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Size of starter for a Barleywine?

I am gearing up for an attempt at an AG Barleywine. I am using the recipe out of the Palmer Book, he says he came up with the recipe in 1994. My main question, in another book I read that for a high gravity ferment, you need to use a 1 gallon starter with 400+million yeast cells? I am going to be using Scotch Ale yeast, and I do have 2 jars of it. I am thinking to make a (900ml) starter for each and pitch it all in, which would probably give me about 1/2 gallon total. OG should be about 1.097 btw 18lbs of grain
Also I will be using a 6.5 bucket.
Thanks for any help.

Use the pitch calculator at
I would chill and decant a big starter like that.

What I’ve done in the past and had good success with is brewing a small/med small beer with a relatively neutral character with whatever yeast I want to use for the BW. Then either rinse the yeast and pitch, or if you want you can pitch straight onto the yeast cake. This ensures there are plenty of yeasties for the BW and you get to brew twice :slight_smile:

Trimack’s method is my preferred way to brew big beers. I usually plan 2-4 consecutive brews spaced to keep the yeast alive and going strong, starting with a low gravity session brew and moving up in gravity from there.

What is the viability of the yeast that you have stored?
Are you using a simple starter, intermittent shaking, stir plate?

Thanks for the ideas. I am too lazy to build up the starter over a period of days. I looked at mrmalty site, but dont quite understand it since i am using yeast I have harvested.

But for viability, my 2 jars have been stored in the fridge for about 4 months. When I do the starter it is just 1cup DME and 900ml water, pinch of nutrients and let it go. I dont have stir plate, but I do swirl it around every time I walk by. It is only 2nd generation, it shouldn’t be too lame.

thanks, sounds like I should do both jars, start em up and hope they do their job.

Big beers take a lot more attention than normal.

First, the mash/lauter efficiency will be lower than your usual. I would decrease your usual efficiency by ~ 10% if you haven’t done one before. (Or have some malt extract or sugar available to increase the gravity if necessary.) A parti-gyle or no-sparge batch might be fun to try in the future.

Big beers are also harder on the yeast. You need lots and lots of healthy yeast. I am not sure that a 1L starter with 4 mo old yeast will be up to the challenge. (What yeast are you using? And how big are the “jars”?) The only way to know for sure would be to count the yeast with a microscope and do a viability test. Instead, I would recommend doing a “5 gallon starter” by buying new yeast and brewing a regular strength batch. Then use that yeast cake for the barleywine.

Big beers also need lots of oxygen to help the yeast. Aerate as best as you can before pitching the yeast and then aerate again between 4 and 24 hours of the first day to help the yeast.

And lots of sugar with lots of yeast and lots of oxygen make lots of heat, so keep a close eye on the fermentation temperature. Do you have a way to control the fermentation temperature? If you don’t, you might consider placing the fermenter in a big bucket or sink of cold water (known as a swamp cooler.

Cheers. :cheers:

I would put your viability @ around 25% if stored under beer and refrigerated the whole time. If you have 240ml of thick yeast I would build a starter from that.

Ok actually, I just realized, I do have a batch of ale in Primary, it is using British Cask Ale yeast. I could use that yeast cake for the Barleywine, right? Are you thinking that this would be better than using a starter on my harvested Scotch Ale yeast (2 mason jars worth) that has been sitting in my fridge for 4 months.?

I have never put a batch of beer onto a used yeast cake, btw.

What about this: Reuse the yeast cake for the Barleywine AND put in the Scotch Ale yeast. I’ve read online that people like the results of combingin various yeasts?

Any ideas? I am shooting for dayafter Christmas for this brew day. So I gottabouta week. But I would need to get my starters going in a few days.

You will have plenty of yeast from the ale you’re making now. Some strains will work well together, but for the most part, one yeast will out compete the other and you will basically be fermenting with one yeast.

If you want to use the Scottish, I’d make a 2L starter for each jar and decant the beer before pitching.

Either method would work. I would take a look at the characteristics of each yeast and choose your yeast based on which one will be best for your beer. Make sure you take a look at the alcohol tolerance for each strain to be sure. Because these big beers get a long secondary, I wouldn’t worry much about the flocculation.

All things being equal, I’m a firm believer in KISS and would just use the whole yeast cake of what you have. I personally don’t pitch onto the cake, I rinse and then pitch, but I’ve heard of many people going straight onto the cake without any ill effects.

I’d try it on the cask ale cake. just make sure you aerate real good.

I think I am sold on just dumping the wort onto the yeast cake, something I’ve never done.
But let me ask, should I move the yeast cake into a clean bucket? I mean there is alot of trub and gunk left in the bucket after I rack.
What you guys think?

thanks again for more info.

Personally I would always rinse the yeast. I know people do just dump wort on-top of a yeast cake, but IMO that’s just lazy. I also don’t want all that trub, hops, etc in my new beer. Rinse the yeast, decant and pitch the whole thing like new yeast. But again, that’s just what I would do.

I know it isn’t what you were asking, but that’s going to be ~1.070 SG, about double what you want to use for a starter.

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