22. Strong American Ale


(American Barleywine, 22C)  BeerSmith Recipe File

***This beer earned at Bronze Medal at the 1st round NHC in NYC, 2014!!!***

The USS Tennessee some years ago...
The USS Tennessee some years ago…


This beer holds a very special place in my heart, second only to Mom and Dad. I joined the U.S. Navy right after high school 14 years ago, and I immediately volunteered for submarine duty. I served on the USS Tennessee SSBN 734G from 2003-2008 as a Sonar Tech, making 7 strategic deterrent patrols. That time helped shape me and I grew immensely as a human being, and I’ll never forget my time there or the life-long friends I’ve made.

My best friend Danny and I, 2003
My best friend Danny and I, 2003

Fast forward to the summer of 2012 (1 year before I started this project). I was recently out of the Navy, had yet to start my classes at Rutgers, was unemployed and bored to death. I decided to brew a beer for some of my old Sub buddies, and immediately realized American Barleywine is the only beer for the job. I called it Submariner, and gave it out only to those “Qualified-in-Submarines” (except my parents… and John has tried some). It was a sort of cathartic exercise for me, as I was struggling with all those transitional emotions we all have when we make huge changes in our lives. For me, it was a salute to all my Submarine peeps, and the beer turned out awesome.

This recipe is very similar. I did adjust the specialty malt percentages a tad, and the hop schedule will reflect the fresh hops that I have available as well as the CO2 hop extract I still have. I also decided to lengthen the boil to 90 minutes, as many far better brewers than I have recommended longer boils for these beers. This will be, to date, the biggest beer I’ve made using my current system (10 gallon rubbermaid cooler & 9 gallon kettle), and I’m willing to bet my efficiency is going to be way off the normal 75-80% I normally get. I’ve got some DME on hot-standby, and I’m not afraid or embarrassed to use it. Any beer that climbs north of 1.085 is going to really tax your equipment, and I just don’t have any more room in the mash tun to make up the difference in efficiency with more grain.



20 lbs. U.S. 2-row
1.5 lbs. 10L crystal
1.5 lbs. 80L crystal
Mash @ 150° for 90 min (1.3 qt/lb), sparge with 3.4 gal

Boil for 90 minutes

15mL CO2 Hop Extract boil for 60 min (~62 IBU contribution)
1 oz Calypso (15.6%) boil for 20 min
1 oz Centennial (10.5%) & Citra (14.4%) boil for 10 min
1 oz Cascade (5.5%) & Amarillo (8.7%) boil for 5 min

WLP090 San Diego Super, 2 vials & 1300mL starter w/nutrients
Fermentation Temp: 65-68°

1st Round dry hop 1 oz Belma & Citra for 3 days
2nd Round dry hop 1 oz Amarillo & Cascade for 3 days

OG:  1.103
FG: 1.020
ABV:  12.1%
IBU:  104
SRM:  14.7


Brew Day

This brew featured a brief Jason appearance, but he had to run early on. He did leave his O2 tank, which I will definitely be needing on this brew day. Fermentations on beers this big are just nuts, and the yeast really need plenty of O2, and shaking takes too long to get the desired 8ppm of oxygen.

Run off is clear!
Run off is clear!

I decided to adjust the spacing of my grain mill a smidgen wider, mostly because last brew I encountered a stuck sparge that let a lot of grain material in the kettle (that was a pain to fish out). I think my default mill setting is crushing the grain too fine, and has resulted in my sparging issues.


Mash in went perfectly, and we nailed 150° which is always nice. The problems began when we lautered, and found our pre boil gravity at 1.067. Barleywine does not a 1.067 wort make. I expected efficiency to suffer, but this was dismal (about 62% vs. my normal 80%), and I did not have enough DME on hand to make up the difference. I added the DME I did have, approximately 2 pounds of light (I forgot to weigh it, sorry). We proceeded with the boil, Jason left me to my humid kitchen and everything else went according to plan. The wort cooled quickly, again due to my ~55° tap water, I racked the beer to the fermenter and discovered my OG was only 1.090. Now, this is perfectly fine for barleywine, well within The Guidelines, but I wasn’t happy about not cresting 100 points. I decided to not pitch, let the wort sit overnight, and in the morning I ran to the local home-brew shop for some more DME. I made an extremely concentrated wort with another 2 pounds of light DME (I measured this time) in about 0.25 gallons of water. This stuff was boarder-line simple-syrup, and mixing 2 lbs. of DME in that little volume of water is an exercise in patience.  I added this to my already 12 hour old wort, and the gravity was now 1.103. Satistfied, I pitched the starter, aerated with O2, and put it in the fermentation fridge with the controller set to 65°.



