Water is thicker than blood

Barleybrine is a celebration of all things stout & briny — of strong backs, stiff drinks & salty tongues. Above all, it is a celebration of panhandle people, our way of life & this beautiful place we call home.

Mexico Beach
Aerial view of Mexico Beach, Florida, after Hurricane Michael.

Barleybrine is the younger, brasher cousin of Peat & Pearls, the swankiest little oyster party in the South. If you’ve been to that event, you have some idea what to expect, with some caveats. Where Peat & Pearls is swanky, Barleybrine is swarthy and swashbuckling. There will still be plenty of oysters, to be sure, but we’ll be chasing them with craft beer, not fine scotch or expensive cigars.

We started barleybrine because we wanted to celebrate one of our favorite parts of the country: Florida’s Forgotten coast. It’s where we first fell in love with oysters — not just as food, but as metaphor — and where we first met the real Panhandle People, the fiercest folks we know.

Oyster snobs like to talk about “merroir,” a term of art for the way the environment impacts an oyster’s flavor profile. (Hey, we’ve used it more than a few times ourselves.) We grew up on the gulf coast, tossing back raw apalachicola oysters at Hunt’s in Panama City to impress our dad. Given this personal history, “merroir” and other high-falutin’ language never meant much to us. we laughed at it — “Hey, Pass the saltines.”

Then, we stopped seeing apalachicola oysters on the menu and decided to investigate where they went. What we found out was startling. The famous Apalachicola oyster — which once made up 90 percent of oysters consumed in Florida and one of every 10 oysters in other parts of the country — was on the brink of extinction. A cavalcade of calamity — drought, water wars, the 2010 oil spill — had conspired to deprive us of one of our fondest pastimes and, along with it, some of our dearest memories.

In apalachicola, the stakes are much higher. Here, oysters don’t just represent tasty food, but livelihoods and a way of life. When the oysters go, everything else follows. What we’re getting at is this: An oyster ain’t a damn chicken wing. It’s a symbol — for its environment, for the people who toiled long and hard to bring it from the ocean’s muddy bottom to our hungry lips.

You can call it merroir if it makes you feel fancy. Here, we’ll stay humbler: Food is family. Barleybrine is our way of honoring this fact — and enjoying some really great beer while we’re at it. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Gulf Seafood Foundation, helping seafood workers affected by hurricane Michael, so you can feel good about eating all those tasty oysters too.