Waterman’s oyster roast to showcase North Carolina farmers’ rebound after hurricanes

Evan Gadow of Three Little Spats Oyster Company lowers a bag of recently harvested oysters into a 10-barrel batch of stout beer that will be released for the Spring Mariculture Oyster Roast. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Evan Gadow of Three Little Spats Oyster Company lowers a bag of recently harvested oysters into a 10-barrel batch of stout beer that will be released for the Spring Mariculture Oyster Roast. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON — For certain cynics and beer traditionalists who may not warm up to the idea of an oyster-flavored beer, the combination may not be as strange as you’d consider at face value.

Evan Gadow, co-owner of Three Little Spats Oyster Company, thinks an oyster stout is a natural combination. He was at Waterman’s Brewing Company near the Wrightsville Beach Drawbridge last Sunday, where he lowered a 35-pound bag of freshly harvested Stump Sound oysters into a kettle of stout beer.

READ ABOUT GADOW’S OYSTER FARM: A Stump Sound oyster farm represents a growing push for aquaculture in the state


“Oysters have a lot of nuances, just like a stout or any beer really does, especially a dark beer,” Gadow said. “So it mixes perfectly. The beer doesn’t taste too much like oysters, but it gives it a bit of that subtle oyster aftertaste.”

The oyster stout will be released for the third annual Spring Mariculture Oyster Roast at Waterman’s — a celebration of oyster growers along the North Carolina coast — on March 7. A dollar of every pint sold at the event will go towards the North Carolina Coastal Federation, which has been helping the state’s oyster farmers write grants to help them recover after Hurricanes Florence and Dorian.

Three Little Spats’ participation with local breweries — they’ve given their oysters to Bill’s Brewing Company and Salty Turtle in Surf City over the past year — is a natural collaboration, according to Gadow.

“There are a lot of parallels between the oyster community and the craft beer community in Wilmington,” Gadow said. “We’re glad to see a crossover of the two. We have such a rich group of breweries around here, and we’re really developing the oyster industry, so to get both of them together really works out well.”

For head brewer Alexis Scrivani, the idea of an oyster-flavored beer brings the young brewer into some unfamiliar waters; but she knows that oyster-flavored stouts are popular among certain craft beer drinkers in Wilmington.

“It should be really interesting,” Scrivani said. “The salt and the minerals of the shells give it a unique flavor.”

She said shucked oysters were also put into the batch to add some extra protein and mouthfeel to the beer.

Last winter, Mike Slaton, right, and Evan Gadow of Three Little Spats Oyster Company take near-ready oysters to a line of floating cages, where the oysters finish fully developing and are cleaned by passing currents. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
Last winter, Mike Slaton, right, and Evan Gadow of Three Little Spats Oyster Company take near-ready oysters to a line of floating cages, where the oysters finish fully developing and are cleaned by passing currents. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

Showcasing North Carolina oyster farmers

Bob High, co-owner of Waterman’s, was sitting at the bar as Gadow put the oysters into the batch. He remembered growing up eating Gulf Coast oysters as a boy in Texas. When he first moved to North Carolina, Stump Sound oysters were some of the first he ate from the region.

“To have them put in the beer today is pretty cool,” High said.

N.C. Coastal Federation’s work helping oyster farms along the North Carolina coast shows that the state is catching up to its neighbor to the north, according to High, as Virginia has done well in restoring its shellfish aquaculture industry, providing a blueprint for North Carolina.

The event is not only a way to celebrate the growth of North Carolina oysters, but also to show off N.C. Coastal Federation’s support of the industry — especially for their work in restoring many oyster farms north of Morehead City that were put out of business by Hurricane Dorian, according to High.

“It kind of came full circle — the oyster growers will be here; the nonprofit that helped them get into business is the recipient of the event; and we’re able to take those oysters, brew a beer, and sell it,” High said.

High expects eight to 10 oyster farmers along the coast to come to the oyster roast, providing roughly 2,000 raw oysters and 30-40 barrels of steamed oysters. Their presence will also give attendees a chance to meet the people responsible for growing the industry.

“That’s the real hook of this festival — not only do you get to taste these different oysters, but you get to meet the people who are growing them, and have them shuck and serve them to you,” High said.

Before Gadow left the brewhouse, he said the Three Little Spats farm he and his father run on Permuda Island in Stump Sound has seen a much larger harvest over a warm winter, compared to last winter. Soon, he hopes to build a new storage facility.

“This stuff is really growing,” Gadow said.

Event details

  • What: Oyster roast and oyster stout beer release with live music
  • When: Saturday, March 7 at 12 p.m. — 5 p.m.
  • Where: Waterman’s Brewing Co. (1610 Pavilion Place)
  • Tickets: purchase online here
    • ‘Early bird’ general admission pricing until Feb. 22 ($5)
    • Regular general admission pricing until March 4 ($10)
    • ‘Meet the Grower’ – 24 oysters and 1 pint of beer ($30/$35)
    • ‘All You Can Eat Steamed Oysters’ ($35/$45)
    • Sponsor – portion going to N.C. Coastal Federation ($125)

More details of the Spring Mariculture Oyster Roast can be found on Waterman’s Facebook page, here.


Send tips and comments to Mark Darrough at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815

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