Barley Wine Recipe: Master the Art of Brewing This Classic Drink

If you’re interested in brewing your own barley wine recipe, you’ll be joining a growing community of homebrewers and craft beer enthusiasts who appreciate this unique and flavorful beer style. Originating in England, barley wine is known for its rich body, pleasant hoppiness, and high alcohol levels that can rival those found in wine. As it ages, barley wine takes on a port-like flavor that makes it a perfect wintertime sipper to enjoy by the fire.

When it comes to brewing your own barley wine, you have the option to choose from traditional English-style barley wine recipes or explore the bold and malt-forward flavors of American-style barley wines. These recipes often feature a high ABV and a substantial malt bill, resulting in a beer that’s best savored slowly and thoughtfully.

Understanding Barley Wine

Barley wine is a rich, complex, and strong ale that has earned its place as a classic beer style. Known for its high alcohol content and bold flavors, barley wine makes an excellent wintertime sipper to enjoy during cozy nights. There are two main types of barley wine: English Barleywine and American Barleywine, and understanding their differences can enhance your appreciation for this unique beer.

English Barleywine is a malt-forward brew characterized by its flavors of toffee, caramel, dark fruit, and molasses. Its hops’ presence is minimal, contributing more to the balance than the overall flavor profile. In contrast, American Barleywine is more hop-forward, with intense hop aromas and bitterness coupled with the complex malt flavors, making it more aggressive compared to its English counterpart.

Both English and American barley wines are strong ales, boasting alcohol by volume (ABV) percentages ranging from 8% to 12% or higher. These beers are often aged to allow the complex flavors to develop and meld, with some examples benefiting from years of maturation.

When brewing barley wine, you can expect a lengthy and labor-intensive process. The beer requires an extended boil to concentrate the sugars and develop its signature rich flavors. After fermentation, be prepared for a long aging period to let the flavors mature and meld together nicely.

It’s essential to differentiate barley wine from another classic beer style called old ale. While both are strong beers with a focus on malt flavors, old ales tend to be darker, with more pronounced roasted and toasted malt characteristics. Additionally, old ales may have a slightly lower ABV compared to barley wines.

Key Ingredients of Barley Wine Recipe


In a barley wine recipe, malt is the primary source of fermentable sugar. A well-modified pale malt should form the backbone of the grain bill, with Maris Otter being a popular choice for its biscuity flavor. You can also consider other pale ale malts or Munich for added depth and character. Small amounts of specialty malts like crystal, biscuit, or Victory malt can be used to achieve the desired color, flavor, and complexity. However, dark malts like Special B malt should be used sparingly since most of the color in barley wine originates from an extensive boil.


Hops play an important role in balancing the maltiness of barley wine. English hops such as Northdown, Target, East Kent Goldings, and Fuggles are traditionally used in English barley wine recipes for their earthy and floral qualities. However, for American barley wines, you might opt for more assertive hop varieties like Cascade or Chinook to provide a higher level of bitterness and aroma.


A significant aspect of a barley wine recipe is the yeast, which imparts its unique character during fermentation. For an authentic English barley wine, use a characterful English yeast strain that can handle high alcohol levels and provide fruity esters. On the other hand, for an American barley wine, use a clean and neutral yeast strain to accentuate the hops and malt flavors.

Additional Ingredients

There are a few other ingredients you can include in your barley wine recipe to enhance its flavor, body, and clarity:

– Sugar: You can add sugar to boost the alcohol content without adding excessive body or sweetness to the beer. Just ensure it doesn’t exceed 10-15% of the fermentables, as this might lead to a thin, overly alcoholic final product.

– Malt extract: For those looking for an easier brewing process, you can substitute a portion of the grain bill with light liquid malt extract, which provides fermentable sugars and a lighter color.

– Adjunct grains: Small amounts of wheat, oats, or rye can be used to improve mouthfeel, body, and head retention.

– Irish moss: Adding Irish moss during the final 15 minutes of the boil helps in beer clarity by coagulating proteins and facilitating their removal during fermentation.

Remember to keep it brief, use the appropriate tone and point of view, and be confident in your knowledge of the key ingredients in a barley wine recipe.

Brewing Barley Wine 
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Begin by mashing your malted grains with hot water in a mash tun, typically at a mashing temperature of around 148°F to 156°F. This process will help to extract the fermentable sugars, proteins, and enzymes necessary for brewing your barleywine. Keep the mash at this temperature range for about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even extraction. When the time is up, carefully sparge the grains to separate the sweet wort from any residual grain materials.


Now it’s time to boil the wort. Bring the wort to a rolling boil and let it continue for about 60-90 minutes. This step is crucial for sterilizing the liquid and concentrating its flavors. During the boil, add your hops according to the recipe’s schedule. Hops contribute bitterness, flavor, and aroma to your barleywine, helping balance the high alcohol content and malty sweetness.

To optimize the brewing process, carefully follow these steps during the boil:

– 60 minutes: Add your bittering hops.

– 15 minutes: Add your flavor hops, along with any other adjuncts or clarifying agents.

– 0 minutes: Add your aroma hops right before turning off the heat.

You can adjust the boil time and hop additions to fine-tune the flavor profile of your barleywine.


