Seaweed Ale - Gastro Obscura


Seaweed Ale

The ocean-scented brew pays homage to an old Scottish style.

Up until the mid-19th century, Scottish farmers grew their barley in seaweed-fertilized fields. This imparted a distinctly oceanic flavor to their ale. Although agricultural techniques have changed, a select few brewers have decided to resurrect this beachy brew.

Williams Bros. Brewing Co., located in the Scottish port town of Alloa, makes their famous Kelpie ale by adding freshly harvested bladder wrack to their mash tun. The result is a dark brown ale, with flavors of toasted malt, coffee, chocolate, and an unmistakable odor. Drinkers detecting a whiff of the sea aren’t dreaming; many note the scent of a beach breeze when they open a bottle. At 4.4 percent alcohol, it’s light yet rich—perfect for day-drinking on the shore.

The Scottish brewery’s success with Kelpie has even inspired brewers across the Atlantic to try their hand at seaweed-enhanced ales. In the United States, Marshall Wharf Brewing looks to sugar kelp that grows off the coast of Belfast, Maine. Brewers add the dried seaweed to their Scotch ale to make a brew known as Sea Belt. At 8.8 percent, you’ll need to pace yourself. A few rounds might hit you less like a sea breeze and more like a tidal wave.

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Sam OBrien Sam OBrien