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Guinness and oysters at de Vere’s

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It’s been six months since St. Patrick’s Day, and the Irish are getting antsy.

To satisfy the craving for a bit of Old-World cheer, de Vere’s Irish Pub will be kicking off its inaugural family-friendly Guinness and Oyster Festival Saturday.

Through the event, Sacramento will be joining a worldwide celebration that began in Galway, Ireland, in the mid-1950s when a local businessman was looking for a way to extend the summer tourist season.

“It started small, but it’s now turned into a five-day party,” said de Vere’s co-owner Henry de Vere White, adding that attending the Galway celebration is high up on his bucket list.

“There’s nothing quite as Irish as Guinness and oysters,” he said.

The day-long festival will start at 11 a.m. and go until 7 p.m. The sidewalk in front of de Vere’s, 1521 L St., will be turned into an extended patio for the restaurant and bar, allowing for the 1,000 people de Vere White said he hopes will come down.

“We’re hoping families come down during the day,” he said. “Kids under 12 get in for free, and we’ve got about 8,000 oysters coming in, and we’ll have live Irish music.”

The festival is very popular in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, according to de Vere White.

“It’s got a huge draw, and a huge potential,” he said. “Sacramento is the capital of California. We should be on the map, and family events like this are great cultural events that can help make this city more vibrant.”

One of the festival’s highlights will be the 2 p.m. oyster shucking competition featuring 10 local chefs.

“It’s an art form to do it right,” de Vere White said. “Each chef will get 10 oysters, and whoever can shuck them the fastest with the best presentation when they serve them to the judges will be the winner.”

The competition will be in two rounds, with the top two from the first round facing off to determine the winner, who will take home the trophy for the year.

De Vere’s Chef Wes Nilssen will be representing the home team, and he said he’s confident he’ll win, despite not planning any practice.

“I’ll get my practice at 11 when we start shucking them for the public,” he said.

All oysters served on Saturday will be served on the half shell, and Nilssen said there will be two types of oysters in the raw as well as barbecued oysters for those who prefer them cooked.

“It’s going to be a good time,” he said.

One of the judges of the oyster shucking competition will be Jason Boggs, co-owner of Shady Lady Saloon.

“I love oysters, and I’m a big proponent of them, so anytime Sacramento shows a little love to my favorite shellfish, I’m there,” he said.

In judging the oyster shucking, Boggs said he will be looking for “speed, efficiency, not having any of the shell in it and keeping the natural juices of the oyster in the shell when presenting it.”

Boggs said he doesn’t see de Vere’s as competition, and added that the two establishments are sister restaurants and help each other out frequently.

“It’s just a good time,” he added.

All oysters will be $2, and drinks will be the standard prices: $6 for a 20-ounce Guinness and $4.25 for a 14-ounce Guinness with champagne being $6 per flute. Entrance for those over 12 is $10.

The beer menu is not limited to Guinness, but de Vere White said Guinness’ earthiness complements the saltiness of oysters.

“I’m a big fan of Guinness and oysters,” de Vere White said. “I’m excited for this event, and my mom is just tickled pink.”

To visit the event’s Facebook page, click here

Photos courtesy Henry de Vere White.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

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