We’re all used to seeing bizarre additives in beers these days; I blame the Belgians who started it by adding fruit to their more astringent Lambic ales – most notably Cherries in Kriek beer.
I have also confessed a guilty pleasure when I enjoyed Mongozo which is flavoured with coconut or mango, I have even received an email from a friend (whom I met at Bank’s Brewery in Barbados) who had spotted a peanut butter and jelly flavoured beer – that’s just plain wrong!
Well, the Williams Brothers Brewery in Alloa, about thirty miles from Edinburgh, in Scotland, have attempted to recreate the flavour of traditional Scottish coastal brews by adding fresh seaweed to the mash.
Traditionally, Scottish coastal brews were made with barley grown in fields that were fertilised with seaweed, this imbued a distinctive mineral flavour, and the addition of ‘bladderwrack’ (that’s the seaweed with the little bubbles or ‘bladders’) seeks to create a similar flavour.
The Willams Brothers Brewery can be traced back to 1985 when Bruce Williams sought to recreate a traditional ‘Heather Ale’ from a translation of a 17th century recipe. The brewery now brews five ‘historic’ ales and fourteen ‘contemporary’ ales from a brewery in Alloa.
The brewery itself describes Kelpie as “a rich chocolate ale which has an aroma of fresh sea breeze and a distinctive malty texture” – well I’m sorry, but the sea breeze missed me completely.
What I got was a very dark beer (that reveals itself to be a dark garnet when held up to the halogen), sitting comfortably beneath a rich, foaming caramel coloured head.
While I didn’t get the sea breeze in the nose, I got plenty of rich, dark chocolate and espresso coffee, frankly there wasn’t room in the nose for a sea breeze.
The beer was slightly less full bodied than I was expecting from the nose, I was expecting a chewy porter, and was slightly disappointed. The flavour, well the dark chocolate and coffee are to the fore, there are the very faintest metallic hints, and maybe some salt, but if I was given this at a blind tasting I would suggest that maybe this was a canned, rather than bottled, brew. Not, I should add, that I’m precious about canned ales.
Overall, this disappoints. It’s a fine ale, very drinkable and quite enjoyable, but frankly the seaweed doesn’t add much to the brew beyond an interesting name and back story. I wouldn’t refuse this, but it’s not a brew I’d turn to again.
On that basis, using our rating system, this gives it 2½ stars.
Bob the Brit