people through new beers and finding what they love. “It’s the best when I can recommend an oyster and then they try 3 more kinds. The same with beers.”

Creating a connection to things that are familiar is a tool Paul uses to open people up to new flavour experiences. For example, ‘salt meat’ is a popular food in Newfoundland, and there’s an oyster often on the menu that has a really reminiscent taste of it. It’s an accessible jumping-off point for people new to oysters. With beer it can be trickier, as the restaurant’s varied small plate approach to dining presents a pairing challenge beyond just customers’ previous beer knowledge and tastes.

“We have a lot of spicy food. [Spice] changes the taste of the beers entirely,” Paul says. To begin exploring how spicy food can pair with craft beer, Paul suggests an approachable Muskoka Craft Lager and a Legendary Oddity, the unique Belgian style strong ale (also from Muskoka). For any gruit fan, the inclusion of juniper and heather in Legendary Oddity should be enough to pique interest, and the first sip of the Oddity does not disappoint, herbal and hazy. The Craft Lager is smooth if uninspiring.  Enter peanut tamarind sticky wings and spicy dumplings. The next sip of lager is entirely drowned out by the spice, but the Belgian inspired Oddity is suddenly toned down, accompanying rather than dominating the awesome snack flavours.

Next up: Collective Arts Brewing’s Ransack The Universe IPA and Rhyme and Reason Extra Pale. Paul turns up the heat, placing two bottles of fermented hot sauce on the bar. Offering a spoon, he lets on he made them himself. He suggests a few drops of the sauce, followed by sips of each beer. The Ransack is crisp and bright through the heat, and the bitter finish of Rhyme and Reason has found it’s calling, a really robust choice for this sort of ‘extreme tasting.’

Taste buds sated and beginning to exhaust, Driftwood Brewery’s excellent Farmhand Saison is the perfect dessert, allowing taste buds to smoke gently after the adrenaline rush of spice-forward craft beer sampling. Things are certainly heating up when it comes to great food and craft beer pairings in St. John’s.

Felicity Roberts