Monster Mash

Every once in a while, I feel the “urge to purge” – the grain cupboard, that is. As I brew, I often have to buy whole pounds or more of grains when I only need four ounces or a half pound. Which means I am left with stray quarter or half pound bags of a variety of specialty grains, sometimes even of base malts. So, as I said, once in a while I clean out the bin, and brew with whatever I have on hand. This is one of THOSE brews. Since it’s not following a standard recipe, I have to find a vague sort of catch-all category to place it in. This one, big and rich and hoppy, sounds to me like a “Strong Ale” or even an “Old Ale”… so that’s what I’m calling it. There are some 11 or 12 different grains here, maybe more – I found a couple of bags of mixed grains, possibly leftovers from the homebrew section of the Market which I couldn’t bear to throw away, even though I had no idea which bins they cam from. It will be what it will be, but just to be sure I am adding a tin of Golden Syrup, which guarantees it will be strong and rich.

“Old Ridiculous”, Old/Strong Ale

5 gallons, all grain


  • 1 lb. Belgian amber malt
  • 1 lb. Kilncoffee malt
  • 2 lbs. Cara-amber malt
  • 1/2 lb. Biscuit malt
  • 2 lbs. Maris Otter 2-row pale malt
  • 2 oz. Peated malt
  • 2 oz. Honey malt
  • 1/2 lb. 60°L crystal malt
  • 1 lb. Victory malt
  • 3 lbs. Mild Ale malt
  • 3/4 lb. miscellaneous leftover malts (incl. wheat, black, roasted barley…?)
  • 1 tin (454 g – 10.6 oz.) Lyle’s Golden Syrup
  • 1 oz. Columbus hop pellets (at 14.5% aa)
  • 1 oz. Yakima Gold hop pellets (at 4.5% aa)
  • Windsor dry ale yeast (11 g.)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 15 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains, hold at 152°F for 60 minutes. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 27 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add Columbus hops. oil 45 minutes, add Yakima Gold hops. Boil 15 minutes (60 total) and remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Sprinkle dry yeast over surface of wort, seal and ferment warm (65 – 68°F) ten to twelve days. Rack to secondary, condition cooler (55 – 58°F) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar and bottle. Age cool (48 – 50°F) for at least eight weeks.

OG: 1072

IBU’s: 65

Spring Rites

The maple sap started running late but in the end it was a pretty good season. I put up over a gallon of syrup (just enough for a year’s household use), gave away a few gallons of straight sap, and brewed 4 different batches with more sap.  One was a mead, one was the Oktoberfest in the last post. Today I present the latest pair, a Canadian-style Golden Ale and a Scotch Ale. Both are richer and more full-bodied because of the sap used in the mash. Both also have a smoky, woody flavor.

Maple Leaf Golden Ale
5 gallons, all grain


  • 7 lbs. Maris Otter 2-row pale malt
  • 2 lbs. 30°L crystal malt
  • 1 pint maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 oz. whole Chinook hops (home grown)
  • 1/2 oz. whole Cluster hops (home grown)
  • 1/8 oz. whole Hallertauer hops (home grown)
  • White Labs Australian Ale yeast (WLP009)
  • 1/2 cup corn sugar and
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup for priming

Boil 5 gallons maple sap down to 12 quarts. Cool down (or heat up) to 165°F. Crush grains, dough in and hold 60 minutes at 154°F. Heat 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts sweet wort. Add 1 pint maple syrup to kettle, bring to a boil. Add Chinook hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Cluster hops, boil 40 minutes. Add Hallertauer hops, boil 5 minutes and turn off heat. Remove hops, chill to 80°F and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Take a hydrometer reading, pitch yeast and seal fermenter. Ferment warmish (68 – 70°F) for ten days. Rack to secondary, age cooler (60°F) for ten to twelve days. Prime with corn sugar and maple syrup, bottle and condition for three to four weeks.

