Boston, MA - Craft beer has never been averse to using exotic ingredients. Raisins, coffee beans and even bacon have found their way from the kitchen table to breweries to your beer mug. And the results can be as ridiculous as they are sublime.
Now New Hampshire based Portsmouth Brewery has taken it one step further with their offering “Selkie,” which blends Scottish Red Ale with locally harvested Sugar Kelp.
Inspired by a sampling of a local brew called “Kelpie” during a visit to Edinburgh, brewery founder Joanne Francis was inspired to export that taste back to the greater New England area.
“It was just such a beautiful profile,” Francis elaborates. “And not at all what you think it would taste like.”
After three years research and trials with both head brewer Matt Gallagher and researchers at the aquaculture program of the University of New Hampshire, the result is an ale that is both potable, slightly briny and sustainable.
The kelp grows alongside steelhead trout on a feeding farm just off the coast of New Castle, N.H. Since steelhead trout are not native to the Northeast, their introduction not only encourages biodiversity, but diminishes biological impact by the kelps’ absorption of excess nutrients.
With a 4.9% ABV, approximately 120 pounds of kelp are used in each batch of Selkie.
“I always remember when I was a kid and my parents would take me to the ocean, and I’d go swimming and hours later after you’d been out of the water, you’d lick your lips and taste that ocean,” explains Gallagher. “And that was what I was getting off this beer… It was a nice Scottish Red Ale, but when you were done you might lick your lips and taste this nice salty, briny flavor.”
Selkie was first introduced in the Summer of 2016, and has been an eyebrow raiser ever since. A successful eyebrow raiser. At first a limited offering, Francis plans on offering the beer on a yearly basis—each summer, after the kelp harvest in June.
But if you think this is merely the latest wacky trend alongside milkshake IPAs and beard follicles (no names, please) in the “here-today-gone-today” world of craft brewing, think again.
"I don't want people to just drink it and say, 'Yup, that's kelp.' I want them to say, 'That's a really nice beer and I can taste the kelp,'" Gallagher continues. "Finding that balance is a subtle line to walk."
Francis concurs. "I don't want to fall into that triple-bacon-donut-coffee-beer trap... with unicorn tear.”
Luckily, for us all.
Portsmouth Brewery is located at 56 Market St in Portsmouth, N.H. Selkie is a limited time offering, available on tap or in bottles. For more information, call (603) 431-1115 or visit portsmouthbrewery.com