Nick Carr on April 28, 2017 0 Comments Table of Contents The History of Barleywine Style Profile & Characteristics Examples of the Style How to Brew an English Barleywine Final Thoughts History of English Barleywine English barleywine is the aged grandfather of the beer world. He can be intimidating at first, having lived a life entire, before ever coming to share your class. He is bold, even biting sometime, yet most of his harsh edges have been worn away by time, leaving a kindly, warming, complex character. He is a storyteller. And as you contemplate his company, lift the glass for that first tentative sip, you’ll know it’s a story to be lingered over, to be studied, shared, and savored. As a distinct style, English barleywine isn’t very old. The style description only came into use in 1903 when Bass Brewing, in the hopes of better marketing, tacked the name onto its strong No. 1 Burton Ale. However, the descriptor was no doubt used long before it became its own style. It might have been used as cultures came into contact with beer and had nothing else to compare it to but wine. As in the Anabasis, where Xenophon uses the Greek words οινος κριθης (oinos krithios), to describe a beer he encountered in his journeys. The Greek literally translates to “barley wine.” Later strong ales, those approaching the same higher alcohol as wine, would be tagged with the same “wine” label. The Roots of the Style These strong ales likely got their start sometime in the 1400s, coinciding with the use of hops becoming more prevalent. In his book Amber, Gold, & Black, Martyn Cornell makes the case for these stronger ales’ inability to withstand infection — stronger almost always means sweeter — without the preservative qualities of hops. Once hops were accepted and in common use the brewing and storing, often for long periods of time, of such strong warming libations would have been more common. Even before hops became a commonplace ingredient, seasons ruled when brewers could ply their craft. Without refrigeration and with no real way of cooling wort quickly, brewing was confined to between October and March. Shaping Strong Ales With the Use of Hops Hops were a welcomed addition to these keeping beers, named so because they were sequestered away to water thirsts through the brewing drought of summer and into the following winter. They not only helped preserve these weightier brews, but also brought better balance to them. In the late 1500s into the early 1700s, the English gentry made many examples of these close-of-the-season strong beers. The staying power of such beers can be seen in the book Guide to Gentlemen and Farmers for Brewing the Finest Malt Liquors (also referenced by Martyn Cornell) in which is written “Many country gentlemen talk of and magnify their stale beer of five, ten or more years old.” A more modern example came in 2006 when a cache of vintage ales were found in the Worthington White Shield brewery. This discovery included Radcliff Ale, a version of Bass’s No. 1 ale brewed for a special occasion in 1869. It was deemed the oldest drinkable beer yet found; displaying complex flavors of sherry, dried fruit, Christmas pudding, and smoked syrupy coffee. The Numerous Nicknames Given to Barleywine These fortified ales went by several designations. There was the use of K’s and X’s to designate strength (i.e. KXXX); the more Xs, the stronger the brew. But, a number of interchangeable descriptors where also used, including: “Double” “Double-double” “Strong” “Stale” “Stock” “Old” “Barley wine” As you can see English barleywine isn’t the only label that has come to distinguish a now distinct style. But, up to the 1900s there weren’t any delineating lines marking off styles (even now, the lines between Old Ale, British Strong Ale, and Barley Wine are quite blurred). At the time these monikers were generally used to designate beer above about 8.0% that were aged for a time. Beyond these points, the language tacked on was largely left to the brewer’s preferences. Double-Double: The Primitive Process of Brewing Barleywine The “double” and “double-double” descriptors came about because of a brewing practice in which the first runnings of a mash were poured back on the grain bed, once (double) or even twice (double-double), and mashed again. According to both Martyn Cornell (Amber Gold, & Black) and Jeff Alworth (The Beer Bible) the “double-double” was banned several times because of its extreme headiness. Parti-Gyle Brewing: A Traditional Technique Another technique that, at least to some extent, seems to find a place in the roots of this style is that of parti-gyle