What You Really Need To Know About Barley Wine

Barley Wines are a beer that are often looked over and usually are rarely conquered by homebrewers.  It’s a shame though because they are a great style of beer and one of those that you can make for gifts or a special occasion if you know ahead of time.

So really what is a barley wine?  A barley wine (b.w)  is a style of beer that is very big.  It was originally made by the English because they needed to substitute a brew for French wine.  That’s because England was at war with France.  From there the beer kinda turned into the cognac of the beer world.

There are two types of b.w: 1) American 2) English.  The American style is more hoppy then it’s counter part.  Regardless of the style most b.w are going to be around the range of 10%-15% and 15-30 SRM.   The bitterness of these beers range usually from low 40s all the way up to 100 IBU’s.

When making these beers one thing to keep in mind is that the higher the original gravity is, the less hop utilization there is.   So when you are building these recipes, you may feel that you are using a lot of hops – over time the beer mellows out.

Now this is the part why lot’s of homebrewers pass on the whole b.w experience – the aging process.  How long do you age? We’re talking years.  Normally you will do a primary (few weeks) secondary (about 2 months) then bottle for years.  There is a lot of discussion in the homebrew world about how many years.  Ton’s of people say 6 years is the max.  I’ve heard of homebrewers  having b.w that are over 20 years old.  There was one story I read not to long ago that someone had a b.w that was 100 years old.  True or not, they are meant to age.

Regardless of the stories, you will hear of people having a barley wine that is 10, 15 even 20 years old.  Normally though I wouldn’t even think about drinking one that is less than a year if you can wait 2 that’s better.  In my opinion they get better with age and change in flavor profile.

One of the cooler stories  was I had a customer whose wife was pregnant, he was going to make a barley wine and wait to open it for his child’s 21st birthday.   Pretty awesome and something to consider.  Most people will say that it will oxidize if you age it that long, but I would beg the differ.  They do have oxygen absorbing caps these days.

Getting back to it, I wanted to share 2 different barley wine recipes; 1 English 1 American.  I can tell you that I’m planning on doing the English one because I’m always jonesing for English style hops, but I do feel inclined to share an American one.  These two recipes kinda show the extreme’s with differences between them.

English Barley Wine 

OG: 1.120

FG: 1.029

IBU: 34

SRM: 10

ABV: 11.5%

Don’t drink until 2 years.


12 oz 60L

13.5 lbs light DME

2 oz Kent Goldings (60 min)

1 oz Kent Goldings (45 min)

1 oz Kent Goldings (12 min)

1 oz Kent Goldings (3 min)

WLP 004 or WLP 005


Heat 3 gallons up to 150 and steep the grains for 30min.  Take out add the malt extract and bring to boil. At the beginning of the boil follow the hop infusion chart above.

About this recipe:

This recipe is kinda cool, it has a lower IBU then most B.W.  You can tell from the yeast as well as the choice of hops that this is clearly as English style.  The hops have that classic low alpha acid making it a nice pick of b.w for those that aren’t hop heads.  Ages out well and will become extremely mellow.

*If you are doing all-grain use 22.5 lb British 2 row. 

American Barley Wine


FG: 1.029

IBU: 110

SRM: 35

ABV: 11.5%

Don’t drink for 2 years


1 lb 60L crystal malt

10 oz munich malt

13.5 lbs Light DME

3 oz Chinook (60min)

1 oz Centennial (45min)

1 oz Centennial (5min)



Heat 3 gallons up to 150 and steep the grains for 30min.  Take out add the malt extract and bring to boil. At the beginning of the boil follow the hop infusion chart above.

About this recipe:

This recipe has all American hops in it as well as American yeast which will bring out citrus tones as well as smells.

*If doing all-grain use 20.5 lbs 2 row and 1 lb munich with the specialty grains. 


With barley wines, the hops really do mellow out a lot over time.  I hope this helps anyone who is thinking of making a barley wine in the near future.  Good luck with your brewing.


