Tag Archive: Kees


Kees: Barrel Project 17.07 S.P.X. (Netherlands: Scotch Ale: 9% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown. Creamy brown head. Some carbonation. The head leaves suds.

Nose: Sweet dessert wine. Sweet raspberry crème. Figs to figgy pudding. Raisins. Brandy cream. Spotted dick. Marshmallows.

Body: Figs. Cocktail bitters. Prunes touch. Sour apples. Calvados. Smooth. Raisins. Malt chocolate. Brandy cream. Marshmallows. Raspberry yogurt. Dessert wine.

Finish: Sour dates. Sour wine. Calvados. Slight bitterness. Charring. Earthy hop bitterness. Malt chocolate. Dessert wine. Brandy cream. Spiced grapes. Marshmallows.

Conclusion: I spent a lot of time digging into this before before starting this conclusion. This initially seemed another one of those beers that was overly dominated by the barrel ageing – but only initially. You get a real fresh and sweet dessert wine like character from the sherry ageing on first sniff and sip, but it soon dispels the illusion that this is all it has.

What is notable, for me anyway, is that the Wee Heavy is a style that is very easy to make a simple beer – packed with enjoyable dark fruit notes, but one note in that and so quickly dull. This does have part of that description – it packs in the dark fruit, but beyond that it has a slight sour apple and figs set of notes against that sweet base. Not a heavy set of notes, and not in an acidic fashion – instead akin to stewed, fruit stone sucked, sour notes under the heavy malt. This is all then underlined by a solid, low level, earthy hop bitterness.

The dessert wine style character keeps adding to this, bringing sweet high notes and also mixes with the base to create interesting concoctions such as Calvados like sweet notes as the sherry character mixes with the sour fruit to create rewarding combinations.

To me this is both Barrel Ageing, and Wee Heavies, done right. It has added complexities to the base of what you would expect from a scotch ale, then topped that up with extra notes from the ageing. So, it seems I am back on the barrel ageing fan bandwagon again!

Background: I had a try of a bunch of Kee’s Barrel Project beers about a year back I think – generally enjoyed them, so decided to try this from the new batch. The fact it was a wee heavy interested me – you don’t see a huge amount of them around, and less so of experiments with them – so was definitely worth a try to my mind. This has been Pedro Ximenez barrel aged – I haven’t had much experience with the sherry, but beers and whisky aged in it tend to be fabulous. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit and was the first beer drunk in 2018! Whoop Whoop! Drunk while listening to Rise Against – Endgame, seriously an album without a single bad song on it.

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kees-barrel-project-06-2016

Kees: Barrel Project 06/2016 (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 12% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin off white head.

Nose: Creamy vanilla and very evident bourbon. Very smooth. Caramelised brown sugar. Chocolate liqueur notes. Fudge.

Body: Treacle. Cherries. Vanilla. Soft fudge. Massive bourbon. Very smooth. Malt chocolate. Caramel. Soft alcohol presence with a slight tingle. Brown sugar. Chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Toffee. Vanilla. Golden syrup. Smooth bourbon. Chocolate liqueur.

Conclusion: Ok, this is both smooth as sod and bourbon backed to buggery. This is nice is what I am saying. Despite the darker colour it does not lean away from the intense sweetness of the traditional barley wine – though it does express it with more chocolate and fudge as well as the more excepted golden syrup style. Still, very recognisable straight out of the gate.

If I had to dig into what exactly is the major sweetness here I would say it has a lot of caramel, backed by huge amounts of vanilla – it is delivered with the slightest amount of alcohol prickling, but in general it slips down like quality liqueur. Or, considering the range of flavours, more like a blend of liqueurs – aged in a bourbon cask of course, you cannot deny that influence at any point. Seriously this is possibly one of the most clearly and evident defined beers for showing the bourbon ageing’s influence. It has all of the vanilla, that rugged sweet undertone and slight sour mash notes – all so very clear.

It is only because the base beer and the ageing are so in line that the ageing doesn’t overwhelm the base beer. While the base beer has a lot of flavour it is not so epically big to overpower the bourbon ageing, instead it relies on the base caramel and chocolate complementing rather than fighting the bourbon notes.

So, I enjoy this massively – thought not quite enough for it to be one of the rare “my favourites”. It is classy as all hell – smooth and with full flavour – the only thing it does not have is that unique element that pushes it to the very top and makes it an all time great. Still, that is possibly the weakest criticism there is. It is still great.

So, genuinely great, even if not an all time best, but there is no way you will regret this if you are a fan of bourbon and barley wines. Full on bourbon. Full on barley wine. Full on beer.

Background: This is the third of the Kees Barrel project beers I grabbed, and probably the one I was most looking forwards to. You seem to get less barrel aged Barley Wines over here, so this – aged in Barton Bourbon barrels looked like just the thing for me. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, it was drunk listening to the every energetic indie pop electronic tunes of Grimes for a bit of extra fun.

Kees Barrel Project #04 2016

Kees: Barrel Project #04/2016 (Imperial Stout: Netherlands: 10.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin grey-brown dash of a head.

