Mighty Fine Barley Wine

On Sunday I decided to make a barley wine since that’s a style of beer I had yet to experiment with.  The idea snaked its way in to my head thanks to Chief’s blog post about the barley wine he’s going to be doing for the Excelsior series of beers here at the brewery.  After doing a little reading on the subject I decided to go with a fairly simple partial  mash for it.  Even with using some malt extract (a recipe to be posted a little later since I don’t have it in front of me at the moment) I still ended up using 13 lbs of grain.  In the past I had issues getting decent extraction from my grain but I had been working on that as well and I was absolutely thrilled with the type of efficiency I was getting with this mash (a little over 70%).  I also switched to doing a 90 minute boil (likely inspired by working in a brewery that does) and the wort had a very rich aroma and sweet sticky flavor to it.

I pitched the yeast in late Sunday night and woke up the next morning to… nothing at all.  The yeast (WLP550) was a little on the old side for what they reccomend so I wasn’t too concerned until it became Tuesday morning and still no visible signs of fermentation had occured.   I knew there was more than enough sugars for that yeast to get going so I picked up a package of Safale (S-04) from work and did a quick and dirty starter for that, pitched it in, and went out drinking.  When I got home the airlock bubbled infrequently, but I was happy to see it had started.  The next morning I woke to it bubbling at a decent clip.  When I checked it Wednesday night it was like a foamy volcano went off.  Fortunatelty it didn’t blow the lid off, it was just foam spraying out the top of the airlock.  I battled back against the foam, and after several attempts I managed to get a blow off tube in to it.  Just to be safe I covered it up with a towel in case something popped loose.  This morning it was bubbling in its pot of beer and foam filled water pretty steadily.  This is without a doubt the most active fermentation I’ve ever had at home.  It’s really making me want to make this a big brew year.  There’s going to be a lot of homebrew to go around.