First stab at Barley Wine

As much as it must seem that I spend all my time making beer gadgets, I still brew. Though I will admit that I have been on a sporadic summer schedule. I have some big plans, have had some success and some not-so-success. Here goes:

This past weekend I tried two new things with my Barley wine. First I treated the water to get it down to 5.5Ph before I mashed. I also used the Ph to track the progress of my mashing process. Now I decided to do all of this after reading Ted’s post on brewing with Ph and reading the BYO article on Ph Brewing as well. It seemed easy enough and I had wanted to try treating my water since I heard James from Basic Brewing Radio and an interview he did with John Palmer on Ph. As much as the science was cool, I was really hoping to see a sudden jump in my efficiency.

The brew I tried all this on was a 2 gallon batch of Barley Wine that decided to brew, here is the recipe:

BeerSmith Recipe Printout –
Recipe: Barley Wine
Brewer: Travis
Asst Brewer:
Style: English Barleywine
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 2.00 gal
Boil Size: 3.45 gal
Estimated OG: 1.115 SG
Estimated Color: 17.8 SRM
Estimated IBU: 77.1 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 59.0 %
Boil Time: 70 Minutes

Amount Item Type % or IBU
8.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM) Grain 72.7 %
2.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 20L (20.0 SRM) Grain 18.2 %
1.00 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 9.1 %
0.50 oz Target [11.00%] (70 min) Hops 42.0 IBU
0.50 oz Challenger [7.50%] (30 min) Hops 21.3 IBU
0.50 oz Challenger [7.50%] (15 min) Hops 13.8 IBU
1 Pkgs London ESB Ale (Wyeast Labs #1968) [Starter Yeast-Ale

First off, before I started I drew 4.5 gallons of water for my mash. I took a Ph test and it came out to 6.6. Since my brew shop is down the road from me and on the same watershed I asked what he recommended for treating the water and said 1-2 tablespoons of gypsum for our water. I added 2 table spoons of gypsum and took a Ph reading…5.5, good stuff.

After heating the water up and adding to the mash tun with a grain bed temp of 152f, I let it go for (what was supposed to be an hour) an hour and a half. I did not take any Ph readings while the grain was in the mash tun (forgot) and took my last reading before I started to sparge. It was reading at 5.2 so everything seemed fine.

When I started to draw the wort from the mash tun though, my gravity was only reading at 1.050 and that seemed REALLY low for the amount of grain I had in the ton. Without a clue of what to do to make this work better I just continued brewing and took what the brew gods gave me. In the then I had a barley wine with a 1.061 OG. Not anything to get fired up about.

The good news is that it tasted very sweet. I am not sure what that means in the big picture, but I hope that it means that I was either way off with my gravity readings or it’s just going to have a lot of flavor.

Any advice on this is much appreciated.

In the face of adversity I don’t back down, I step up. That’s why I am going to pull of an “after work” all grain brewing. It’s a balls out move because of how damn long they take but I think I can pull it off. I am going to brew an “Old Ale” with the recipe I will post up with the notes after I brew.

One of the factors that may have contributed to my piss poor brewing performance was that I did not mash out. Because I use a cooler as a mash ton, I have always skipped out on the mash out. However, after posting something up on Beer Advocate, I decided that I am going to do a single decoct as a way of bringing the grain bed up to temperature before I sparge. Hopefully this will help get things back on track.

As I said, any observations are welcomed. As a note, I asked my LHBS to double grind my grain this time as well.
Categories: All Grain Brewing, Barley Wine Tags:
  1. Ted Danyluk
    August 21st, 2007 at 19:19 | #1

    Sorry to here about this troubling situation. As far as Ph is concerned, it seemed like you had it just right. I’ve never checked Ph of the strike water with or without gypsum. But perhaps that is a good way to get the Ph correct if you know the acidic contribution of certain malts (2-row, crystals, roasted, acidulated) in the malt bill.

    I went ahead and plugged your info into tastybrew’s calculator, and it came up with these results with 75% efficiency…

    OG-1.153, FG-1.038, IBU-64, SRM-17, ABV-14.8

    It also looks like your water/grain ratio was around 1.65qt/lb. To end up with an OG of only 1.061, is very strange.

    Only a few ideas I have.
    1. The strike water level could have been low, and/or the concentration of sugars maxed out. 2. It wasn’t done converting. A partial sparging and adding of 152+ water to resume saccharification for an extended period may help.
    3. Your hydrometer is whacked out?
    4. Doesn’t sound like you did a second sparge, but perhaps one would help get out more sugars, and then you could prolong the boil. Nothing wrong with that, in fact it would help to create a more complex sweet taste in the beer. A second batch sparge would flush out wort at a gravity of around 1.030+, and that is a lot of sugar you’d need in the very end.

    I’ve never done a barley wine before, but if I’d be trying to get an OG of around 1.120, then I’d definitely have some extract on hand to help it out in the end if needed. With all grain brewing, my highest gravity was 1.083 with the old ale, and we fly sparged and had a 2 hour boil with 3 pots on the stove.

    I hope you can get to the bottom of all this. Hope this beer tastes good. Is it smelling bitter/hoppy?

  2. Brian
    August 22nd, 2007 at 17:20 | #2

    Last weekend I brewed up my very first All Grain batch which was..yep a barley wine also.

    I agree with what Ted mentioned above, if you did not do a second batch sparge then alot of fermentables were left behind which would have brought that gravity right back up after a nice long boil…I had to do this by boiling two seperate brew pots for 2 hours ,eventually both boiled down to 5 gallons combined and a 1.12 OG-from just the grain-no adjunts/DME needed on this one.

    Next up for me is the Old Ale as well (going to be aging two great beers for at least 10 months..cant wait). Looking forward to comparing notes!

  3. Travis
    August 23rd, 2007 at 01:11 | #3

    Ted and Brain,

    Great to hear we are all on the same wave length! After the slight hiccup in my production, I decided to do a weeknight Ole Ale as well. I am brewing tomorrow night.

    To respond to some of Ted’s specific points, here are my thoughts after some introspection and research:

    1. I assume by “strike water level could have been low” you mean that I did not have enough water volume. How would this contribute to the “concentration of sugars being maxed out” and better yet, how do I prevent this?

    2. I was thinking that about my hydrometer. I have not messed around with it to check, but I will before I brew because I tasted the wort and it was REALLY sweet.

    3. No second sparge. I have actually been doing a single batch sparge for a while now because I am hitting my volume early. It’s obviously poor planning on my part but that was something I have been thinking about.

    I am going to rack it to secondary soon and we will see how it tastes then. It smells and looks great, pretty dark.

    I will take some very detailed notes for tomorrow night’s brewing and hopefully be able to post some good news. Brian, I appreciate the input and I totally agree.

    Ted- I am glad it sounds like I did the Ph thing correctly. My LHBS, Ed, told me about treating the strike water. Would you usually treat the mash directly? Let me know because I will make a try at that this time.

    Thanks again for the input!



  4. Adin
    January 6th, 2009 at 17:57 | #4


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