Bunker Brew Co

Brew Day – Gargant Barleywine

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Brew Day – Gargant Barleywine

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Barley wine – Belgian style

I’ve never brewed a grain based Barleywine before, so I thought I’d brew one ready for christmas 2018. The outside fermenter is pretty much out of action until warmer months, even with a thermostatic heater, i don’t want to risk it. I’d got around the winter warmth problem by purchasing a improvised stainless steel fermenter from Italy to sit on the kitchen side, this was originally an olive oil storage drum. Aesthetically it’s half decent, so the lady doesn’t mind it too much. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Gargant - Barley Wine

6.0 Kg - Maris Otter/Pale Ale grain mix
0.4 Kg - Crystal Malt
0.2 Kg - Carapils
0.1 Kg - Smoked Barley Malt

50 g Galena 14.1% A (Hop Pellets) @ 60 mins
20 g Galena 14.1% A (Hop Pellets) @ 30 mins
2.0 Kg Unrefined brown sugar @ 10 mins
Safbrew Abbaye Yeast (dried)

As a bit of a Barley Wine fan, it isn’t a beer that is readily available in the supermarkets. It would appear that Gold Label is the best that we can hope for, and that’s not too great a beer.  It’s an old style of ale that appears around the world in various guises. I was first introduced to this by my father, who pretty much brews the stuff exclusively from Youngs brew kits. It’s pretty good stuff, and probably the best Youngs kit beer i’ve tried in a while. The brew itself is traditionally very malt intensive, which tends to defeat much of the hop aroma in the final brew, and after a couple of years (up to 25 years aging) hop aroma tends to dissipate completely. Being financially viable is also important. The 2.0 kg of unrefined brown sugar is utilised to inflate the ABV without contributing too much to the flavour profile. Using 100% grain for this brew is a scary thing to do. You would be talking about multiple mashes, and a hell of a long time boiling down the wort. The excessive crystal malt i added in this brew will add sweetness and body with the idea that it won’t all ferment out.  The yeast is also an important factor in this home brew, the belgian yeast should add a bit of spice and character with some fruity esters, essentially replacing the hop aroma. I’m keeping this brew fermenting at around 18°C to avoid too much subtle alcohol presence in the final beer.

Water boiler and beer mash tun

The thermostatically controlled water boiler is run off at 77 degrees celsius.


The stainless steel mash tun was pre warmed with a kettle of boiling water for 10 – 15 mins to avoid any temperature variation when the mash starts. Adding around 17 litres of strike water, at 77°C, then adding the grain bill to the mash and stirring for around a minute brought the temperate to 66°C.

Barleywine Beer wort in mash tun

The Barley Wine mashing in the stainless steel mash tun.

Water treatment
With the mash stirred in, and all the dough balls completely destroyed, the lid went on for 10 minutes to allow the PH to stabilise. It was time for a PH water mash test. The water around Thorpe Hesley is around 7.3-7.5 PH and is quite alkaline, so I was expecting some water treatment for the mash. The roasted malt in the grain bill is slightly acidic and offsets the alkaline water PH. A digital test on the PH meter gave a 6.0 PH. This was slightly too high as I was aiming for around a 5.2-5.6 PH reading to aid enzyme extraction of the sugars. A couple of dashes of Lactic Acid and a bloody good stir, brought the PH down to 4.0, which is too acidic for a healthy beer. three teaspoons of Calcium Carbonate adjusted this with another enthusiastic stir. It settled at 5.2 PH so, no more messing about.

Lactic Acid & Calcium Carbonate PH modifier

Lactic Acid Solution & Calcium Carbonate to adjust the beer mash PH.

This was an hour mash, so after 30 minutes, I popped the top on the mash tun and gave it another good stir to enable full immersion. The temperature had dropped 0.5°C, to 65.5°C which was perfectly acceptable. The stainless steel mash tun was doing its job wonderfully.

Barleywine Wort Extraction

Home Brew Barley wine Wort Extraction

Wort Extraction
After running off the wort (and a quick recirculation pour to settle the grain bed) from the mash tun, a second sparge took place to mash out the final sugars in the grain. The sparge water was added at 77°C to the grain bed, stirred thoroughly and a digital PH mash test was conducted. Still at 5.2 PH! great stuff. The mash tun was left for a further 30 minutes and ran off into the boiling kettle.

Boiling barleywine wort in the brew kettle.

The Barley Wine wort is boiled in the brew kettle.

The final brew was then boiled for an hour and 10 minutes before the end, adding the sugary stuff of unrefined brown sugar with the seaweed finings and couple of teaspoons of yeast nutrient. I took a few hydrometer readings for good measure during the process.

Pre Boil Gravity - 1.060
After Boil - 1.120
Final results

The home brew took 2 weeks of room temperature fermentation before giving a final gravity of 1.020, a very efficient belgian yeast strain. I then primed and bottled the brew, before wax sealing with a copper wire de-sealer.

Gargant Barley Wine

Final Gravity 1.020
60 IBU
Final ABV: 13.1%


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