After boiling, rapidly cool your wort to yeast pitching temperature (around 65-70°F) using an immersion chiller. Once cooled, transfer the wort to your sanitized fermenter and aerate it well. This step ensures your yeast has enough oxygen during the early stages of fermentation. Pitch your yeast, preferably a high-attenuating strain suitable for high-alcohol beers, and seal the fermenter with an airlock.

Monitor the fermentation temperature closely throughout the process, aiming for a stable range of 65-70°F. Fermentation will typically last 2-3 weeks, with the most vigorous activity occurring in the first few days.

Primary Fermentation

The primary fermentation phase occurs in the first few days. You’ll notice airlock activity and the formation of a foamy layer on top of the wort known as krausen. This signifies healthy yeast activity and the conversion of sugars into alcohol and CO2.

Secondary Fermentation

After the initial vigorous fermentation, the airlock activity will slow down, and the krausen will begin to subside. This phase, known as secondary fermentation, will last for the remainder of the 2-3 week period. During this time, your yeast will continue to convert residual sugars and work on cleaning up some off-flavors.


Barleywine benefits from extended aging, which can range from a few months to over a year. The beer’s flavors will meld and mellow during aging, while any harsh alcohols or off-notes will dissipate. Rack your barleywine into a secondary vessel for bulk aging, or bottle it using carbonation drops or priming sugar if you prefer individual bottles. Store it in a cool, dark place and be patient – the result will be a rich, complex, and delicious barleywine that rewards your efforts and time.

Barley Wine Recipe

Barley wine is a strong beer made from barley, with an alcohol content ranging from 6 to 12% by volume. It showcases a malty backbone with intense and very complex flavors. To brew your own barley wine at home, follow the recipe below.


– 15 lb (6.8 kg) Maris Otter pale malt

– 15 lb (6.8 kg) light liquid malt extract

– 2 oz (57 g) of hop pellets (choose your preferred variety for aroma and bitterness)

– 2 packages of English ale yeast

– Water, as needed

Brewing procedure:

1) Begin by mashing the Maris Otter malt in 6 gallons of water heated to 152°F (67°C) for 60 minutes. Then, sparge with enough water at 168°F (76°C) to collect approximately 6.5 gallons of wort.

2) Bring the wort to a boil and add the light liquid malt extract. Stir the wort to ensure that the malt extract doesn’t stick to the bottom of the kettle.

3) Add the hop pellets at the beginning of the boil for bitterness. Boil for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on your desired hop profile and flavors.

4) After the boil, cool the wort to 70°F (21°C) and transfer it to your fermentation vessel.

5) Pitch your English ale yeast and ferment the beer at 66°F (19°C), until the final gravity is reached. This may take two weeks or more, due to the high original gravity and alcohol content of the barley wine.

6) After fermentation, transfer the barley wine to a secondary fermenter for aging. This process may take several months for the flavors to meld and mellow.

Expected results:

– ABV: 9-12%

– IBU: 50-70

– SRM: 10-20

– OG: 1.100

– FG: 1.020

– Mouthfeel: Medium to full body, with a smooth and slightly viscous texture.

– Aroma: A combination of malt, dark fruit, and toffee-like notes. The aroma will vary depending on the hop variety and yeast strain chosen.

This barley wine recipe should yield approximately five gallons or 19 liters, which is equal to 40 pints or around 50 12-ounce bottles. Enjoy this rich, flavorful brew at your leisure, and consider pairing it with strong cheeses for an exceptional experience.

Barley Wine Recipe FAQs

What is the fermentation time for barley wine?

The fermentation time for barley wine can vary depending on the yeast strain, fermentation temperature, and the specific gravity of your wort. Typically, primary fermentation will take about 2-3 weeks. However, barley wines often benefit from extended aging, which can range from several months to even years, to develop their complex flavors.

Which yeast strains are ideal for barley wine?

Traditional British Ale yeast strains, such as Wyeast 1028 (London Ale) or White Labs WLP002 (English Ale), are suitable for an English Barleywine. If you’re brewing an American Barleywine, consider American Ale yeast strains like Wyeast 1056 (American Ale) or White Labs WLP001 (California Ale). These strains will lend the desired clean and neutral fermentation profile.

What is the recommended mash temperature for barley wine?

The mash temperature for a barley wine typically ranges between 148°F (64°C) and 156°F (68°C). A lower temperature will result in a more fermentable wort, while a higher temperature will yield a fuller-bodied beer with more residual sweetness. Depending on your desired profile, adjust the mash temperature accordingly.

How long should the boil last for a barley wine?

A long boil is crucial for barley wines to develop their rich, caramelized flavors. The boil time can range from 90 minutes to 2 hours or more. Be mindful of the potential for more evaporation, which may require additional water to maintain your target volume.

What are some popular variations, like black or barrel-aged barleywine recipes?

For a darker barleywine, you can incorporate darker specialty malts like Chocolate or Black Patent malt, adjusting the quantity depending on the desired color and roastiness. Transfer your base recipe to a sanitized oak barrel or use oak chips soaked in spirits like whiskey or bourbon for a barrel-aged barleywine. The time for barrel aging will depend on the desired level of oak influence; sample regularly to achieve the desired result.

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