One of my favorite styles of beer is Barley Wine. When the weather starts to get cold outside and the snow starts to fall what could be better than a beer full of malt, balanced with hops, and with a touch of warming alcohol. A beer that you can sip on for hours and explore the complexity of its malts, the depth of the hops, and the subtly of the yeast flavors from a long fermentation. As the beer warms through the course of the session the flavor and depth will rise from the glass.
When I first started brewing one of my goals was to brew a barley wine each year, some for drinking that year and some for aging for latter. So far I have brewed a barley wine each year but nothing else has gone according to plan. The first year I brewed a huge beer that was all extract, with an original gravity of 1.092. It was the 5th beer I had ever made and I went big. I added candi sugar, orange peel, and ground corriander. The beer finished at 1.025 and despite 60 IBUs was unbearably sweet and just really a mess. I was only able to drink a few of them and the rest slowly made its way down the sink. So ended my Barley Wine 2010.
The next year I was more prepared. I had already brewed several all grain beers and had purchased a book on the style. I planned another huge beer with 15 pounds of grain and 85 IBUs. Despite terrible efficency (original gravity 1.080) the beer turned out awesome. I dry hopped it in a keg for two weeks (which I had just gotten) and got ready to bottle it. I did not know that I needed to vent the keg or that the beer had dropped in gravity. When I went to open the keg the beer exploded out of the keg and shot hops everywhere, by the time the beer stopped flowing out of the keg there was only 3 gallons of the original 5 left. To make matters worse the beer dropped in gravity even more in the bottle and all the bottles were overcarbonated- so I spent a night slowly bleeding of the carbonation from all the bottles. Despite all these problems the beer was truly delicious with a huge malt body and a very nice hop finish. The beer never made it past 2 months though because I quickly drank it down.
This year I plan to learn from my mistakes, I will be patient and let the beer finish all the way before I bottle it, I will vent a keg before I open it, and I will remake that beer from last year because it was damn tasty!
Here is the recipe that I am following for my 2012 Barley Wine.
13 pounds of Rahr- 2 row malt
1 pound of Caramel 90 L
1/2 pound of Caramel 120 L
1/2 pound of Special "B"
Mashed for 1 hour at 149 F
Boiled 3.5 hours
90 Minutes 2 oz Challenger 8.8 %
25 Minutes 0.5 oz Cascade 6.6 %
15 Minutes 1 oz Cascade 6.6 %
5 Minutes 1 oz Cascade 6.6 %
Dry Hopped 2 oz Cascade 6.6 %
Added a yeast cake of 1056 and fermented at 65 F
10/6 Final Gravity 1.009
Bottled 3.5 gallons with 65 grams table sugar.
Beer pours a cloudy amber brown color with wonderful red highlights. A rocky head of tan foam sits above the beer constantly being replenished from the nucleation site on the bottom of my snifter.
The aroma is dominated by the cascade hops, pine, some grapefruit notes.
Flavor is at first semi-sweet with a mix of malt, toffee, caramel. Then comes some raisin and dark sugar/rum, finished with a refreshing bitterness that cleans the pallate for the next sip.
The body is full and big.
Overall this beer turned out wonderful. It is still pretty green and will certainly develop well with age.