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English Barleywine yeast strategy

I’ve talked myself into trying to brew a Barleywine to age for a year or so. I’m going to do a partial mash, using some of that MO LME that NB sells, and shooting for an OG around 1.100- ish.

I’m now thinking about yeast. I need to pick some up soon to build up a starter, and am not sure what to use. I definitely want some English character, but have to think about alcohol tolerance, and I do want this to attenuate well. Should I blend a couple of strains? Maybe start with something like London Ale yeast, then move into Secondary and pitch an active starter of Dry English Ale Yeast? Or pitch both at the same time and see what happens? Just curious if anybody has opinions.

I used WLP099 recently on a 1.130 100% MO English barleywine. The yeast attenuated down to 1.017. Not sure how much more it will drop. The hydro sample was definitely yeasty, but was surprisingly good coming out of primary. I won’t know for sure for quite a few more months, but so far it’s looking really promising.

Good to know… so you just used 099. It’s funny, most folks using that are doing crazy 18% monstrosities, but I just want a tidy 10% or so. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to pull out a heavy hitter, but I’d hate to get a stalled fermentation. I’m also going for an oak spiral for a while, so maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about English yeast character after a year.

I think you’d be fine at 10-12% with WLP013 London Ale, but I really was going for some of the character in the beer from which 099 was isolated. English ale character with some barrel notes from the oak spiral? Sounds awesome! Regardless of which yeast you use, I’d probably make a moderate gravity bitter first, and dump the barleywine on the yeast cake.

I decided on wlp007. Starter going now, to be stepped up a couple of times. Also got some wlp002 going. Labor day weekend, I’m going for the barleywine and an old ale. Big old Blighty all over my basement.

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Sounds awesome! I don’t think you’ll have any regrets with that yeast. If you’re up for an adventure, you might want to think about using just base malt and a really long boil, like 3-4 hours. I’ve been playing around with this old-school technique, and have been pretty blown away with some of the flavors you get from it versus a standard boil and crystal malt.

I was leaning towards using a little extract, and boiling the crap out of it while mashing, then adding the caramelized result to the kettle. I’d like to try a long boil, but with my tiny 7.5 gal kettle, I have to be a little creative.

Quick update (in case anyone wants this as reference), wlp007 fermented down from 1.100 to 1.017 in a couple of weeks. 81.6% attenuation, 11.1% abv. It’s on the oak for a while now. The sample was promising, if young. The wait is going to be torture on this one.

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Another update- this is off the oak and in the bottle. The bottling sample was pretty tasty. Not a lot of yeast character (competing with all the booze and bourbon and oak), but it came out pretty nice. I just have to forget about the fact that it’s in my cellar for a good long while.

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