Kill Your Darlings: A Streamlined Recipe for Homebrewed Barleywine

BYOB by | Jul 2018 | Issue #132
Illustration by Ellen Crenshaw

All things under the sun have happened before and will happen again. It’s an immutable truth. So let’s take a moment to reflect on what matters to make a beer.

We live in a world of abundant riches, and I’ve ranted against the rising tide of overcomplication in the past. I know it’s rich coming from me, a kitchen sink brewer. But the more time I spend in and around this subject of ours, the more I realize that we’re just getting in our beer’s way most of the time.

So here’s your challenge: simplify a recipe. I don’t care which one. Find one that you love, edit it. Remove a stray dangling element. Dissect the vestigial remnants of an old habit. Did you previously use Honey malt in every recipe? I did. Is it necessary? Not hardly. Remove it.

Maybe your recipes are bone simple—10 pounds of Pale malt, Crystal malt used like vermouth in a martini, and enough hop oil to stun an elephant. But your process, man, your process is overwhelmed with steps and measures. Stop, strip down, evaluate.

In other words, be a writer and learn to kill your darlings. Your beers, your process, your profiles will become more focused and better for it. The example this issue is a classic American Barelywine recipe. My original was a tasty mess with five malts and a complex step mash. This? Crystalline perfection.

Darlings Barleywine
For 5.5 gallons at 1.085 OG | 8 SRM | 70 IBU | 9.6% ABV
120 minute boil

18 lbs Maris Otter

Single infusion at 150°F for 60 minutes

1.5 oz Warrior | 15% AA (alpha acid) | 60 minutes
1.0 oz Centennial | 10% AA | 20 minutes, whirlpool

Wyeast 1056, WLP001, or US-05 – half-gallon starter or yeast cake