OG: 1080
IBU’s: 55 (a guess, as I don’t have alpha ratings for my own hops…)

Note on maple: if you don’t have maple sap, mash in water to which you you have added a cup of real maple syrup. Don’t use maple-flavored corn syrup!

Note on yeast: The Australian yeast is very similar to the basic neutral yeasts used in many American pale ales and Golden ales as well as one of the better known Canadian ale breweries. It produces a malty, clean-tasting beer and ferments equally well at warmer and cooler temperatures.

Vermont Highland Ale
5 gallons, all grain


  • 7 lbs. Maris Otter 2-row pale malt
  • 3-1/2 lbs. Weyermann Abbey malt
  • 1 lb. 60°L crystal malt
  • 6 oz. Cara-Belge malt
  • 6 oz. British amber malt
  • 4 oz. dark Munich malt
  • 1 oz. peated malt
  • 1 oz. Styrian Goldings hop pellets (@4.5% aa)
  • 1 oz. Fuggles hop pellets (@4% aa)
  • White Labs Edinburgh Ale Yeast (WLP028)
  • White Labs Kölsch yeast (WLP029)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar for priming

Boil 7.5 gallons maple sap down to 16 quarts. Cool down (or heat up) to 167°F. Crush grains, dough in and hold 60 minutes at 155°F. Heat 15 quarts of water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 24 quarts sweet wort. Boil 30 minutes without any hops. Add Styrian Goldings, boil 30 minutes. Add Fuggles, boil another 30 minutes (60 total with hops, 90 overall). Remove from heat, chill to 80°F and take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeasts, seal and ferment cool (58 – 60°F) for two weeks. Rack to secondary, condition cooler (50°F) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age at 45 – 50°F for six weeks minimum.

OG: 1092
IBU’s: 28

Note on sap: Again, if you do not have sap you can mash with water to which you have added syrup – 1/2 to 3/4 cup for this brew.
Note on wort: I took the first 4 quarts of runoff and started it boiling immediately. The extra boiling time caramelizes the sugars and develops additional dextrines to help the beer become more full-bodied.

Note on yeast: The Edinburgh yeast imparts the classic malty/caramel notes of a Scotch Ale but does not always attenuate enough to dry this beer out. The Kölsch yeast will tolerate a little higher alcohol level so will help to finish this beer to a medium sweet profile instead of a cloying, heavy beer.

Note on bottle conditioning: I am brewing this beer in April to enter into a competition in July, but I am not sure if it will be ready – it will be finished and bottled, and certainly drinkable, but will probably be much better in November at St. Andrew’s Day… This is a strong beer that needs a long cool aging period to mature and smooth out.

Darker By The Minute

For some reason, I never think to brew a barleywine. I have brewed several, largely by accident or last-minute change of plans, but I can’t remember ever really planning one out, thoughtfully and carefully. I have brewed barleywines to use up a bin-full of odd ingredients, and I have brewed barleywines to use the dregs in extract jugs. But a deliberate, planned brew?

2010 was a golden year for barleywines, in my experience. In the course of the year I set out to taste and compare as many commercial examples as I could find. And I found some really good ones. My favorite among the regular, readily-available brews was, as usual, Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot. I like the balance, the complexity, the drinkability of Bigfoot. There are others which are much stronger, others that are much hoppier. I just like the way Bigfoot tastes and how easy it is to drink.

But 2010 also saw a series of anniversary beers by the same brewers, Sierra Nevada. To celebrate their 30th year of brewing, they teamed up with other brewers (commercial and homebrewers) to produce four memorable brews, released one at a time every few months. The first was an Imperial Stout, then came a Munich Helles, then a Black Barleywine, and finally a blended “Grand Cru”. The latter was a blend of Bigfoot, Celebration Ale and their fresh Pale Ale, blended and oak-aged. I don’t know which I liked best, but I invested in a few bottles of the last two to put away for a few years.

I guess that was my inspiration for this brew – it was time to really test out my recipe design and brewing acumen, and deliberately and carefully brew a barleywine, one that I could be proud of. I flipped open my copy of Barley Wine, Fal Allen and Dick Cantwell’s contribution to the AHA Style Series, and the first recipe I glanced at was Greg Noonan’s Sleepwalker. It was meant to be, right?

