Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Brewday - The Philosopher's Stone Barleywine

Attempting a barleywine, an ale that is often upwards of 10% abv, is something I've long wanted to try. Until now I've always gotten sidetracked by other styles and other recipes, and truthfully, the challenge of brewing a beer of such high gravity held me back. When a friend of mine surprised me with a gift of a hefty chunk of BC homegrown "special hops" in the name of experimental brewing, I knew the time was at hand. The Philosopher's Stone Barleywine was underway.

The Philosopher's Stone would be modeled on the famous Brain Death Barleywine, and thus an extra high alcohol content would be the key to the success of this beer, as it would allow the unique character of the "special hops" to shine through. I had made high gravity beers before, but never one to the strength required for the Philospher's Stone. In order to achieve the truly epic alcohol content necessary, I would employ a technique known as the doble-doble. In use since Elizabethan times, this method has been banned periodically due to both the potency of the product it creates and the enormous amounts of grain involved. It is essentially doing two mashes to brew one beer. After the first mash is completed, the runoff is collected, heated back to striking temperature, and then used to mash a second lot of grain. This concentrates the wort into a thing of extreme potency.

The next step would be the thing that would really set The Philosopher's Stone apart from other beers. Once primary fermentation was complete (which took an incredible 7 days despite pitching an enormous amount of yeast) the "special hops" were taken and steeped in hot water and then rinsed to remove chlorophylls, tannins and other undesirable chemicals. This process would cleanse much of the unwanted flavours but leave behind the special properties that are only soluble in alcohol. This is where The Philosopher's Stone's high alcohol content comes in. After the steeping, the "special hops" were funneled into the secondary and The Stone, already sitting at a whopping 12% abv, was racked on top. Here, so the theory goes, the unique character will be absorbed by the alcohol into the brew before it is bottled some time down the road. We will have to wait and see how successful this experiment was.

Geek Info

Doble-Doble (grains below divided into 2 separate mashes)

20 lbs 2-row Pale Malt
2 lbs Biscuit Malt
1 oz. Black Patent
6 lbs Liquid Malt Extract (added due to low efficiency)

2 oz East Kent Goldings (pellets)       90 mins
1.5 oz. Northern Brewer (pellets)        90 mins - 24 HBU
1.5 oz. East Kent Goldings (pellets)   30 mins
1 oz. Northen Brewer (pellets)            30 mins
8 oz. Special Hops                              dry-hop

Wyeast 1056 American Ale (pitched on brewday)
Champagne Yeast (pitched 2 days before transfer)

OG: 1.120
Target FG: 1.018
Target abv: 13.8 %

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