From the HBD Archive
From: (Tony Babinec)
Subject: barley wines--yeast & technique
Date: 1992-07-21 15:11:06 GMT

Tom Bower asks about barley wines and the yeast to use. I don't
have a lot of barley wine brewing under my belt, but here's my

I think the two yeasts mentioned are the obvious place to start.
One very good homebrewer uses Wyeast "American" ale almost exclusively
for his beers, including barley wines, and has gotten excellent results.
He says that he might try another yeast for barley wine. His sensory
perception is very acute, at least compared to mine, and he smells stuff
that I don't; I thought his beer was just fine. And Bigfoot Ale turns
out very nicely, especially for that gravity.

The Whitbread ale yeast is Wyeast "British." I would use that in preference
to the dry whitbread ale yeast. George Fix has commented on the three
strains in the yeast, one of which is a high-alcohol performer.

I see no reason to go to a second yeast, such as a champagne yeast. The
best commercial barley wines are made with house yeasts, and we should
be able to match that. However, getting a properly attenuated beer from
the yeast is not necessarily straightforward.

I made a barley wine in March, and decided to use Whitbread. The beer
came out at about 1.086 starting gravity. I left it in primary fermentation
for most of March, racked it to another carboy at the beginning of
April, racked it again at the beginning of May, and bottled in early June.
One reason to give it such a long time is that you could see fermentation
activity in the carboy. To keep the yeast going, I'd occasionally rouse
the yeast by swirling the carboy for a minute or so to stir things up.
Also, for reasons I'm not entirely clear on, it seems that dry hopping will
sometimes get a slowed fermentation going. Either the hops (pellets are
easier to use here) provide a nucleus for suspended yeast, or there is
something in the hops that gets the yeast going. Or, maybe it was the
racking that did it. In any event, in my experience, it needed a long
secondary fermentation. Also, dry hopping makes sense for this beer.
Sorry, I don't have the brewing notes with me, so I don't have the final
gravity, but I'm pretty sure it was in the 1.020s.

You should add hops as much as you like. For one thing, the large
starting gravity in the boil pot means that proportionately more hops
are needed to attain bitterness. The huge, heavy maltiness of the
beer needs hop bitterness to offset it. Add hops at different times
in the boil, and dry hop. The long aging, both in secondary and in the
bottle, means that hop character will change and fade over time. These
beers can be stored for a long time, and you'll want to have one in a
year or two or more.

How did my barley wine turn out? I haven't tasted it since bottling, and
should taste it one of these days to see how it's progressing. With
bottling in June, I'm thinking that it might be drinkable towards
year-end. It tasted good at bottling time.

One other thing: how much priming sugar should you use at bottling?
I normally use 3/4 cup for 5 gallons, and I more or less halved that
amount. You don't want a fizzy barley wine, and with all that malt
and sugar and a strong performing yeast, you don't want a gusher down
the line.

Have fun!

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