Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine

>> Sunday, November 18, 2012

Today I'm brewing a pretty strong beer based on an English Barley Wine. I've brewed a couple beers in the 8% ABV range, but never an actual barley wine and never a bourbon flavored beer. I can't remember the brewery, but one of the best beers I had at the 2011 GABF was a Makers Mark Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine. A little while back I ordered some bourbon barrel chunks from MoreBeer so I'll be using them to add oak and bourbon flavors in this beer. Since it will be fairly high ABV, I'll be bottling it instead of kegging, and I'll probably put it in 12 oz bottles rather than 22 oz bombers. I'll see how it goes at bottling time, but I may end up fortifying this with a little extra bourbon. Oh and I decided to name it Mannish Boy Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine because I was listening to some Muddy Waters while brewing this beer. The recipe is as follows:

16 # Crisp Maris Otter
2 # Hugh Baird Carastan 35L
2.75 oz Fuggles 60 min
2.25 oz Fuggles 15 min
1.00 oz East Kent Goldings 0 min
2.00 oz Bourbon Barrel Chunks in secondary
Whitbread Ale yeast cake (from an Arrogant Bastard clone)
Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

Mash at 155F for 60 minutes. Pull the first gallon of runnings and boil vigorously for about 45 minutes while you collect the next 6-ish gallons of wort. Return the concentrated wort to the boil kettle (along with the 6-sh gallons) and bring to a boil. Boil time is 90 minutes.

Ferment at 65F raising the temperature to 75F over a week.

Brewing Notes
The brew day went well. I was expecting a post-boil gravity of around 1.107 and ended up with 1.120. I believe this is because I forgot to set the timer when I was boiling the first runnings. I suspect I boiled for around an hour rather than the intended 45 minutes so the first runnings were more concentrated than I'd planned. I'm hoping I can get this beer to fully attenuate because with an O.G. of 1.120, I'll be pushing the limits of the yeast. I can't wait to see how this turns out. The Arrogant Bastard clone that the yeast came from had a very active fermentation; so active that I spent about an hour cleaning out the ferm chamber in preparation for this beer. This time I hooked up a blow-off tube just in case we have another extremely active fermentation.

Update 11/19/2012
So far so good, there's at least an inch of krausen this morning. I bumped the temp up about a half a degree.

Update 11/27/2012
I measured the gravity with my refractometer on 11/25. It was showing as 17.6P down from 28P. This should equate to something in the neighborhood of 1.043 and a current ABV of 10.23%. I gently roused the yeast today to try to get the gravity to drop to around 1.030. The temp in the ferm chamber is currently 74F.

Update 11/30/2012
This one is down a few more points to approx 1.039 today. I still want it to get down to at least 1.030...I know it's going to be rich and a bit sweet, but I don't want it to be syrupy. I'll let it go for a few more days then check the gravity again. I'm hoping to get it on the bourbon barrel chunks within a week or so.

Update 12/5/2012
It really seemed like this brew had stalled out at 1.039 so I added some WLP099 Super High Gravity Ale Yeast a couple days ago along with a dose of yeast nutrient. Just checked and I'm down to 1.032 (about 11.7% ABV). Hopefully within a few days we'll be below 1.030.

Update 12/23/2012
This seems to have finished just a hair above 1.030. I went ahead and added the bourbon barrel chunks today. They smelled amazing going in...lots of vanilla character. I'll probably pull a sample in a week and see how it tastes.

Update 1/7/2013
Pulled a sample today to taste and check the gravity. The bourbon barrel chunks have added some nice complexity. There's definitely some nice vanilla notes. Alcohol is noticeable and warming, but not hot. Speaking of alcohol, the gravity has fallen to around 1.019 for an ABV of 13.53%. Hop bitterness is a little lower than I was shooting for but I think this is still going to be an amazing barleywine. I picked up 375ml bottle of Maker's Mark Bourbon Whiskey to fortify this beer. I'll probably let it go about another 2-3 weeks then rack to a keg and add the bourbon to taste...probably starting with about half a cup.

Update 2/24/2013
This has been chilling in a corny keg for a while now. I pulled a sample and it's at 14.24% ABV. It has some great flavors going on...vanilla, caramel, oak...very complex. There's some residual sweetness but it's not cloying. Bitterness seems appropriate for the style as well. This is surprisingly smooth especially considering the high ABV, I was hoping to bottle this today, but the carbonation seems a bit low, so I'm going to up the pressure a bit for a few days (I'm force carbing). By the way, I went with a half a cup of Makers Mark. This seems like about the right amount because it seems to enhance the vanilla flavors but doesn't dominate the beer.

Update 3/12/2013
This went in the bottle yesterday. I'll probably age it at least for a couple months before cracking one open.