American Barleywine Partigyle

With a week to go until half term, the family are all pretty tired so we’ve decided to have a quiet weekend at home. Being utterly unable to just do nothing for a while though I have decided to have a big brewday and spend my time brewing a partigyle beer.

When you brew beer, you run hot water a couple of times through the grains to rinse out the sugar (sparging) and the hot wort is then boiled to make a fermentable liquid. Usually, we mix the liquid from each running together to make one homogenous beer, but when you make a partigyle you keep the liquids separate. The first runnings will make a stronger beer than the second or third, and with this method you can make beers with very different characters using the same batch of grain. It is challenging to get it right but it’s good fun to do. It is also, as I’m very fond of telling people, where we get the expression ‘small beer’ from, to describe something trivial or of little importance.

This week I’m making an American barleywine with the first runnings and a much weaker English-style ale from the second. Both will use American hops. The barleywine will hopefully come out around 10% abv and will keep getting better for the next decade or more, whereas the bitter will be around 3-4% and will be drunk by New Year. The recipe I’m using is based on my first barleywine, which I brewed in 2014. I still have half a dozen bottles of this left and it’s amazing. The recipe I’m using is:

9kg Maris Otter pale ale malt

1kg amber malt

1kg caramalt

1kg Munich malt

I’ll be boiling the wort for 90 minutes and will add 40g of galena and 40g chinook hops straight away with 15 minutes left I add 30 of cascade and 30 of galena, and with five minutes to go I’ll add 20 of chinook and 40 of cascade.

The work starts the night before as I sanitise all my gear and add some sugar solution to my yeast to give it a little head start. Today I start brewing!

My mash tun with all the grains soaking in hot water at the start of the mashing process

The first part is temperature critical, as the grain and water mixture has to be at 65C for me to get the best yield. A couple of degrees colder and I won’t get any fermentable sugar at all, a couple higher and I’ll produce too many long-chain sugars that won’t ferment and will instead give me a very sweet beer. The mash will sit at this temperature for an hour.

First runnings coming out of the mash tun

After an hour or so I start to drain the wort out of the mash tun. This is the strongest, sweetest wort and will make the barleywine. This can take a while, as there is so much grain in the mash tun it tends to hold the water and becomes very sticky. After I’ve taken out the first runnings, I add hot water at 70-80C and this will dissolve more sugars. After 10 minutes I drain this too and will repeat the process again. The first 20 litres I take out will be the barleywine, the second 20 litres will be my bitter.

Barleywine coming to the boil

Once I have the first runnings I take them outside to start boiling. The hops go in (they’re in the hop bag) and the wort is electrically heated via a kettle element. I’m boiling outside today as it’s a nice day and I have a couple of friends coming over, so it means we don’t have to mingle inside. From my point of view, it means that I don’t fill the house with the wonderful aromas of malts and hops, but from my wife’s perspective it means I’m not stinking out the bloody house with beer again. I’m the spirit of this being a beer you take your time over, this will boil for a full 90 minutes to allow some complex caramelly flavours to develop.

With 15 minutes left I add the cascade and galena hops for flavouring. I’ll add a similar amount of aroma hops with five minutes left, though there won’t be much of the aroma left by the time this beer is at its best.

Chilling the beer

Once the beer has boiled for the full 90 minutes I chill the beer using the setup above. I have a simple pump which connects to my drill, this drives the beer through a heat exchange plate chiller where it meets cold water coming the other way and over a period of ten minutes or so the beer comes down to room temperature.

And that’s it, the first beer is ready to ferment! I transfer it into a 20 litre glass demijohn and it’ll go into my temperature-controlled DIY freezer in the shed at 20C for the next few weeks. Now we do the same process with the second beet, boiling it for an hour this time and much smaller hop additions.

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