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2021 Batch 12 - Barleywine

As happens periodically in the home brewery, I find a lot of grain that needs to be turned into beer quickly before it gets stale.  That usually results in some crazy high-gravity beer experiment, like today's American Barleywine batch.

I decided to really bump close to the limits of Lallemand CBC-1 (Cask and Bottle Conditioning) dry yeast for this batch, by aiming for a wort that would ferment out to something around 16% ABV.  It's fairly common to make a beer like this using only base malt, but I wanted a little more complexity to mine, so I'm using a small amount of Special B and English Medium Crystal.


4 pounds Briess 2-row Brewer's Malt
12.75 pounds Maris Otter Malt
1 pound German Pilsner Malt
3 pounds Belgian Pale Ale Malt
8 ounces Special B Malt
8 ounces Medium Crystal Malt
16 ounces Demerara Sugar

1/2 tsp. Irish Moss
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the mash
1/2 tsp. Brewtan B in the boil (20 min)
1 tsp. Yeast Nutrient

1 ounce Bravo hops (60 min.)
1 ounce Centennial hops (10 min.)
1 ounce Mosaic hops (5 min.)

9 gallons of RO water, treated with minerals to a "balanced" profile

Brewfather's estimated measurements for this beer were:

  • Batch Size:  4.0 gallons (in the fermenter, estimated), 3.5 actual
  • Original Gravity:  1.123 SG estimated (1.131 SG actual)
  • Pre-Boil Gravity:  1.073 SG estimated (1.057 SG actual)
  • Pre-Boil Volume:  5 gallons estimated (6.4 gallons actual)
  • Final Gravity:  1.018 SG estimated, 1.015 SG in the 1-gallon fermenter, 1.023 SG in the 3-gallon fermenter
  • IBUs:  86 estimated
  • ABV:  19% in the 1-gallon fermenter, 16.4% in the 3-gallon fermenter
  • BU/GU ratio: 0.66

Mash Process

For those of you playing along at home, that's a whopping 21.75 pound malt bill.  To try to squeeze as much efficiency out of it as I could, I decided to mash low and do an iterated mash.  The goal was to end up with enough wort in the kettle after sparging one iteration to have the amount of water needed to mash the next iteration.  That meant breaking the grain bill up as:

  • Iteration 1 (all iterations mashed at 145F):
    • 4 pounds of malt, to be mashed with 1.6 quarts per pound of water
    • 6.5 quarts of water to mash. However, the dead space in the bottom of The Grainfather meant that this wasn't enough mash water to cover it.  I ended up having to bump that to 9.5 quarts.
    • 45 minute mash time
    • 6.5 quarts of sparge water.
    • At the end of this stage, I measured gravity at 1.015 SG with a Tilt Hydrometer
  • Iteration 2:
    • After Iteration 1, there should have been 11 quarts of wort in The Grainfather
    • 6.75 pounds of malt, at 1.6 quarts per pound mash water, would need 10.8 quarts
    • 11 quarts of sparge water
    • 45 minute mash time
    • At the end of this stage, I measured gravity at 1.037 SG with a Tilt Hydrometer
  • Iteration 3:
    • After the sparge, there should have been about 18.6 quarts in The Grainfather
    • 10.5 pounds of malt, at 1.6 quarts per pound, would need 16.8 quarts of water (so we were 2 quarts over)
    • 120 minute mash time
    • After the mash, there should have been around 13 quarts left in The Grainfather
    • 2.25 gallons (9 quarts) of sparge water were used
  • This should have left me with approximately 22 quarts in The Grainfather.  Somehow, which I've not taken the time to figure out yet, I wound up instead with about 26.  Perhaps the additional 3 quarts added to Iteration 1 messed things up, but I don't think so.
  • Having 6.4 gallons of wort in the kettle where I had been expecting 5 gallons represented a fairly big problem for completing this brew in any kind of reasonable timeframe.  While I had been planning to boil the wort for 2 hours to get down to about a 4 gallon batch size, this extra 1.4 gallons meant I'd need to boil for 3 additional hours to hit the target volume and gravity...
I'd recommend working out how I screwed these calculations up before you go brewing this recipe yourself, unless you don't need to do an iterated mash.

