Donít think Iím weird. Having grown up on the Maine coast, Iíve gnawed on the occasional piece of seaweed. Itís not bad! (Try the stuff right out of the water, of course; that dry wrack on the beach is a little too crunchy.) Then again, with its rubbery, gelatinous consistency and weirdly nondescript flavor, itís not great, either. But itís actually not that bizarre; seaweed, after all, is found in everything from sushi to toothpaste.
But beer? I may have munched a mite of marine algae on something of a lark, but never did I think Iíd drink seaweed. Never, that is, until I came across Kelpie, a Scottish ale woven through with faint traces of that peculiarly planty flavor.
Back in the day, the rugged Scottish coast was dotted with ale houses that brewed their own product: hearty drafts concocted with malted barley grown on rocky fields fertilized with abundantly available seaweed. This infused the ales with the barest tang of oceanic vegetation. Itís not done quite that way anymore, but in Strathaven, Scotland, the lads at Heather Ale Ltd. do the next best thing when they toss seaweed, culled fresh from the Argyll coast, in the mash tun with dark malted barley.
Those whoíre understandably wary of this briny brew should fear not. A deep-brown, barely translucent ale, it has a robust, surprisingly pleasing flavor. Itís a little chocolaty, a little smoky. Thereís even the barely notable tinge of sea salt. Itís rich and full, a little creamy, with a gentle bite that soon dissipates like foamy waves receding down a weed-choked rock. Síweed!
Kelpie is available for $4.95 for a 500-ml bottle at Downtown Wine & Spirits, 225 Elm Street, in Somerville. Call (617) 625-7777.