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Measuring the Starting Gravity of wort
Measuring the Starting Gravity of wort

Brewing an English Barleywine

Previously in this series of articles on How to brew different Styles of Beer? we covered Brewing a British Brown Ale, this time the Beer Style comes from the ‘Strong British Ale’ category in the BJCP 2015 Guidelines and is the style of an English Barleywine.

In the following sections we are going to examine different aspects of this style such as its background, the style guidelines, ingredients used, selected recipe, brewing process, and finally the outcome of brewing a batch of this beer.


Grist #1/2: Grist #1/2: Maris Otter Pale malt, Vienna malt, Caramel 60L malt, Victory malt
Grist #1/2:
– Maris Otter Pale malt
– Vienna malt
– Caramel 60L malt
– Victory malt

According to the BJCP Guidelines this style has various formulations that have long been brewed in England, and were known by several names. The modern barleywine traces back to Bass No. 1, which was first called a barleywine in 1872. Barleywines were darker beers until Tennant (now Whitbread) first produced Gold Label, a gold-colored barleywine in 1951. Usually the strongest ale offered by a brewery, and in recent years many commercial examples are now vintage-dated and offered as a limited release winter seasonal specialty. The original barleywine style that inspired derivative variations in Belgium, the United States, and elsewhere in the world.

Commercial examples of this style include Adnams Tally-Ho, Burton Bridge Thomas Sykes Old Ale, Coniston No. 9 Barley Wine, Fuller’s Golden Pride, J.W. Lee’s Vintage Harvest Ale, and Robinson’s Old Tom.


In the BJCP 2008 Style Guidelines the English Barleywine style was grouped together with Old Ale and the American Barleywine variant. In the BJCP 2015 Style Guidelines strong ales from the UK are grouped together in the same category:

BJCP 2015 BJCP 2008
Category 17: Strong British Ale
19: Strong Ale
Styles 17A: British Strong Ale
 17B: Old Ale 19A: Old Ale
17C: Wee Heavy
17D: English Barleywine 19B: English Barleywine
19C: American Barleywine

The vital statistics of the English Barleywine are as follows:

  • Original Gravity (OG) = 1.080 – 1.120
  • Final Gravity (FG) = 1.018 – 1.030
  • Alcohol By Volume (ABV) = 8.0 – 12.0%
  • Bitterness (IBUs) = 35 – 70
  • Color (SRM) = 8 – 22

There are no changes in the above from the 2008 guidelines.


Grist #2/2: Cara-Pils, White Wheat malt, Biscuit malt, Crystal 10L malt
Grist #2/2:
– Cara-Pils
– White Wheat malt
– Biscuit malt
– Crystal 10L malt

According to the BJCP 2015 Guidelines the following are characteristic ingredients used in the brewing of an English Barleywine:

  • Malts: High-quality, well-modified pale malt should form the backbone of the grist, with judicious amounts of caramel malts. Dark malts should be used with great restraint, if at all, as most of the color arises from a lengthy boil.
  • Hops: English hops such as Northdown, Target, East Kent Goldings and Fuggles are typical.
  • Yeast: Characterful British yeast.
  • Water: Not specified.
  • Additions: Not specified.


Previously my Homebrew Club had brewed the following beer as a group batch so this time I decided to give it a go for myself:

– Old Draft Dodger –

Source: Brewing Better Beer: Master Lessons for Advanced Homebrewers
Author: Gordon Strong

Additions: Calcium Chloride, Amber malt, Brown sugar
– Calcium Chloride
– Amber malt
– Brown sugar

Ingredients (adjusted for items and quantities available):

  • 10 Lb – Maris Otter Pale malt
  • 10 Lb – Vienna malt
  • 2 Lb – Caramel 60L malt
  • 1 Lb 12 oz – Victory malt
  • 1 Lb 6 oz – Cara-Pils/Dextrine
  • 1 Lb 6 oz – White Wheat malt
  • 1 Lb – Biscuit malt
  • 12 oz – Caramel 10L malt
  • 8 oz – Amber malt
  • 1 Lb – Brown sugar
  • 1 Lb – Rice Hulls
  • 0.25 oz – Columbus/Tomahawk hops (bittering – 90 mins)
  • 0.25 oz – Warrior hops (bittering – 90 mins)
  • 1.00 oz – Challenger hops (bittering – 60 mins)
  • 0.50 oz – East Kent Goldings hops (bittering – 45 mins)
  • 0.50 oz – Fuggles hops (flavor – 30 mins)
  • 1.00 oz – East Kent Goldings hops (aroma – 5 mins)
  • 0.50 oz – Fuggles hops (aroma – 5 mins)
  • 1 tsp – Calcium Chloride (added to mash)
  • White Labs English Ale (WLP002) yeast
Hops: Warrior, Columbus, Challenger, Fuggles, East Kent Goldings
Warrior, Columbus, Challenger, Fuggles & East Kent Goldings hops


  • Mash in 9.5 gals @ 152 deg F (67 deg C) for 75 mins
  • Boil for 90 mins
  • Ferment @ 68 deg F (20 deg C)
  • Carbonate to 2.3 volumes of CO2

Target Statistics:

  • OG: 1.112
  • FG: 1.031
  • ABV: 10.8%
  • IBU: 41.2
  • SRM: 21.8


  • Malts: Base and specialty malts within style.
  • Hops: Challenger, East Kent Goldings and Fuggles are within style though Columbus and Warrior are not due to being American varieties but these were used in low amounts for bittering so would not really impact the overall outcome of the beer.
  • Yeast: 100% to style.
  • Other: Use of sugar is not specified within the style guidelines but would help the beer attenuate through the addition of simple sugars whilst also upping the final ABV.
  • Statistics: Everything is within style apart from the estimated Finishing Gravity which is 1 point too high.