brewing. This is an English practice in which two or more “runnings” are taken off the same mash. Sometimes one beer is made from each running — i.e. a stronger beer off the first runnings, a medium-weight beer off the second runnings, etc. But the runnings were also often blended to hit the specific gravities of two or more styles. Blending in this way allowed better control over the starting gravity. It is a practice not used extensively today, though some brewer’s still dabble in it. An example is London’s Fuller’s Brewery. From various blends of a first and second runnings they produce their Extra Special Bitter, London Pride, and Chiswick Bitter. Because these strong brews had such high alcohol content the yeast would often flag, slowing as the amount of alcohol rose. This could mean a long and slow fermentation with extra care being paid to the working yeast, which might need supplementing pitches to augment the workforce or, at the very least, a good rousing of the tiring yeast. This was done in the most practical way possible; tip a fermenting barrel on its side and take it for a roll around the brewery. Russia, Tariffs & The Decline of Burly British Ales In the mid 1700s, brewers at Burton upon Trent started to export what they called Burton Ale into the Baltic regions. Burton Ale typified the strong ale of the time, being dark, sweet, and dry hopped upon casking. The trade of this ale continued until 1822, when Russia issued a high tariff on beer imports. After this, the Burton brewers slowly turned their attention to other markets including India. Soon they were making a lighter more bitter beer, which would become much more famous, for these new markets. The burly Burton Ale declined, but did not vanish completely. Burton Ale, or something very close, was brewed as a ward against the cold, and more importantly scurvy, for at least three different Arctic expeditions. The first being the 1852 undertaking to find Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition by Sir Edward Belcher. It even took on the name Arctic Ale as a result. These Burton and Arctic Ales are the closest direct ancestors of the Modern barleywine. Style Profile & Characteristics The guidelines for the English Barleywine style are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The below details are a summary of what an English Barleywine should represent. Quick Characteristics Color Range: 8 – 22 SRM Original Gravity: 1.080 – 1.120 OG Final Gravity: 1.018 – 1.030 FG IBU Range: 35 – 70 ABV Range: 8.0 – 12.0% Appearance: Vast range from deep gold to mahogany brown. Ruby highlights. Never opaque. Low to moderate head with poor retention. Aroma: Rich & complex with strong malty backbone. Mild hoppy aroma. Soft alcohol notes possible. All aromas become less intense with age. Flavor: Complex tapestry dependent on age. Strong malty characters. Hoppy flavors are low to medium, but bitterness may be high. Moderate to high sweetness. Finish may be dry or sweet. Mouthfeel: Depends on conditioning and age. Full body with smooth texture. Alcohol warmth should be smooth. Low carbonation. Serving & Storage Temperature: 50 – 55°F Shelf Life: 9+ Months Suggested Glass: Snifter Food Pairings: Game meats, lamb chops, duck & wild poultry, aged cheddar, goat cheeses, crème brûlée, caramel desserts The BJCP classifies the English Barleywine under category number 17, “Strong British Ale” and it can be found in the guidelines as sub-category (17D). Other beer styles under this category include: British Strong Ale (17B), Old Ale (17B), and Wee Heavy (17C). Appearance: The color in an English barleywine can range widely; deep gold to dark amber and can even be a mahogany brown, but shouldn’t be opaque. Color often exhibits a great depth and richness, splashed through with ruby highlights. Head will be low to moderate, often with poor retention due to the high alcohol. It may form “legs” when the glass is swirled due to the viscosity and high alcohol presence within. Aroma: Aroma is rich, complex, and varied with characters including strong malt backbones expressing as caramel in darker versions and toffee in the pale versions. Other notes can include bready, toasty, and/or molasses; or muted malt aromas along with a sherry-like, vinous, and/or port-like in aged versions. Often has moderate to strong fruitiness with a bend toward dark, dried fruit, especially in darker examples. Hop aromas are generally earthy, floral, or marmalade-like and can be mild to medium in strength. May be some low to medium, round and soft alcohol notes. The alcohol, hops, even the malt aromatics will tend to change and become less intense with age. Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel depends on the beers conditioning. It can be full-bodied, even chewy, with a smoothly pleasant texture, though this will likely decline slowly with long aging. There should be the low smooth warmth of alcohol. Carbonation is often low, but can sometimes climb into the moderate range. Carbonation also, will decrease with longer aging. Taste: It presents a rich and complex tapestry of flavors. Malt character is often strong bordering on intense, showing notes of dark caramel, molasses, nut, and dark toast in the darker versions, while the lighter examples bring notes of biscuit, bread, and toffee. Sweetness may be moderate to high across the palate. Finish can be either moderately sweet or transitioning to a moderately dry. A dark or dried fruit character is frequently present and can range from medium to high. Flavor will likely have complex alcohol notes with possible oxidative or vinous undertones (depending on the beers age). Balance can be either malty or somewhat bitter with hop bitterness ranging from, just enough to achieve balance, to a more assertive showing. Hop flavors usually are low to medium with a marmalade-like, floral, and/or earthy character. Pale versions are more likely to fall on the side of higher bitterness and higher hop character, along with higher attenuation when compared to darker versions. Food Pairings: A beer this complex calls for meats with gamey richness and sauces to match. Try venison, wild boar or lamb. Duck and other wild poultry, such as pheasant should match lighter versions note to note. Cheeses and this style are secret friends. A fact Garrett Oliver waxes quite poetic about in his excellent book The Brewmaster’s Table. He suggests; aged Cheddar, Greyre, or some aged goat cheeses, but the highest expression of this friendship is Stilton. I’ve tried Stilton and a nicely aged barely wine, and have to say I agree totally with his poetic license. Desserts are another great playground for this beer. Any kind of caramel flavored dessert will find a familiar song in the malty depth of this style. And nothing finds a better home then the old caramelized standby crème brûlée. Don’t forget your after dinner sipper, the digestif to finish off that huge meal. Bigger, older English barleywines will warm your insides as you sit close to that roaring fire and discuss the finer points of life with your dinner guests. Serving & Storage: For best presentation and greatest appreciation an English barleywine should be served at 50-55°F in a snifter glass. They are best stored at cellar temperatures away from light and can often age for many years. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Examples of the Style At the moment, English and American versions of this style are lumped together in a single barleywine competition category. There have been few, if any, English version winners over the last couple years. Despite this, there are many good examples. Thomas Hardy Ale from Meantime Brewing Company (London, UK) Brew 1000 from Fremont Brewing Company (Seattle, WA) Golden Pride from Fuller’s Brewing Company (London, UK) Bourbon County Barleywine from Goose Island Brewing Company (Chicago, IL) No. 9 Barley Wine from Coniston Brewing Company (Coniston, UK) Harvest Ale from J.W. Lee’s Brewing Company (Manchester, UK) Arctic Devil from Midnight Sun Brewing Company (Anchorage, AK) Blithering Idiot from Weyerbacker Brewing Company (Easton, PA) Barleywine from Duck Rabbit Brewing Company (Farmville, NC) Winter Warlock from Flat Earth Brewing Company (Saint Paul, MN) Height of Civilization from Wild Heaven Beer (Atlanta, GA) Mother Of All Storms from Pelican Brewing Company (Pacific City, OR) Brick Kiln from JackieOs Brewing Company (Athens, OH) Irish Walker from Olde Hickory Brewing Company (Hickory, NC) Sucaba from Firestone Walker Brewing Company (Paso Robles, CA) How to Brew an English Barleywine Recipe If you’d like to try your hand at brewing an English barleywine recipe at home, we would recommend reading the tips below. Making a high gravity beer comes with a set of considerations beyond those for regular beer. When first weighing whether to try brewing one of these monsters keep in mind: It will cost you more time and, likely, a little more money; an all grain brewer will likely not be able to make the same volume as they commonly would; hop utilization decreases as gravity increases; and you will have to pitch more yeast and coddle them more than you might for a lower gravity brew. Buy an English Barleywine Recipe Kit on Amazon If you