Related Post:

How To Make Russian Imperial Stout

Russian Stout Beer Video

Tasting Of Russian Imperial Beer

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5 Comments on “What You Really Need To Know About Barley Wine”

  1. Nowhere Brewer Says:

    I read about a guy who brewed a barleywine on the day he signed his 30 year mortgage. Of course, you can see where this is going. He’s going to have 30 bottles to drink over the next 30 years! BRILLIANT!

    Meanwhile, I brewed one on New Year’s Day. Much like above, I have a specific “date” to taste my barleywine over the years. 🙂

    But, with gigantic props to you, I used a mixture of your English Barleywine recipe (for hop amounts) & a Stone Barleywine recipe I found online. But, they wanted 14 ounces of hops! YUCK! Your recommendation of 5 ounces of Kent Goldings is much more my speed.

    Oh yeah, here’s the Stone Recipe for your brewing & viewing pleasure:

    Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine

    5 gallons (about fifty-four 12-ounce bottles or thirty 22-ounce bottles)

    • 21 pounds, 9.6 ounces crushed North American two-row pale malt
    • 14.4 ounces crushed 60L crystal malt
    • About 10 gallons plus 8 cups water
    • 1.69 ounces Warrior hops (15.0% alpha acid)
    • ½ teaspoon Irish moss
    • 1.94 ounces Crystal hops (3.5% alpha acid)
    • 1 (35 ml) package White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale Yeast or WLP002 English Ale Yeast
    • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons light dried malt extract

    I can’t stress it enough: clean and sanitize everything.


    In a 10-gallon brew kettle, combine the crushed malts with 7 gallons plus 1 cup of 161°F water. The water should cool slightly when mixed with the grain. Cover and hold the mash at 148°F for 90 minutes.

    For safety’s sake, set up your propane burner outside. Set the brew kettle of mash on top and heat to 160°F, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Turn off the heat. The mash will continue to increase in temperature to about 165°F.

    Lautering and Sparging

    Lauter the mash according to the instructions on page 159. Once the liquid is lower than the level of the grain, begin to slowly sprinkle 3 gallons plus 7 cups of 168°F water over the grains to start the sparge. Continue sparging as instructed on page 159.

    The Boil

    Set the brew kettle of wort on your outdoor propane burner and add water to bring the wort level up to 7 gallons, if needed. Bring the wort to a rapid, rolling boil. As it begins to come to a boil, a layer of foam and scum may develop at the surface. Skim it off and discard. Once the wort is at a full boil, put a hops bag containing the Warrior hops in the kettle and set a timer for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Stir the wort frequently during the boil, and be watchful to avoid boilovers.

    At 15 minutes before the end of the boil, stir in the Irish moss. When the boiling time is over, turn off the heat and put a hops bag containing the Crystal hops in the kettle. Cover the kettle and immediately begin cooling the wort quickly (see page 160).

    Pitching the Yeast and Fermentation

    Once the wort has cooled to 72°F, discard the spent hops and check the specific gravity of the wort with a hydro-meter. The target starting gravity is 1.103 (24.5 Plato).

    Transfer the wort to the primary fermentation bucket according to the instructions on page 160. Pitch the yeast (or prepare a yeast starter) according to the instructions on page 160.

    Allow the wort to ferment through primary and secondary fermentation (see page 160) at 72°F until it reaches a specific gravity of 1.016 (4 Plato).


    When you’re ready to bottle, clean and sanitize the bottles, caps, and bottling equipment. Put the dried malt extract in a medium saucepan and stir in just enough water to dissolve it. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let cool slightly. Proceed with bottling according to the instructions on page 161.


    • Jay's Brewing Blog Says:

      Looks amazing! Yea B.W are defiantly fun to make. I’ve found lot’s of joy out of making these long term projects. I figure in a couple years of doing them, I’ll have something to brag about when I have a cellar of B.W from different years. A cool idea is to make a recipe every year and then start drinking them after 5 years or something like that. Then you can taste the taste difference from 1 year compared to the 2 year one, the 2 year one to the 3 year on and you get the point. Pretty legit.



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