Partigyle, Rebooted: Wonmisan Silvered Moon Barleywine

Note: This brew is part of a single parti-gyle batch of beer brewed on the 6th of February. The other half of the batch, Wonmisan Mild Brown Hound, is discussed here. However, the majority of the discussion of the parti-gyle itself is here.

I have been considering making a barley wine for quite some time now, but I have never actually gotten around to it until now. Since I am eager to produce a batch of Mild ale for Miss Jiwaku, I figured now would be the perfect time to go ahead and make a smaller (10L) Barley Wine, using the first runnings for that and the second and last runnings of the (capped) mash for a (20L batch of) Mild.

This makes enough sense since Milds are supposed to be lighter in body, and one wants to mash a Barleywine at a lower temperature, to ensure the wort becomes as fermentable as possible. Besides, I’ll be capping the mash for the Mild so some sweetness will be added despite the longer-than-usual mashing process. (It has to be longer since I’ll be adding grain when I “cap” the mash; but while this might sound like a fairly even tradeoff, the malts I’ll be adding will add color and sweetness alike, and I need the color to get a mild of the shade I want, which is, a darker reddish-brown hue.)

When I started formulating a recipe for a barley wine, I got into all kinds of complex grists, thinking that a massive complexity of malt bill would also mean a nicely complex wort. Now, I’m not saying that’s exactly wrong, but I started to think about beer and complexity, and Schumann — the composer — came to mind. Schumann was a great composer, but late in his life, he began to suffer from mental problems. Paranoia, hearing voices, terrors… all the result of calcium deposits growing in his brain.

Here’s the thing: whatever romantic notions people like to entertain about madness, it clearly is not good for art. In Schumann’s case, his paranoia affected the way he orchestrated his music. He began to worry whether the first flute might miss his line, and so he had the first violin and the oboe double the line. He feared the cellos might not get their notes correct, and compensated for the possibility by having bassoons and trombones and contrabasses play the line too. (These are made-up examples, as I can’t recall the real examples I studied ages ago.)

The net result was that everyone in the orchestra played most of the time, and there was no effect from instrumentation. The music became a muddled, muddy mess. And if you’ve ever tasted a beer like that, well, you know it’s unpleasant.

So I decided that I would pull back a bit, and think about focus. I don’t have pale malt, much to my chagrin as I think it’d make a great base for a Barleywine, but I do have Vienna, Munich, and Pilsner, so I figure I can get a malty richness out of that. I wanted some dark fruitiness, so that suggests a touch of Special B malt — though not too much, as I don’t want the barleywine to get too dark. Oats for head retention, a couple of different crystal malts for sweetness, and some Belgian Aromatic malt to help the beer’s aroma, and then it’s just adjuncts (of which I will include jaggery, honey, and a little molasses — all of which will thin out the beer somewhat, though the syrup the least).

I see this as a way of allowing malty characters from the base malt to balance with a little plummy/raisiny character from the Special B; likewise, the crystal malts will darken the beer, add sweetness and a little more maltiness, plus a touch of caramel. The adjuncts I’m using in small enough amounts that they will likely add hints of flavor, but not enough to overwhelm the base. I was also planning to add the adjuncts in stepped feedings, one by one, once the fermentation seemed to have mostly run its course, but I forgot and added them at 30 minutes, so, well, anyway, that’s that. I’ll aerate well, try stirring the wort occasionally, in order to degas it, and I am pitching a large proportion of a very healthy yeast cake, so I think there shouldn’t be any problems. IF there are, I can always pitch some higher-tolerance yeast and see what happens…

The hopping is very simple, since this is an English-styled barley wine. (0.6 BU:GU is what I’m shooting for, mainly because I know the hop flavors will soften at the timescale needed to age this into perfection.)

  • 13 grams of Magnum at 90 minutes
  • 14 grams of Fuggles at 30 minutes (for just a hint of flavor, especially once it’s aged out)
  • 14 grams of Kent Goldings dryhopped before bottling.
The boil will be 90 minutes, while will introduce a little kettle caramelization — though I hope not too much, as the brew will be dark enough on its own. It’ll be at the darker end of the spectrum for barleywines, and while I do entertain notions of making a paler barleywine, that shall have to wait until the next time. (And at that point, I’ll pair it, parti-gyle-wise,  with a paler mild.)

The fermentation will start out in a squarish 12L (~3 gallon)fermenter I have on hand; once the brew has mostly fermented out for the final time, I’ll transfer it to the 3-gallon carboy I have on hand for clearing, and leave it. After a few months, it should be ready to get racked to an empty carboy once more, the tertiary step being solely for clearing it. (Probably overnight in the bathtub with saltwater and ice.) Then I’ll reyeast it, bottle it, and forget about it till about Christmastime, if I can manage it.

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