In 2015, after close to 20 years of brewing – initially as a homebrewer and then at a small regional brewery – Kees Bubberman decided to launch Brouwerij Kees in his hometown of Middelburg, Netherlands.
Within a year, his delicious IPAs, porters, stouts and barrel aged barley wines found their way in the beer world and, in the last couple of years, we’re delighted to say that Kees has become a Simpsons Malt customer through our distributor HVB-IMTC.
In this Q&A, Kees talks about how he got into the brewing industry, the UK breweries that helped to inspire him when he set-up Brouwerij Kees and why he made the switch to use, firstly, Simpsons speciality malts and, more recently, base malt as well.
How did you first get into the brewing industry?
It all started as a bit of a joke, really! I was a head chef in a kitchen and, of course, I loved drinking special beers, craft beers and Belgian beers. One day in around 1998, a friend of mine asked if we should start homebrewing and I thought yeah, why not. I started a training course to learn how to brew beer and with the first beer I brewed, I won a prize. When you win prizes, you start to think, ‘Ah, I’m good at this!’. It started as a hobby and then it really exploded to the point I was brewing once a week, which was very fun.
For a while when I was homebrewing, I was still working as a head chef but then a new brewpub opened nearby and the manager there – who I’d known for around four to five years – said he was looking for a brewer and asked if I knew someone. I said yes, me! I spoke to my wife and said I’d been offered a new job as a brewmaster at Emelisse, a small regional brewery in Kamperland. She said don’t do it, don’t do it – but I did it!
How did your work at Emelisse pave the way for you to start Brouwerij Kees?
So I moved from my 25l homebrew kit to Emelisse with a capacity of 1,000l, which was very exciting. I was there for seven years and helped this unknown brewery become a well-known brewery. By 2014, I decided to take my own chances and start my own brewery and, by January 2015, Brouwerij Kees was launched.
When it came to setting up your own brewery, did you take inspiration from other breweries around the world?
I’ve always been a big fan of the UK brewing scene and I really love the English and American takes on beer styles like IPAs and DIPAs. I know the guys from Magic Rock Brewing Co. quite well, so I’d say I was inspired by them, The Kernel Brewery and other big-name English breweries at that time.
After launching Brouwerij Kees, how easy was it to break through in the Dutch craft beer market?
Well, it was quite easy because, through my time at Emelisse, I had become a well-known brewer. So, from there, if you start your own brewery, it’s quite easy to break into the market and get customers. A lot of the customers that I’d had at Emelisse came with me to Brouwerij Kees, which was great!
Where are Brouwerij Kees beers distributed?
In our region, Zeeland, it’s very traditional. Most of the beer I have is sold in the Netherlands – around 75% – and the rest goes to the UK, Canada, all over Europe and even China and Australia.
When did you start using Simpsons Malt?
I’ve always liked British speciality malts and when I came over to the UK to do collab brews, almost every brewer was brewing with Simpsons. So we tried the speciality malts and we were impressed by the quality; it was really good. When we had the chance to order Simpsons Malt in the Netherlands after you linked up with Benny van Heule at HVB-IMTC, we moved over to Simpsons speciality malts because the quality for us was better than other maltsters.
The next step was switching our base malt over to Simpsons Malt, too. Before this, we used barley from the Netherlands and special malt from Simpsons but the yield, quality and lautering with Dutch malt is always difficult. As a result, in April 2020, we made the decision to move over to Simpsons base malt too and we’ve seen better lautering, better yield and a fuller taste – everything’s better. We use Best Pale Ale predominantly for our core beers but for our one-off, speciality beers, we like to use Golden Promise.
Do you have a favourite malt of ours?
I can eat a bag of Golden Naked Oats; I love them. They’re really nutty and sweet. I use GNO mostly in our one-off beers like our IPAs or DIPAs. I like the colour that they give to the beer, while Golden Promise also gives a really nice colour to the beers too.
What’s the Dutch beer scene like?
The Netherlands has two brewing scenes – the traditional one where Wheat Beers, Tripels and Blonds are still very popular but now we also have the craft brewing scene where we have IPAs, DIPAs and basically breweries brewing every kind of beer that can be brewed! Most of the young guys here are inspired by the hazy beer brewers in the UK, like Verdant Brewing Co. and Cloudwater Brew Co. – so it’s very diverse and exciting.
For more information on Brouwerij Kees, visit their website HERE.
You can also following Brouwerij Kees on social media:
You can also follow Kees on Twitter at @KeesBubberman!