haven’t changed your mind yet, read on, and I will do my best to address each of the above considerations and give you some pointers on weathering the process of making this grandfather beer. Grain Bill: English barleywine relies on a big, but relatively simple grain bill. Its complexity is not so much born of the grain bill, as it is from longer boil times, fermentation, and allowing it to age for an appropriate amount of time. Most, if not all, of the grain bill will come from English pale malt. Try to use English malt here, not just for authenticities sake, but also because English pale malt is kilned a couple degrees darker than American two-row or pale ale malt. This darker kilning contributes to a biscuity, slightly toaster malt character. If, for some reason, you can’t source British pale malt and have to use the American pale or two-row, you’ll want to add 5 to 10 percent Munich malt. It may not get you quite the same character, but it’ll be close. If handled correctly, British pale ale malt can be your entire grain bill. Much of the caramel and melanoidin character is traditionally achieved by a boil of two or more hours. Specialty Malts: If you do venture into specialty malts, go sparingly. Keep any specialty additions lower than about 10 to 15 percent total. Flavor & Color — Darker crystal (60°L and above) may be added, at 5 to 8 percent, to give nice color, while adding elements of toast, caramel, and dried fruit flavors. Head Retention — Wheat and Carapils may be used to help head retention. Complexity — Victory, Munich, Biscuit, Special Roast, among others can be used to bolster and broaden complexity. But, again, at least to my mind, if using a high-quality English base malt, coupled with long boil times, none of these additions are truly necessary. Also, stay away from higher kilned malts that might bring inappropriate roastiness into the profile. It is important to note here how often malt extract is used in conjunction with grain. In Designing Great Beers, Ray Daniels notes that more than half of the recipes he surveyed included extract and, on average, the extract accounted for half of the total gravity. Using malt extract makes a barleywine recipe a little more manageable. You don’t need as much grain, so you can make a larger volume then might have been possible otherwise. Also, adding all or a portion of your malt extract toward the end of the boil will help with hop utilization. Extract Brewing: Using extract is probably the easiest way to go about brewing this style, though it may be trickier to get exactly the same depth and complexity. Look for a high-quality English pale malt extract or possibly an English amber malt extract, if going for a darker version of the style. To get the barleywine’s complexity will require a mini-mash with some of the above specialty grains. Some dark crystal malt, at the very least, should be part of the plan, though I would recommend at least one or two of the above malts as well. Carapils or wheat also can be quite helpful for building some of the mouthfeel and body you will lose when using extract. Malt from this mini-mash should make up somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of your total recipe. Water: Only die-hard barleywine brewers need worry much about the water profile. There is so much going on in this beer that water flavors won’t be much of a worry, generally. As long as you have water that has worked well in other beers, you’ll likely be just fine using the same for a barleywine. If you want to get finicky (read detail oriented), you can mess with getting close to the Burton-upon-Trent water profile, but at least try a barleywine with your regular brewing water first. Hops: Keeping with authentic ingredients you’ll want to go with British hops for both the bittering and flavor/aroma additions. Fuggles, East Kent Goldings, Target, Northdown, and Challenger are all likely options. Remember, English barleywine IBUs can range from 35 to 80. Generally, you’ll be looking to balance the sweetness without overwhelming the malt character. Though, tipping the scales just slightly toward the hops still falls under this style’s guidelines. A single bittering addition is normal. A bitterness-to-starting-gravity (IBU:OG) of 0.5 to 0.6 is average, but if looking for slightly higher bitterness or you’re planning on aging the finished beer for an extended time, up it to between 0.6 and 0.8. Stick with high alpha hops for bittering, and pellets are recommended. This will minimize hop mass in your kettle, which will reduce the amount of wort lost to trub. And it’s worth mentioning again, that