Behind The Beer: Kilkerran Wee Heavy

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We’ve always considered ourselves lucky to have a partner in Springbank Distillers - the Campbeltown whisky producers are amongst the finest in the country and we’ve been privileged to work with them over the past four years. In addition to supplying us with their peated malt for our smoked golden ale, Springbank played a key role in the early development of Origins Brewing and we’re delighted to have worked with them again for a new beer for the first collection.

It was late 2013 when the first barrel arrived at the Fyne Ales brewery. It was a big, slightly-tired looking thing, with dark staves and hints of rust creeping into the metal hoops that held it together - nonetheless, it was a very exciting arrival for the brew team; it was the vessel for Fyne Ales’ very first barrel-finished beer, Kilkerran Stout.

The barrel was filled with a portion of a Sublime Stout brew, imparting it with a rich, smoky, earthiness that proved popular amongst the brew team, and the 350ish people who were able to find one of the hand bottled swing-tops that we filled the beer into. We knew that we had to work with Kilkerran barrels again.

Fast-forward to early 2017 and plans for Origins Brewing are in full-swing and the first collection of releases is taking shape, except for something to represent the barrel-aging/finishing part of the project. Springbank were delighted to provide us with a handful of newly-retired Kilkerran barrels and we got to work devising a recipe for a beer with which to fill them.

Wee Heavy is one of the oldest beer styles available in Scotland, and probably the style that Scotland can most comfortably claim as its own. They’re typically robust beers, defined by the sweet, caramel flavours and high alcohol content - smooth, warming and ideal for winter months. With sense of place being a key part of Origins Brewing, we felt it would be appropriate to feature the style, bringing the tradition of a wee heavy together with the traditions of whisky making to make something quintessentially Scottish.

Kilkerran Wee Heavy is a rich, dark scotch ale, laced with deep caramel flavours that have been enhanced with smoky, peaty and vanilla notes from the whisky-infused oak. The very-dark brown beer, weighing in at a modest 7.6%, is the perfect sipper for late-evening, by-the-fire sessions - a nightcap for cold Scottish winter nights.

With a fresh batch of barrels from Springbank on their way to the brewery, we’re excited to continue working with our whisky-making friends to showcase what Argyll drinks producers are capable of. 

Kilkerran Wee Heavy will be available from the Fyne Ales website as part of the Origins Brewing Autumn 2017 mixed case from Monday 11 December.

Iain Smith