Boil Schedule

The planned boil schedule:
  • 300 minutes (thanks to overage):  Add demerara sugar
  • 60 minutes:  Add Bravo hops
  • 20 minutes:  Add Brewtan B
  • 15 minutes:  Add yeast nutrient and Irish moss
  • 10 minutes:  Add Centennial hops
  • 5 minutes:  Add Mosaic hops
  • 0 minutes:  Chill to ~72F and pump into fermenter
Fermentation Plan

The fermentation plan will be:
  • CBC-1's optimum temperature for primary fermentation is 72F.   My basement this time of year tends to be around 65F, which is on the lower end of CBC-1's range, which is probably ideal since we're going to be pushing the yeast and I don't want to stress it by heating it too much.
  • I'll be monitoring the Tilt to keep fermentation temps below 75F, which I should be able to do with just the ambient air, but will use other methods as needed.
  • When the Tilt registers the expected Final Gravity for 7 days straight, or seems to stay at any other gravity for at least 7 days straight, I'll assume fermentation is finished and move on to bottling.
Post-Brew Notes and Observations

08/01/2021:  Unfortunately, the extra 1.4 gallons represented 3 additional hours of boiling at The Grainfather's usual 0.5 gallons per hour boil-off rate - on top of the planned 2 hours.  That resulted in an estimated brewing finish time around 1am on Monday morning... not how I wanted this to go.  I will need to go over the calculations again to figure out where I screwed this up, so it doesn't happen again.

About an hour into the boil time, grain residue from the mash scorched just enough on the bottom of the kettle to trip The Grainfather's thermal cut-out switch and stop the boil.  I scraped that off as best I could with my spoon and reset the switch.  I decided to call it a night rather than stay up until 1am doing the boil.  I clamped on a lid and turned off the heat to finish up in the morning.

08/02/2021:  I finished the boil today, which took a lot longer than I would have liked.  In the end, I had roughly 3.5 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.131 SG.  I put 3 gallons in one of my plastic fermenters and hooked it up to my temperature control setup.  The other half-gallon was placed in a one-gallon plastic fermenter and allowed to ferment at ambient temperatures.  Both were dosed with CBC-1 yeast.  Yeast pitching didn't happen until several hours after wort chilling, due to the wort chiller being unable in the summer heat to get the wort down below 80F (the yeast's ideal temp is 72F).

08/03/2021:  Fermentation started around 6pm, based on Tilt Hydrometer readings.  By midnight, gravity had dropped to 1.118 SG.

08/04/2021:  By evening, gravity had dropped to 1.097 SG.

08/05/2021:  Gravity is down to around 1.088 SG.

08/06/2021:  Gravity is down to 1.082 SG.

08/07/2021:  Gravity is down to 1.071 SG.

08/08/2021:  Gravity is down to 1.062 SG.  I've raised the temperature control to 74-75F to allow the yeast plenty of warmth to finish out the fermentation.

08/09/2021:  Gravity is reading 1.058 SG this morning, and the temperature is staying in the 73-76F range, which is near the yeast's upper-end.  The current readings represent an ABV around 11.5%.  It's worth noting that the half-gallon batch without temperature control is not fermenting as quickly.  Gravity in that fermenter is reading 1.087 SG.  Fermentation appears to be slowing in both containers, as would be expected this late in the process, but more so in the cooler half-gallon container (temp around 70F).

08/13/2021:  Fermentation has slowed down in both the smaller and larger vessels.  The 3-gallon vessel's gravity is now reading 1.051 SG (~12.5% ABV).  The 1-gallon vessel reads 1.069 SG (11.3% ABV).  Both airlocks continue to (slowly) emit bubbles, which suggests that fermentation may have slowed but is not stopping.

08/22/2021:  The fermentation seemed to have greatly slowed or even stopped over the last few days.  No change in gravity was witnessed for about 72 hours, and airlock activity seemed non-existent.  When this has happened in the past with very high gravity beers, I've been able to restart fermentation by swirling the fermenter and/or heating it to the upper end of the yeast's optimum range.  That did not seem to work in this case, so I resorted to another trick... adding just a couple of drops of glucoamylase enzyme into the fermenter.  Since doing this, I'm seeing activity in both fermenters.  I'm even seeing regular "burps" through the airlock of the one-gallon fermenter.

It's worth noting that adding glucoamylase breaks down pretty much every remaining complex sugar into simple sugars yeast can consume.  This will cause a lower gravity beer to dry out and lose most of its body, but super high gravity beers like this end up (in my limited experience to date) with a lighter body than some of the high-gravity beers like the ones from Avery in Boulder.  (That's not a dig against Avery at all.  I happen to love those beers.)

Gravity for the 1-gallon fermenter is currently reading 1.061 SG.  In the 3-gallon fermenter, it's 1.050 SG.

08/25/2021:  Gravity for the 1-gallon batch is 1.050 SG, and for the 3-gallon it's 1.040 SG.  The glucoamylase did seem to break down the sugars into something the yeast can more easily consume.

08/29/2021:  Gravity for the 1-gallon batch is 1.040 SG and for the 3-gallon it's 1.030 SG.  The gravity graphs in Brewfather both show a continued gradual decrease.

09/11/2021:  The beer (both fermenters) was bottled today.  Bottles from the 1-gallon fermenter received 2.5 Brewer's Best carbonation tablets.  Bottles from the 3-gallon fermenter received 3 tablets.

10/10/2021:  A bottle chilled and sampled from the 1-gallon batch showed no carbonation.  I have not sampled one from the 3-gallon batch yet.


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