Best Laid Plans

My friend Mark was supposed to join me today to learn the art of all-grain brewing. While waiting for him, I went out and did the barn chores, and when I came back in there was a message on the answering machine. Mark’s upstairs neighbor had apparently left the water on all night and flooded the place, so Mark was going to have to move, sort, clean and dry all his furniture, rugs and stuff. No brew session for him today.

I brewed anyway.

I decided to go for it, on this beer, big and rich, intensely sweet but also highly hopped. A smorgasbord of beery flavors all in one. Freshly smoked pale malt, mashed in condensed maple sap, three different high-alpha hops… A barleywine style ale, meant to be aged for a long while and sipped slowly.

Vermont Breakfast Ale

5 gallons, all-grain


  • 7 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 3 lbs. Maris Otter smoked over maple
  • 1 lb. 150°L crystal malt
  • 1 lb. Biscuit malt
  • 1/2 lb. maple-smoked cara-foam malt
  • 1 oz. Chinook hop pellets (@11.8% aa)
  • 1 oz. Simcoe hop pellets (@12.2% aa)
  • 1 oz. whole Horizon hops (@11.9% aa)
  • White Labs Super High Gravity yeast (WLP099)
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup (for priming)


Condense 6 gallons of fresh maple sap down to 4 gallons (16 quarts) [Alternatively, add 1 pt. pure maple syrup to 16 quarts water]. Heat to 164°F. Crush grains. Dough in and hold at 152°F for 60 minutes. Heat 14 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 22 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add Chinook pellets. Boil 15 minutes, add Simcoe pellets. Boil 45 minutes (60 total), add Horizon hops and remove from heat. Steep the Horizon about 10 minutes then remove them. Chill wort to 75°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment two weeks in relative warmth (65 – 70°). Rack to secondary and age in a cool dark place (50°F) for eight weeks. Prime with maple syrup, bottle and store somewhere where you will forget about them for a year.

OG: 1078

IBU’s: 107

For more info on Barleywines, I highly recommend Fal Allen and Dick Cantwell’s volume in the AHA Classic Beer Style series, appropriately titled “Barley Wine“.

2 Replies to “Best Laid Plans”

    1. I’m embarrassed to say that this beer is still in secondary waiting to be bottled – as are about a dozen more brews! It’s been a busy spring and summer, just starting to catch up. It’ll be bottled and at its peak hopefully around late February/early March next year – I’ll update!

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