Barleywine is that odd case of a beer style name making a lot of sense. It’s basically a wine-strength beer, literally a barley wine. Barleywine is fairly sweet and fruity, with just enough hop bitterness to keep it from being cloying. It’s meant to be sipped and savored, but if you want to drink it like a normal beer, by all means, go for it. Just don’t expect me to catch you afterward.
Because of the huge amount of malt that goes into a barleywine, yeast can sometimes struggle for roughly the same reason that one slips into a torpor after a big bag of Skittles. A higher fermentation temperature can help out, and the resulting fruity esters will probably be welcome anyway.
Thanks to the high alcohol content (anywhere from 8-12%), barleywine ages well. Mind you, if you’ve under-bittered your barleywine, no amount of aging is going to fix it, as bitterness will tend to decrease over time, but if you open a fresh bottle of barleywine and it tastes like it could help a Saturn V make low-Earth orbit, there’s a good chance it’ll evolve into something tasty with a few months in the cellar.
18 July 2009
Extract w/ grains
5 gallons, 90 minute boil, 30 minute steep
8.0 lbs Ultralight Liquid Malt Extract (90 min)
4.0 lbs Ultralight Liquid Malt Extract (15 min)
1.0 lbs Crystal Malt 60L
1.0 lbs Victory Malt
3.25 oz Kent Golding Hops [5.4% AA] (90 min)
1.00 oz Kent Golding Hops [4.2% AA] (90 min)
2.00 oz Centennial Hops [8.0% AA] (90 min)
1 tablet Whirlfloc (20 min – clarifier)
3 vials White Labs Dry English Ale yeast (WLP007)
2 oz corn sugar (bottling)
Create a yeast starter 1-2 days in advance.
Add 3 gallons of water to kettle. Bring to boil.
Steep grains at 155°F for 30 minutes.
Remove grains, turn off heat and add 8.0 lbs malt extract. Bring to a boil. Add hops.
At 20 minutes, add Whirlfloc tablet.
At 15 minutes, turn off heat. Add remaining malt extract while stirring. Return to boil.
At end of boil, remove all hops. Chill wort to 75°F. Rack to fermenter and dilute to 5 gallons. Decant yeast starter and pitch yeast. Aerate thoroughly. Ferment at 70-75°F.
At approx. 25% attenuation, create a yeast starter. After 24 hours, decant and pitch.
Repeat at approx. 50% attenuation.
Rack fermented beer to secondary fermenter. Age for 3 – 4 months.
Rack to bottling bucket. Boil corn sugar with 1 c filtered water and add to beer. Mix well.
Bottle. Age for 6 months to 1 year.
We had to improvise a bit on the hops. The hops that arrived in our Morebeer order were much lower alpha than what was listed on Morebeer’s website, so we had to find a way to make up for the missing IBU. Fortunately, we had some extra hops that were going to go unused in a future brew day. This is why the hop amounts listed in the recipe aren’t round and why there are two of the same hope variety listed with two different alpha acidities.
I’ll be honest here: I am not wholly optimistic about how this will turn out. Our original gravity came out to 1.093, exactly what we wanted, but an awful lot for yeast to handle. Theoretically, we’re looking for 75% attenuation, for a final gravity of 1.020-1.022, which would equate to about 9.5% ABV, but that’s feel-good optimism. In practice, there’s a lot that can go wrong, chiefly of which being severe underattenuation. An incomplete fermentation would leave us with a cloyingly sweet barleywine, but that’s the least of our problems. If the yeast should somehow decide to wait until they’re in the bottles to finish eating all of our maltose, we could find ourselves wading in a sea of beer and broken glass. Explosions are bad. Pointy explosions are worse.
That’s why we’re going to be pitching three separate yeast starters over the course of the fermentation. If the beasts that are already in there get burned out, then one hopes a fresh batch of fungus can start a new shift. Fingers are crossed. I’ll be content with 60-65% attenuation after four weeks. Worst case, we can always drop in a vial of champagne yeast.