54. Kelpie Seaweed Ale

Jonathan Swift famously and quite rightly observed that “It was a bold man that first ate an oyster”. One might say the same about the person who, on happening upon the bladderwrack seaweed, no doubt during a leisurely stroll along a near-tropical Scottish beach, thought to themself “you know, I reckon this would taste pretty good if I put it in my beer”.

Yes, this is an ale brewed with seaweed, “Kelpie” being the Gaelic word for that most improbable of beer ingredients. Kelpie Ale is brewed by Williams Brothers Brewery, the same chaps who recently brought us Fraoch Heather Ale, an altogether less ill-advised concept.

It has taken me a little while to pluck up the courage to crack this one open, but the 300 Beers project is a relentless mistress, and so the time has come.


Kelpie Ale pours an especially dark ruby colour, and in fact is almost black in bad light. It has a very distinctive nose reminiscent of a strong stout, with quite pronounced Scotch whisky notes. In that regard I’m reminded of Harviestoun’s Ola Dubh, a strong porter aged in whisky barrels.

To taste, Kelpie is again distinctive. It’s very fruity and tangy, with a vinous edge and perhaps the faintest touch of saltiness. It’s also slightly smoky, so there really are a lot of different flavours vying for attention

That smokiness further reminds me of a stout, as does the beer’s remarkably full body. Whilst I can’t detect any flavours that I can definitively identify as seaweed, there is a slightly gelatinous texture to the beer, which could simply be my imagination playing tricks on me, but it does call to mind the rubberiness of freshly beached bladderwrack seaweed.

All in all, this is an interesting beer. As with the brewery’s heather ale, whilst I can’t see it becoming a regular tipple, I’m glad I’ve tried it.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Williams Brothers Brewing Co, Alloa, Scotland
Style: Beers made with Fruit, Spices, Herbs and Seeds
Strength: 4.4% ABV
Found at: Utobeer, Borough Market, London SE1
Serving: 500ml Bottle

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