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Style Matters - Barley Wine
In each issue, CBQ spotlights a particular beer style and
provide tips from an ingredient and fermentation perspective. In this
issue we take a closer look at Barley Wine.
Malt Notes: Ah Barley Wine! The biggest,
most alcoholic beer brewed — and one of the most rewarding for the
One of the major challenges for the style is the
production of a high gravity wort, loaded with sugars the yeast can
ferment into the warming alcohol Barley Wines are known for. When choosing
the base malt for the production of these worts we would suggest taking
two factors into consideration: the overall flavor of the malt, and your
First consider the flavor of the base malt. Barley
Wines are very big beers using a higher ratio of malt than any other
style. The base malt you choose will have a large impact on the beer’s
flavor. Also keep in mind the abilities of your mash and lauter vessels. A
large grain bill, combined with an underperforming base malt, is a recipe
for stuck sparges and poor run offs – and a very long day. Steer clear
of malts which are under or over modified, high in beta-glucans, or
damaged. Here, more than with most other styles, a quality malt is needed.
Keeping these two factors in mind we would recommend
Cargill 2 Row on the domestic side, or Pauls Pale Ale if a European base
malt is preferred. Cargill 2 Row is a blend of two barley varieties,
Kendall and Metcalfe, which are known for their excellent brewhouse
performance and fuller flavors. Pauls Pale Ale is imported from England
where it is used by many British brewers in the production of their ales.
Both malts have been used successfully in the brewing of Barley Wines.
In order to develop the amber to dark colors of a
Barley Wine a specialty malt will also be need. Here we would suggest
"keeping it simple". Most successful representatives of the
style use very few malts. On the domestic side we would suggest a mid
range kilned caramel malt, particularly our Two Row Caramel 60. An
excellent English alternative would be Pauls Medium Crystal (55 – 65).
If a darker Barley Wine is your goal, adding a small fraction of Pauls
Chocolate malt or, for a more roasted character, Pauls Black malt will add
color to your beer.
— Cargill Malt
Hop Notes: The hop bitterness in this style should
be assertive and the IBU levels range from 60-100. It requires the use of
a good strong bittering hop like Columbus, Nugget, or Chinook or even
Perle or Cascade depending on the brewer’s preference.
The hop aroma can be from medium (earthy aroma) to very
high intensity (huge hoppiness). The hops for this would be as example
Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, or Goldings. The typical standard for this
style would be Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., "Bigfoot Barleywine,"
which won the 2005 GABF Gold Medal in this category. According to their
website they are looking for a fruity bouquet, with a bittersweet
hoppiness and an IBU of 90 and ABV of 9.6%. They use Chinook for their
bittering hop and the dry hop is a combination of Chinook, Cascade and
Centennial. This has been one of our favorites to appreciate and use as a
starting place for expanding on their base of a well balanced beer for
this strong style. For more specific hop varietals detail or beer styles
please refer to the Hopunion Hop Characteristics book. If you do not have
a book gives us a call.
We are in the process of updating this book again so
hope to have available for the CBC in Seattle.
— Hopunion CBS
Yeast and Fermentation Notes: Big beers demand big
performance from yeast. Beers such as barley wines require a great
proportion of healthy yeast. High gravity beers can accentuate esters and
fusel alcohols, so you want to use a clean fermenting strain such as
WLP001California Ale Yeast, WLP060 American Ale Yeast Blend, and WLP010
10th Anniversary Blend (available through December 2006). If you are using
your house yeast, consider finishing with a strain such as WLP715
Champagne or WLP730 Chardonnay; some North American breweries use this
approach for bottle conditioning because these strains provide good
carbonation and are tolerant of high alcohol levels.
You will want to double or triple your pitching rate
because you don’t want a lot of yeast growth with this beer. You will
not be reusing yeast with this beer.
Ideally, when making barley wines, you will want to use
the third to fifth generations of your yeast. So if you have acquired a
special strain to make your barley wine, we suggest you make a lighter
beer first. A good idea is to experiment using the strain with your house
beer and comparing the differences in flavor.
Barley wine requires at least two weeks of aging, but
remove the yeast as soon as possible. If you do not do so the high alcohol
content will cause the yeast to change character and could add unwanted
cardboard-like or yeasty flavors.
— Chris White, White Labs