Today's brew wasn't really planned; it just kind of happened. Thanks to my awesome inlaws, I got an extract Old Luddite kit from Northern Brewer this past Christmas. This beer sounded delicious all on its own and, in many ways, pretty much sums up what I love best about British beers in the 'Winter Warmer' or 'English Strong Ale' tradition. Nonetheless, I didn't have time to brew up Old Luddy until it was getting pretty warm around here, and by the time it would have been ready, we would have been coming up on teh hottest part of the summer. As delicious as Luddy sounds, it's probably not well-suited to summer drinking. Hmmm, so what to do?
As I considered my options, I realized that it was probably about time to up some kind of smooth, malty elixir for winter sipping. Looking at the grain-bill, the hop schedule, and the kit description for Old Luddy, I began to wonder what it might look like if bumped up to barleywine statistics. So, after playing around with my awesome Beer Smith software (thanks, babe!) I came up with the following recipe. The ingredients in red are those I added to the original kit from NB.
-6.3 lbs. Gold LME (45.65%) Target Pre-boil gravity = 1.077
-1 lb. Briess Gold DME (7.38%) Actual Pre-boil gravity = 1.071
-8 oz. English Medium Crystal (3.69%)
-8 oz. English Dark Crystal (3.69%) Target O.G. = 1.092
-4 oz. Fawcett's Pale Chocolate Malt (1.85%) Actual O.G. 1.102
-3 lbs. Warminster Maris Otter (22.14%)
-8 oz. Briess Carapils (3.69%)
-1 lb. Corn Sugar (Dextrose) (7.38%)
-10 oz. Dark Brown Sugar (4.57%)
-1 oz. Brewer's Gold at 60 min. at 9.9% AA (27.7 IBUs)
-1 oz. East Kent Goldings at 60 min. at 6.7% AA (18.7 IBUs)
-1 oz. East Kent Goldings at 20 min. at 6.7% AA (11.3 IBUs)
-1 oz. Styrian Goldings at 1 min. at 3.8% AA (.5 IBUs)
-Yeast cake of Wyeast 1968, harvested from St. Oswin's Special Bitter and washed
Again, I had mash woes. My target pre-boil gravity was 1.077, but my first reading was a pitiful 1.066. I added 22 ounces of DME (which is all I had) which got me to 1.071. At that point, I was considering adding a bit more brown sugar, though that would have put my simple sugars at a higher percentage of the fermantables than is ideal. It was tough decision time: to follow my gut, not add extra sugar, and risk this becoming a lower-gravity Old Ale, rather than a Barleywine, or to add the sugar, hit my gravity, and risk off-flavors and thin mouthfeel. I also figured I'd try something a bit experimental (new to me, at least) and boil this for a full 2 hours, rather than the original sixty of the Old Luddy or the 90 minutes I'd originally planned. This will, in theory, intensify the flavors and concentrate the wort, though I will end up with a bit less beer. Some traditional barleywine brewers (and Scotch ale brewers) favor longer boils for the carmelized flavors that can't be obtained by crystal malts alone. This was turning into a somewhat experimental brew, so I figured why not?
After the boil, this tipped in at 1.012, a full 10 points higher than expected! This all leads to one of two conclusions: either (a) my early measurments are way off, or (b) the two-hour boil really concentrated my wort. Either way, I think I pitched enough healthy yeast, but had I known the gravity was going to be anywhere near that high, I would have gotten a new oxygen tank to aerate this...now I was just hoping that it would hit a FG that's somewhere south of Dark Lord levels! After about twenty days in the primary, this had fermented all the way down to 1.024, which puts the abv at a whopping 10.25%. Looks like my barleywine might be saved after all!