But I wanted to come a little closer to the SN XXX #3, darker, and with a nice roasty character. So Greg’s original recipe became, in the words of my friend Rick, “darker by the minute” as I substituted darker versions of several of the ingredients. I like the image of a firewalker – this beer will be big enough to soothe any pains from a stroll across the coals…

Firewalker Barleywine

5 gallons, mash with additional extract


  • 2 lbs. Belgian pale malt
  • 2 lbs. Golden Promise pale malt
  • 4.5 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • .5 lb. dark malted wheat
  • 1 lb. chocolate wheat
  • 1 lb. 165°L crystal malt
  • 1 lb. Belgian Coffee Special Roast malt
  • .5 lb. roasted barley
  • 3 lbs. Briess dark DME
  • 1 oz. Citra hop pellets (14% aa)
  • 1 oz. Cluster hop pellets (7.4% aa)
  • 2 oz. Whitbread Gold Varietal hop pellets (5% aa)
  • 1 oz. whole Fuggles hops (4% aa)
  • White Labs London Ale yeast (WLP013)
  • White Labs Irish Ale yeast (WLP004)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 15 quarts water to 168°F. Mash in grains and hold 90 minutes at 154°F. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin sparge and runoff, collecting 27 quarts sweet wort. Add DME to the kettle, stirring well to avoid scorching. Bring to a boil. Add Citra hops, boil 45 minutes. Add Cluster hops, boil another 40 minutes. Add WGV hops, boil 5 minutes (90 total), remove from heat. Steep Fuggles hops (in a mesh bag) in the wort (covered) for ten minutes, remove. Chill to 80°F and take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast blend, seal and ferment warm (65 – 68°F) for 15 – 20 days. Rack to secondary, take hydrometer reading. If gravity has fallen to 1025 or lower, move secondary to cool location (45 – 50°F); if gravity is still high, agitate gently for 5 minutes and leave fermenter in a warm spot (55 – 60°F) for another two weeks – check gravity again and if lowe enough move to cool. Age cool for at least a month. Prime, bottle and put away in a dark cool corner of the cellar where you won’t think about it for months… Seriously, bottle condition this beer for at least 4 months before even trying one. This beer should keep for two years or more.

OG: 1095

IBU’s: because of the high OG of this beer, hop utilization is not optimum. Based on the chart Greg, Mikel and I devised for the Seven Barrel Brewery Brewers’ Handbook, I multiplied the “standard” IBU calculation of 103 by a factor of .78, thus I think this beer has about 80 IBU’s… your mileage may vary…

Notes on ingredients: a bit of a “kitchen sink” grain bill – I was looking at what I had in stock and could have brewed entirely with the Maris Otter, but decided to include the Belgian and Scottish malts to increase the body and residual sweetness. The hops are a mixed bag, Citra and Cluster being high-alpha American hops and the WGV and Fuggles being classic English aroma varieties.

Notes on yeast: I like the sweetnes generally left behind by the Irish Ale yeast, and the London works really well with dark beers – hopefully this blend will ferment out fairly well yet still leave a full-bodied and semi-sweet brew.

Notes on style: Barleywine is a beer, despite its name. It can be as high in alcohol content as some wines (up to 14% in some cases), but it isn’t, usually. Like wine, it’s meant to be stored long-term, and usually changes as it matures. Traditionally, barleywines were brewed in connection with celebrations: holidays, anniversaries, noteworthy cultural or political events, etc. The above-mentioned authors, Fal Allen and Dick Cantwell, were at one time co-brewers at the Pike Place Brewery in Seattle. They were the creators of the (in)famous Old Bawdy Barleywine. I thought of that beer and these brewers last week upon learning of the death of Portland’s leading beer maven Don Younger, who was gracious enough to share an Old Bawdy from his personal cellar. Cheers, Don – this one’s for you!