On Sunday evening I brewed this year’s Christmas beer. I decided not to go with spiced beer as I had in the previous two years. I found that last year’s attempt was a little too sweet and heady, I overdid the spice, and I couldn’t drink much of it. All the same, I wanted something quite strong, and full of body for sipping in the dark and cold December night. This year I’ve gone for a straightforward Barleywine, and my recipe is pretty simple. At 1.070 original gravity, depending on how the yeast attenuates the beer should end up at somewhere between 6.5 -7%abv, a nice winter warmer. I brewed 19L.
The malt bill is simple. I used Bairds Pale Ale Malt. It’s not the much prized Maris Otter variety, rather it’s their standard pale malt, apparently the variety (for the nerds) is “Flagon” . A group of us got a bunch of bags of this in recently, and I decided that the premium price of Maris Otter wasn’t worth it; I have always felt that the preference for Maris Otter is a baseless preference in brewing, and I agree with this post by Brewsters Brewing Company that Maris Otter is a “sacred cow”.
I used 6KG Pale Malt, and 1KG Dark (120 SRM) Crystal Malt. That sounds like a lot of Crystal, and it is. I’m hoping that 14% Crystal Malt will give me a really big sweet body that will stand up to the alcohol. Of course such body and alcohol needs adequate hopping. I used Northern Brewer as the bittering hop, 60G at 60 minutes. The rest was the well tested tag team of Challenger and Northdown, reputedly the hop combination that Fullers use in their delicious ESB. I used 30G of Northdown at 30 minutes and at 5 minutes, punctuated by 30G of Challenger at 10 minutes. I used Carageen as copper fining (to clarify the beer) as usual, at 15 minutes. Northdown is said to have good flavour and aroma, so I’ll be interested to see if it breaks through. According to my recipe program (Brewtarget) this beer should be 98IBU, which could be a little high even given the big OG and sweet body, but I find that Brewtarget’s estimates never come out quite as bitter as they say, so I’ve started overcompensating.
The brew went well, and I pitched the yeast from a previous brew (2 weeks ago), about a cup of White Labs 028 “Edinburgh Scottish Yeast” yeast gunk. I had kept half of the yeast from said previous brew in the fridge for the last week, and the other half went into the big stout that Kev and I brewed last week. The only thing that went wrong was that, as you can see from the picture, my tried and tested method of “leave-the-door-open-and-hope-the-breeze-takes-all-the-steam-out-through-the-skylight” didn’t seem to be working. I half expected to find Van Morrison magnificently sailing into The Mystic each time I went out there. Looking out the back door towards the shed gave the impression that some beautiful, mythical transformation was going on inside, and I suppose it was.
Twelve or so hours later, and fermentation is strong. Here’s a little video of an airlock bubble.