Nick Carr on January 29, 2018 0 Comments If you’d like to try your hand at brewing a barleywine recipe at home, we would recommend reading the tips below. Skip ahead using the drop-down below, or browse from start to finish. Skip Ahead Grain Bill Extract Brewing Specialty Malts Water Hops The Mash Boil Yeast Fermentation Style Guidelines Brewing a high-gravity beer, such as an English barleywine, comes with a set of considerations beyond many other styles of beer you brew. 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. You will have to pitch more yeast and coddle them more than you might for a lower gravity recipe. 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. The 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. Buy a Barleywine Recipe Kit on Amazon 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. 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, Northdown, Target, 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. 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. 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 barleywine 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!