BIAB Barley Wine

by kmosullivan

Brewing “Big Beers” can be a challenge. The cost of materials is about double, it is labor and time intensive, and you’ve got to wait. So while we are waiting, I thought I would post about a Barley Wine that is “in progress”, brewed in December 2012 and bottled in February 2013.

This was my first and only attempt at doing a beer this big using the “Brew in a Bag” method — and this was its own challenge. Say a typical Barley Wine grist contains north of 20lbs of grain (dry); it is a tall order to fit that much into a bag in your kettle. Foisting this over the kettle and letting it drain, however, is enough to make you drive to the hardware store and buy an igloo cooler right then and there. Some folks build pulley systems to get around this. Since BIAB was just a stepping stone for me, I decided to turn to extract for a sizable amount of fermentables. For such a big beer, one would never be able to taste the difference anyway. I ended up losing a fair amount of runnings simply because I had no interest in trying to hold this heavy bag of wort-soaked grain over the kettle while I let it drain. Color me lazy.

Initially I was going for a simple, Burton-inspired recipe, relying mostly on English pale malt and a long boil for a rich malt character. Ultimately I couldn’t resist adding specialty grains, but I did keep the hops (mostly) traditional with Fuggles being the primary variety.

13# Maris Otter
10 oz. Crystal 60
4 oz. Special B
4 oz. Chocolate Malt
6# Extra Light DME

2.5 oz. Fuggles (4.4% AA) – 60 min
2 oz. Target (9.8% AA) – 60 min
0.5 oz. Fuggles – 15 min
1 oz. Fuggles – 5 min
1 oz. EKG (5.8%AA) – Dry hop (3 weeks)
1 oz. Willamette (4.7%AA) – Dry hop (3weeks)

2.2L starter with washed WLP005 slurry

OG: 1.088
FG: 1.022
ABV: 8.6%

When it was young, this beer was very estery — lots of banana and yeast character. I was disappointed because this was not the profile I was looking for at all. However, after two months in the fermentor, it cleaned up nicely. Proof once again that patience is key for these beers. There is more of a pronounced bitterness that comes through now and a bit of alcohol on the tongue.

I know that the late hop additions were kind of silly — as this beer ages those hops are just going to fade — but I had the hops laying around and figured what the hell. Tasting this beer after 1 month in the bottle, it drinks like an Double IPA that didn’t quite finish dry enough, and has a really great nose on it.  I will refrain from doing full tasting notes since this beer won’t be “ready” for quite some time. Looking forward, I’m hoping that the Special B dark fruit character will come to the fore as the beer oxidizes slightly, and that this will blend nicely with the earthy, tobacco notes from the Fuggles. Cheers!