I made the second beer of the year at the end of March during the first real weekend of quarantine due to the COVID-19 virus. Out of a slight mishap, I've ended up with a Strong Ale rather than a Barley Wine. I unwisely decided to make sourdough bread on the same day, so I suspect I was rather distracted from the job in hand...

Here is the recipe:

Barley Wine Strong Ale (to make approx 15l) OG 1092(!) FG 1018

You should be able to make a Barley Wine at OG 1100-1110 with this recipe

Treat water to match the mineral profile for Ales (e.g. AMS, DWB)

Pale Malt             9000g
Crystal Malt           130g
Wheat Malt             130g

Boil time 1hr45
East Kent Goldings     200g    1hr30
Protofloc                      15 minutes

Use Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale (make a starter with two packs). 
Ferment at 18°

Firstly, I made a starter in the morning from DME, boiling it up and cooling it, then pitching two packets of 1728 yeast. By the time it was needed the yeast cells were very happy and ready to take on the sugars in the main beer.

The trusty mash tun held up to the challenge of holding all the grain and water. I tend to use a wetter mash these days, trying to get a better extraction from the grain, but maybe a failed a bit this time. On previous occasions, I've ordered half of the grain milled finely and the rest milled normally. I've no evidence but both times I've done this the mash has acted as a filter still, but I've got a better extraction of sugar from it. This time I used the Malt Miller's recipe maker and unfortunately I could not work out how to order grains milled at two different grades.

Once I'd mashed, I sparged. Believe this is where I made my first error - I over sparged and took out too much wort. I could have rectified this by boiling for longer. Anyway, I ended up with 30 litres of wort at a pre-boil gravity of 1060. After boiling it for 15 minutes to get it going, I added all the hops. 200g may seem like a lot of hops, but this is a beer that will not be drunk for at least 6 months. The hop character will drop in the beer.

I boiled the lot for one and a half hours. Perhaps I should have gone for longer. The post-boil gravity was 1092. For a Barley Wine, I really needed 1100. I could have adjusted but it was 8 in the evening. Basically, I've settled for a strong ale this time and will have another go at a Barley Wine in April...

But did it ferment? The yeast kicked off straight away and the beer fermented healthy. Just over two weeks later, I opened the lid and got a very pleasant ale smell that I was pleased with. Most of the ale is now in a demijohn off the yeast conditioning for a bit longer before I bottle it. I drew off two bottles as test cases and they are bottle conditioning in the warm.

I may (or may not) have told you already about my bottling experience a couple of weeks ago for my first beer of the year. It all bottled nicely except for one bottle that decided to disintegrate in the kitchen... Despite my best advice, the wife had decided to start cooking next to my activities and shards of glass landed in the meatball sauce. This problem was compounded by the fact that there was a shortage of tinned tomatoes, so dinner required a bit of a rethink. I was in trouble briefly, but I think I got away with it. Onward and upward.