Nose: Toffee. Prickly alcohol. Bourbon. Vanilla. Treacle toffee. Chocolate liqueur. Wet wood. Chalk dash. Mild ginger bread.

Body: Chocolate liqueur and frothy chocolate fondue. Vanilla. Blended whisky. Slight sour cream twist. Prickling alcohol touch, but light and smooth underlying texture. Caramel. Light peppermint. Cocoa.

Finish: Charcoal and charred oak. Milky chocolate. Slight gherkin sour fresh note. Caramel. Cocoa pops in chocolate milk. Light peppermint. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: I found the oatmeal stout from Kees in this Barrel aged project to be a tad too smooth and light – oatmeal stouts should have a bit of weight to them. This as “just” an imperial stout, is still a tad light in its smoothness, but is in a style that suits more, and also, oddly actually has a bit more weight to it.

Flavour wise this really runs straight down the middle of what you would expect for what it is. It’s a barrel aged Imperial Stout and brings cocoa, smooth chocolate and a hint of coffee at the base – the barrel ageing bringing in caramel and vanilla notes. So nothing really unexpected. Warmth actually thickens it up just enough from the slightly light touch when chilled. So all very competently done.

Not having had many grain barrel aged beers, I would say that this comes across as a mix of prickling blended whisky character and bourbon sweetness – which sounds about right from what I would expect single grain to give. So again, it is spot on to expectations – not more – not less. Very smooth, very refined, but doesn’t surprise in the least. Not a bad thing when what you expect is a high quality imperial stout. Doesn’t stand out beyond that though, still can’t complain about it being very well done.

So – basically a very good, treacle toffee, smooth chocolate, vanilla caramel and touches of bitter coffee Imperial Stout. If you want to dig there are slight sour cream notes and slight peppermint hints, but mainly it plays in straight. No regrets, but no soaring new experience.

Just a very good barrel aged imperial stout. Just I say….

Background: Second of the Kees’ Barrel Project beers I have grabbed from Independent Spirit. The first I tried was good, but a bit light – but generally good, so decided to give this one a go. This one has been aged in Girvan single grain barrels – since I had a bit of a Girven experience last year it seemed a nice thing to try. I am as big fan of Imperial Stouts, but try and pace out having them, lest they become commonplace to me.

Kees Barrel Project 05-2016

Kees: Barrel Project #05/2016 (Netherlands: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. White swirl and loose bubbles over it but no real head.

Nose: Caramel. Thick. Molasses. Treacle toffee and chocolate toffee. Chocolate liqueur. Alpen. Rye bourbon. Shreddies and fresh white toast.

Body: Belgian chocolate. Bitter cocoa. Thick vanilla fudge. Orange liqueur. Nutty. Rye bourbon. Bready base. Light earthy notes. Figs. Cream. White sugar. Very smooth.

Finish: Wholemeal bread. Rye bourbon. Chocolate biscuits. Earthy notes. Bitter cocoa. Lemongrass. White sugar and white chocolate. Raisins. Bitter coffee cake. Nutty and praline.

Conclusion: Big, yet restrained. Bourbon backed, yet earthy. Thick, yet smooth and somewhat light at times. Ok, you have my attention beer, are you going to earn it?

The base, while you can feel the oatmeal stout thickness, slips down very easily – it is smoothed, I presume, by its time in the oak. A lot of the notes in there are the expected ones – bitter cocoa, chocolate – albeit in a very high quality Belgian style, fudge. Everything very well done. There is however an unusual, restrained rustic earthy set of notes – common in standard stouts, but something that big booming imperial stouts often neglect. It is unusual to find the more savoury notes working against the sweetness.

It is a good look, especially against the bourbon ageing. The more rustic side of the bourbon character seems to match the earthy notes well giving shreddies and rye style characteristics which ground a heavy flavoured beer. Thankfully neither side dominates, the beer or the bourbon – there are orange sweet notes from the bourbon boom, and distinct spirit characteristics, but the beer is big enough to take it and layer the bitter chocolate flavours over the top without losing either.

Initially, when chilled, it was a tad too light but heat brings it out into excellent balance. It is still smooth, but with a bit more grip to let it really shine. It can still have thin moments, but generally the oatmeal stout character pulls it through. Warmth also brings a bit of dark fruit play, which is nigh always a good choice.

So, generally good? Aye, very much so. Downsides? Well the cocoa notes can stick to the tongue, as if you have been licking the cocoa itself. Occasional thin notes as well, but not really much on the downsides.

As I always say, the Imperial Stout category is a packed one, and this doesn’t shift out the top few. However this is more savoury and grounded than most, while still letting the flavours boom. Well done and less over the top than many in the category which is worthy of respect.

Background: An Oatmeal Stout Aged on Heaven Hill barrels, as you can probably read on the bottle. There was a whole bunch of the Barrel Project beers at Independent Spirit and since I have been hearing good things about Kees I decided to grab one of them. I went for this one as 1) I love oatmeal stouts and 2) In My experience Heaven Hills’ barrels do lovely work for barrel ageing a stout. Anyway not much else to say – this was a big beer so broke out some big music. Iron Maiden: A Matter Of Life And Death. Seriously love that album, barely a bad track on it.

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