Unusual Beer Week: Kelpie Seaweed Ale

Unusual Beer WeekWilliams Brothers Brewing out of Scotland brews a line of “historical” ales that punctuate the unusual brewing history of Scotland, particularly in the pre-hops days. I’ve reviewed their Fraoch Heather Ale and Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale before, but the Kelpie Seaweed Ale was a new one to me.

This 4.4% ABV beer is indeed brewed with seaweed; here’s what the brewery says:

Prior to the 1850’s there were many Scottish coastal alehouses, which brewed their own ales, these ales were made from local malted barley, which was grown on fields fertilised with seaweed.

This environment gave the barley a very specific flavour which we have recreated by the inclusion of fresh seaweed in the mash tun. Seaweed (bladder rack) taken fresh from the water on the Argyll coast is ‘mashed in’ with the malted and roasted barley.

The method of mashing the seaweed with the malt is interesting and not necessarily what I would have expected; rather, I tend to think in terms of using it as a boil additive (like hops) or adding it to the secondary.

Kelpie Seaweed AleAppearance: Dark brown and mostly opaque with a tan head.

Smell: Powdery chocolate malts, reminds of a brown ale or porter. Sweet caramel notes, rich and appetizing.

Taste: Lightly coffee-ish with porter-like notes—chocolate and lightly roasted malts. There’s definitely something unusual, maybe a touch of sea salt, something vegetal. Nice sweet character.

Mouthfeel: Lightly medium-bodied, crisp roastiness, more sweet than dry.

Overall: A bit different, though tasty; the kelp gave it a sort of metallic salty vegetal note, but it worked.

On BeerAdvocate, it scores an overall grade of B. On RateBeer, it scores 3.35 out of 5, and is in their 86th overall percentile.


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