I finally got my thermowell, and so I’m actually controlling fermentation from the internal temperature now! I’m really excited about this addition, and I’m hoping that if this batch yields great results to get back into lager production. I can’t ignore lagers for much longer, but I’m still licking my wounds after YourMomtoberfest. I started the beer at 65°, and after 7 days let it climb to 67°.

San Diego Super demolishes low gravity wort, but in my experience it seems to perform no faster than WLP001 in big beers. This guy was still slowly (3-4 bubbles/min) off-gasing when I decided to move it to secondary, almost two weeks since I pitched. Since there was still noticeable activity, and because a sample tasted a tiny bit “hot”, I racked approximately 50mL of slurry along with the beer into a keg. I let the keg sit at room temperature, which is a tad warmer (~73°) than the fermentation fridge , for 4 days. Then, I stuck it in the “lambic closet”, which which is 65-67° for 13 days before beginning the dry hop schedule.



Each dry hop was for 3 days, after which the beer was put in the fridge (@ 35°) and allowed to carbonate for 1 week.  After this, the beer was bottled (all 5 gallons) into 12 oz bottles using the counter-pressure filler.


Last year's is tasting pretty good...
Last year’s is tasting pretty good…

My Take

At first, I was reluctant to serve this beer to nubs (in fact, the first edition had a label that explicitly said “not for nubs”!). But after some reflection I reasoned that given tax-paying Americans paid my salary for a number of years, they deserved to drink this beer even if they never stepped foot on a submarine. I did, however, make them field day my apartment while I watched crappy movies underneath my bed. And I made them wash my dishes. And I verbally abused them for months. Some of them didn’t make it.


The Stig

And now it’s time to turn the beer over to our Team Tasting Imbiber. Some say that Russian submarines only do a “Crazy Ivan” to make sure He isn’t lurking behind, and that his towed array is never at short stay. All we know is, he’s called The Stig!!!

Aroma – Roasted cacao beans, over-ripe banana, cinnamon, baked red apple / red apple skins. Also, quite a bit of fusel alcohol. *Note* after warming all the way up to room temperature, some sulfur notes (sulfidic: raw egg, mild sewer gas) are perceptible. Could be the product of stressed out yeast which is easy to do in such a strong beer, also could be the sign of the beer being too young, or “green.” Spending more time on the lees in secondary, as well as pitching more yeast (or a strain that is more resilient in environments that are highly alcoholic) for such a massive beer could mitigate this flaw.

Appearance – Approximately 14 degrees SRM. Russet/Medium Brown body with patchwork , off white head. No lacing or head retention to speak of. Glassy, almost iridescent top layer, has glassy texture – most likely due to high alcohol content.

Flavor – Much of what is present as far as aromatics are also there on front palette. However, all those delicious flavors are overpowered by the hot, boozy alcohol presence. Also, overly bitter. The powerful ABV, along with the lack of malt flavor and depth, allows the hop bitterness to become overtly apparent.

Mouthfeel – Again, way too much perceived alcohol. This highly attenuated beer is left with a slick, thin mouthfeel that is very warming and practically astringent/medicinal.

Overall Impression – Clearly there is a lot of potential for this beer, as it starts out with fantastic aromatics and flavors. The lack of balance, which is particularly difficult to dial in for high ABV beers, is where this barleywine falls short. I feel that if this beer could be more in the 9-10% ABV range, it would benefit from more malt character, providing depth and a much needed counterpoint to its massive IBU count. Despite the trend of American style barleywines being excessive in practically every way, the best examples almost always exhibit a tenuous balance between the drastic levels of malt sweetness and hop bitterness. Perhaps you could include less kettle additions and more late hopping to not only lessen the IBUs, but also provide more hop flavor and aromas. I think Chinook would work very well with this beer as a late addition hop.



Whoa, that’s a rather long review by The Stig. This beer was actually brewed about 9 months ago, which doesn’t sound like a long time, but I’ve been changing my thinking a little bit about big beers. I’ve just noticed that for big beers, I personally prefer the ones that come in around 8.5-10% ABV, and start to dislike them as they go north of that. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general I’ve been finding the HUGE beers to lack balance and really one dimensional. I used to love all big beers, but now I look for something more than just alcohol. It’s about time I started brewing with that in mind. I completely agree with The Stig’s comments, though I think the booze isn’t as apparent as He seems to think. The BJCP Judges who judged the beer agreed that the beer need more hops flavor and aroma and more malt backbone. A higher mash temp, by a few degrees might have been a good idea. The beer is definitely good, good enough to advance to the second round of NHC 2014. But I think dialing back the ABV and dialing in the hop profile would help make this beer great.

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