if you are using extract, holding a portion of the extract in reserve until about 15 minutes before the end of the boil will increase hop utilization. There are several online hop utilization calculators to help with hop quantity and hop utilization to gravity calculations. Late hop additions are usually held to one or two additions, added between 20 minutes and flame out and can range from anywhere between 1 and 6 ounces, depending on the aroma you want in the finished product. Dry hopping is often used in barleywines, and according to Ray Daniels in Designing Great Beers, was even traditional; though it seems more common in American barleywines today. If dry hopping, you may want to leave out your kettle aroma addition. A general rule of thumb is to use around twice as much dry hopping in a barely wine as you would say, a bitter or pale ale. Around 2 to 5 ounces, average. The Mash: Here is where the capacity question needs to get sorted out. If you have the common 5 gallon setup, realize it is going to take more than twenty pounds of grain (plus water) to get into the middle range of the starting gravity. This will not fit in any commonly used 5 gallon mash tun. One solution is splitting your grain bill and doing two separate mashes, then combining the runnings to come up with your boil volume. You could also just be happy with the smaller volume and make a 2 to 3 gallon batch. I’d vote for the smaller batch size personally, especially if trying an unfamiliar recipe. Traditional Parti-Gyle Mash: All-grain brewers may try doing the traditional parti-gyle mash and use only first runnings for the barleywine (maybe do a Bitter with the second runnings). However, it’s likely you’ll run into volume problems here, too. Your mash tun may not be large enough to get the requisite pre-boil volume through first runnings alone. You could always just go with whatever volume you get out of the first runnings — even do a slight water dilution or malt extract addition adjustment to your target starting gravity. The only problem is you will have to adjust your hops to the new volume. Needless to say, mash is not for the new all-grain brewer. You need to know your system in and out, and be well organized before trying to undertake the parti-gyle journey. Single-Step Infusion & Sparge: The easier, though less exciting, route is a regular single-step infusion mash and sparge. Remember, if you happen to come up short on your starting gravity you can always add malt extract to bring it up to point. Mash Temperature: Make your mash thick, 1.3 to 1.5 quarts per pound of grain. If you are doing an all-grain brew with no extract at all, you could go as low as 147 to 149°F for the mash temperature. Because of the amounts of malt involved there is little danger of not having any sugar left in the beer after fermentation, so mashing at this low temperature gives max fermentability. Though these lower temperatures will likely work in all cases; if you plan to supplement with a large portion of malt extract or adjunct sugar it may serve to keep the temperatures on the high side of 149°F, up to about 153°F. This will create more unfermentable sugar and ensure the body doesn’t become too light. You may also consider mashing at the higher temperature if your beer falls at the lower end of the starting gravity range or you plan on using an especially attenuating yeast strain. The Boil: A long boil is usual practice for a barleywine. This creates more caramelization and melanoidin complexity. It can also be used to reduce the volume and concentrate the wort down to a required starting gravity. Keep in mind, long boils also increase color, which may or may not be something you’re worried about. A 3 to 5 hour boil is not uncommon, though 2 to 3 hours should get you there. If you’re extract brewing, a shorter boil time will work fine, though I’d still go for 1.5 to 2 hours just to create those complex flavors. Holding back a portion (or all, in the case of grain brewing with added extract to bump up gravity) until the last 15 minutes will minimize color uptake, if that’s a worry. It also increases hop utilization, as I’ve said earlier. A quick reminder here, take your pot off the heat before adding extract and stir, stir, stir. Oh, and if you are planning a 20-minute hop addition, add the extract first, let the wort come back to a boil, then continue with your hop addition. Yeast: A yeast that can handle this monster needs to be selected carefully. First, of course, it should be British yeast. Also, look for one that attenuates above 70% and can handle 9 to 13 percent alcohol. If you use lower