English Ale yeast starter
English Ale yeast starter

The 5 gallon batch of beer was brewed following these steps:

  • Charcoal filtering the borough water and leaving it to stand overnight in order to vent off the chlorine.
  • Measuring out and milling the grains plus adding Calcium Chloride to the grist. Next measure out the hops and Irish Moss.
  • Sterilizing the fermentation equipment.
  • Heating the strike water to 154 deg F before mashing-in.
  • Mashing for 75 mins at 152 deg F for the Saccharification rest so the starches convert into sugars (pH 5.0).
  • Raising the temperature to 168 deg F to mash-out for 10 mins to stop enzymatic activity i.e. halt the conversion of starches to sugars.
  • Removing the grain bag.
  • Boiling for 10 mins to allow time for the hot break to clear.
  • Add the first bittering hop addition then boil for 30 mins.
  • Add the second bittering addition and boil for 15 mins.
  • Add the third bittering addition and boil for 15 mins.
  • Add the flavoring addition and boil for 15 mins.
  • Add Irish Moss with 15 mins left of the boil to help clear the beer.
  • Add aroma hop addition at 5 mins left.
  • A yeast starter was prepared comprising of 8 oz of DME (Dry Malt Extract) in two liters of water and placed in a flask on a stir plate together with one packet of yeast.
  • Yeast nutrient was added to the wort once it had been cooled.
  • Wort was aerated with Oxygen (60 secs) via a diffusing stone connected to an O2 tank with a regulator.
  • Yeast starter was decanted prior to pitching into the wort so that most of the spent wort did not go into the beer.
  • Primary fermentation was at 68 deg F for 10 days in a temperature controlled freezer.
  • The beer was racked off the trub (sediment) into the secondary fermenter and held at 68 deg F for another 2 weeks before cold crashing and bottling after carbonation.
  • Beer was force carbonated to 2.3 volumes of CO2 after cooling the beer to 36 deg F.


Chilled wort ready for pitching yeast
Chilled wort ready for pitching yeast

According to the style guidelines an English Barleywine should have the following characteristics:

  • Appearance: Color may range from rich gold to very dark amber or even dark brown (often has ruby highlights, but should not be opaque). Low to moderate off-white head; may have low head retention. May be cloudy with chill haze at cooler temperatures, but generally clears to good to brilliant clarity as it warms. The color may appear to have great depth, as if viewed through a thick glass lens. High alcohol and viscosity may be visible in “legs” when beer is swirled in a glass.
  • Aroma: Very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel like aroma in darker versions or a light toffee character in paler versions. May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dark- or dried-fruit character, particularly in dark versions. The hop aroma may range from mild to assertive, and is typically floral, earthy, or marmalade-like. Alcohol aromatics may be low to moderate, but are soft and rounded. The intensity of these aromatics often subsides with age. The aroma may have a rich character including bready, toasty, toffee, and/or molasses notes. Aged versions may have a sherry-like quality, possibly vinous or port-like aromatics, and generally more muted malt aromas.
  • Flavor: Strong, intense, complex, multi-layered malt flavors ranging from bready, toffee, and biscuity in paler versions through nutty, deep toast, dark caramel, and/or molasses in darker versions. Moderate to high malty sweetness on the palate, although the finish may be moderately sweet to moderately dry (depending on aging). Some oxidative or vinous flavors may be present, and often complex alcohol flavors should be evident. Moderate to fairly high fruitiness, often with a dark- or dried-fruit character. Hop bitterness may range from just enough for balance to a firm presence; balance therefore ranges from malty to somewhat bitter. Pale versions are often more bitter, better attenuated, and might show more hop character than darker versions; however, all versions are malty in the balance. Low to moderately high hop flavor, often floral, earthy, or marmalade-like English varieties.
  • Mouth-feel: Full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture (although the body may decline with long conditioning). A smooth warmth from aged alcohol should be present. Carbonation may be low to moderate, depending on age and conditioning.
  • Overall: A showcase of malty richness and complex, intense flavors. Chewy and rich in body, with warming alcohol and a pleasant fruity or hoppy interest. When aged, it can take on port-like flavors. A wintertime sipper.
Fermenting away happily
Fermenting away happily

How did my batch of English Barleywine turn out?

The brew day and fermentation both went very well with being extremely close to the target numbers considering the high gravity of the beer.

Here are the actual vital statistics:

  • OG: 1.110
  • FG: 1.030
  • ABV: 10.5%
  • Bitterness: 41.2 IBUs*
  • Color: 21.8 SRM*

* calculated via BeerSmith software.

Taster sample for the English Barleywine
Taster sample for the English Barleywine

The tasting notes are as follows:

Pours with a syrupy consistency. Hazy brown in color with little to no head. A dark fruits aroma and flavor with some caramel. Low carbonation with a slick mouth-feel and lasting fruit flavor that turns to caramel and toffee notes.

Overall I am extremely happy with the outcome of this beer. All the actual statistics were within the appropriate ranges and although a Barleywine will improve with age it might be tough trying to keep it long enough! Some bottles have however been set aside for the National Homebrew Competition (NHC) 2018.

Comments or questions? If you have any remarks or questions on this article please do not hesitate to leave them below in the comments section.

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