Over 200 people gathered to eat gourmet oysters and drink specialty beers at the inaugural Red Clay Oyster Fest at Red Clay Brewing Company in Opelika Tuesday night.
Red Clay Brewing Company, The Depot, John Emerald Distilling Company and Mobile Oyster Company hosted the event to raise funds for the Alabama Coastal Foundation. The event also featured live music from Dallas Dorsey.
Guests received a dozen specially prepared gulf oysters and two drinks with their ticket. The Depot’s executive chef Scott Simpson also prepared several specialty oyster dishes for guests to try.
Simpson said, some of the night’s specialty dishes included oysters rockefeller pizza, oyster stew, grilled oysters with chili butter and crushed tortilla and michelada oyster shooters.
To make the oysters Rockefeller pizza, Simpson took the Depot’s popular oysters rockefeller and made them a pizza topping as an homage to the event’s location.
“A lot of the Red Clay menu focuses on pizza, so I thought it’d be great to do the oyster Rockefeller topping on a pizza,” Simpson said.
Simpson, who has worked worldwide in countries such as India, Thailand and Jamaica, works to make Alabama-fresh ingredients into authentic international cuisines. He brought this skill to the event to create a unique dining experience for the guests.
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Mobile Oyster Company provided the oysters for the oyster bar. The company raises their own oysters off the west end of Dauphin Island, Alabama.
“We raise our oysters from two millimeters to about three inches,” said Aaron Fowler, bar manager at Mobile Oyster Company. “It takes anywhere from eight to 12 months, and we raise our oysters over a sandy bottom instead of mud bottom.”
The oysters were brought up fresh from Mobile the same day, so many were excited to try them.
“I don’t think anyone here, unless they’re an oyster farmer, has had oysters this fresh,” Simpson said. “There’s been a line to try the fresh oysters all night because I think everyone knows they’re getting a chance to try some of Alabama’s best oysters.”
The oysters were enough to impress a native of the Alabama coast, event guest Steven Barnes said.
“It’s kind of a tie for my favorite thing here tonight,” Barnes said. “I really like the raw oysters because I’m from the coast, but the oyster Rockefeller pizza is also fantastic.”
Aside from oysters, the event featured an assortment of beer, wine and cider on tap.
John Corbin, founder, owner and head of marketing for Red Clay Brewing Company, said the featured beer of the night was Kolsch 53. A portion of the proceeds from Kolsch 53 goes to the Alabama Coastal Foundation year-round.
“The name points to the 53 miles of coastline in Alabama,” Corbin said. “We just released it this past spring and summer.”
Corbin fathered the idea for this event at an oyster dinner with a business partner at The Depot. He had the idea to combine Red Clay’s partnership with the Alabama Coastal Foundation with The Depot’s oysters.
“We decided to do this just to see if it would work out thinking maybe 50 people would come, and we have over 200 here now,” Corbin said. “We’re definitely going to do this again next year.”
The Alabama Coastal Foundation works to conserve Alabama’s coastal environment. Katherine Kuhn, Coastal Relations coordinator for the foundation, pointed to their motto of inclusive environmental stewardship as a driving factor of the organization.
“A big portion of what we do is educational outreach for all ages and habitat restoration projects,” Kuhn said. “Anyone that wants to do good for the environment is on our side.”
Kuhn said, all of the oyster shells from the event will be recycled.
“There’s about five different groups collaborating in this event and everyone came together based on an idea John had,” Kuhn said. “It really shows that when people come together to do something, pretty awesome things can happen.”
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