Kelp Craft Beer: The Ocean's Fermented, Briny Potion

Despite what you might think, kelp beer is not actually a new thing. In fact, for hundreds of years, Scottish farmers grew their grain in sea kelp beds, and when they brewed beer, it had a distinct hint of the sea breeze from its underwater terroir.

New Hampshire's Portsmouth Brewery owner Joanne Francis fell in love with this style of beer when she discovered a brew in Scotland called "Kelpie" that was made with bladderwrack seaweed. It only took her 10 years to convince someone else to fall in love with the flavor as well. However, when she did, the result was a beautiful beer called Selkie. This craft beer is brewed with sugar kelp, but thanks to the talent of brewer Matt Gallagher, the beer is nothing like drinking a mouthful of tidewater. 

However, when she did, the result was a beautiful beer called Selkie. This craft beer is brewed with sugar kelp, but thanks to the talent of brewer Matt Gallagher, the beer is nothing like drinking a mouthful of tidewater. 

Instead, the seaweed is perfectly balanced with the sweet maltiness of hops leaving you with a deep, rich flavor that simply reminds you of the ocean.

"I could only assume the flavor qualities were going to be salty-briny," he remembers, "and the only way I could think to bring some sort of quaffable balance to that profile would be barley malt sweetness." 

Selkie beer, by the way, derives its name from a mythical ocean creature that can shed its skin to take human form on land.

A Successful First Try

At their first attempt, Selkie used up 60 pounds of seaweed, but its low alcohol content and its rush of barley, malty sweetness make it such a pleasing alternative to the ubiquitous IPA that the brewery has already started on a second batch.

The second batch, though, will be double the amount - the crew will brew 14 barrels with 120 pounds of seaweed. They will also experiment with two other types of kelp: dulse and alaria.

In spite of their enthusiasm for the product, the team doesn't want Selkie to be seen as a gimmick that is blending two food world fads. Francis told NPR"I don't want to fall into that triple-bacon-donut-coffee-beer trap -- with unicorn tear." 

However, if they continue on the path of crafting beer with integrity and ingenuity, it's likely they won't be.

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