attenuating yeast or one that dies off in high alcohol you’ll end up with a sugar heavy mess at the end of all your hard work. Some strains to consider include: Dry Yeast — Danstar Nottingham Wyeast — London Ale (1028), British Ale II (1335), Old Ale Blend (9097-PC) — a new one to consider that contains a small amount of brettanomyces. White Labs — Irish Ale (WLP004), British Ale (WLP005) Pitching the Yeast: Beyond the choice of yeast, you also have to take into account the environment you are sending this yeast into. A high gravity beer is a stressful place for yeast to do their work. It is up to you to give them as much help as possible. You will want to pitch a higher amount than you would normally. Using the standard pitching calculation of 1 million cells per milliliter per degree plato we can see just what this might look like. Consider the difference between a 3 gallon batch of 1.100 gravity wort and a 3 gallon batch of 1.050 gravity wort: 1 million x 11,356 milliliters x 24 = 272,544,000,000 cells 1 million x 11,356 milliliters x 12.2 = 138,543,200,000 cells So, a good rule of thumb for bigger beers is at least 50% more than you’d pitch into normal gravity wort. Though it’s not gonna hurt anything to go a bit higher. The easiest most effective way to get this much healthy yeast is to coincide your barleywine brewing with the finishing fermentation of a “normal” ale and repitch the yeast straight into the barleywine. This takes a little planning, but it ensures a large quantity of healthy, raring-to-go, yeast. If repitching isn’t in the cards you’ll either need to buildup a big (up to a couple liters) yeast starter or pitch multiple packs of liquid or dry yeast. The latter of these two options can get expensive with liquid yeast, so I’d suggest using dry. Also, all that extra yeast is going to need oxygen to get the job done. Be sure to spend extra time (3 to 5 minutes) oxygenating the wort before pitching your yeast. Fermentation: Pitching and fermentation temperature are both going to depend on what you want to get out of your yeast. Fermentation at higher temperature will create more fusil alcohol and esters. In my opinion, you don’t want to ferment at too high a temperature, because a barleywine is bound to be on the sweet side anyway and esters are perceived as a fruity sweetness. On the other hand, you do want some esters to add complexity to the character. I would pitch at between 66 and 68°F. From here you have some choices. You can let the temperature do its slow natural rise of a few degree as fermentation takes off, but try not to let it venture much higher than about 72°F. If you have the ability, you can also maintain the pitch temperature; even drop it slightly after the first couple of days, to minimize ester production when fermentation is most active. After primary fermentation is complete, rack the beer into a secondary and leave it be for at least another month. Expect a long fermentation. It’s not unusual for the combination of primary and secondary fermentation to take 2 or more months. Kegging & Bottling: After fermentation is complete keg or bottle the beer. If kegging, I’d suggest filling at least a few bottles for long term aging. Carbonate to 1.5 to 2 volumes. When bottling, depending on where the final gravity is, you may consider not adding priming sugar to your bottles. If there is any fermentation still going on, you may get exploding bottles, or very high bottle pressures as the beer ages. Not adding priming sugar may cause under carbonation, but this is a high alcohol complex sipper, and still quite drinkable even with very little carbonation. Rather, this then have all that hard work go to waste at any rate. After you’ve packaged the beer it’s time for patience. Put your beer away in a cool dark place for several months to several years. Final Thoughts It’s true English barleywines and other big beers can be challenging to brew, but they are also somewhat forgiving. In a beer this big, little mistakes easily go unnoticed. The one big mistake that you have to watch for, because it will be detected, is attenuation. Without the right amount of attenuation, 70% or better in most cases, your barleywine will just be a syrupy mess. Other mistakes may give you a beer slightly off of what you imagined, but in most cases, it will still be drinkable. So, don’t fret too much. Don’t go in believing you have to get it exactly right the first time. Have a plan before you start. If this is your first barleywine maybe stick to the lower end of the starting gravity. But, most importantly, have fun. This is a hobby after all. Cheers!