2013 Summer Solstice Blonde Barleywine: One-year Tasting Notes

While brewing on the 2014 summer solstice, I cracked open last years big brew, the 2013 summer solstice blonde barleywine. SMaSH-y in recipe, the idea was to design a beer to taste the malt and fermentation characteristics from Maris Otter and Wyeast 1098 British Ale when brewed at a high gravity. The resulting brew was interesting and complex to say the least. A review and recipe below. Cheers, and happy brewing!

Review
Pouring into a snifter glass, the 2013 Summer Solstice Blonde Barleywine has a hazy, dense orange appearance with thin, white head. Head retention is low, likely due to the high alcohol content. The aroma is quite complex with loads of sweet malt and green tree fruits on the pear spectrum along with notes of brandy and spice. In tasting, more sweet malt coming across as bread pudding and light caramel syrup. Additionally, as the beer warmed, notes of spicy hops, biscuit, and heavily toasted multi-grain bread emerged. Bitterness was moderate, just enough balance the sweet malt character with a noticeable spiciness. At ~10% ABV, there was a noticeable alcohol presence, lending a warming effect with every sip. At one-year, this barleywine has really matured with age and become quite pleasant. No oxidation notes were apparent; this beer should age nicely. I’ll have to drink more come winter time as barleywine in the summer is not quite the seasonal pairing.

Recipe Design
I am a big fan of Wyeast 1098 British Ale in blonde bitters and porters, and was eager to try it out with something bigger. Also, I like the biscuit-y malt character from floor-malted Maris Otter. Combining these ingredients, it made perfect sense to brew a blonde barleywine, and good timing for the 2013 summer solstice. The recipe follows closely to a traditional English-style barleywine, except in color and speciality grains, overall coming in much lighter and having less caramel flavors. The resulting brew was much darker than expected; however, considering the condensed malt and two-hour boil, the orange-amber color is to be expected. For a future re-brew, I would like to try out different English malt varieties along with other English ale yeast strains. I think Fawcett’s Optic malt with Wyeast 1968 London ESB would be interesting as Fullers uses both yeast and malt in their ales. Maybe for the 2015 summer solstice!

Have you brewed a blonde barleywine, and how did it turn out? Leave your experience in the comment section below. Cheers, and happy brewing!

Recipe: 2013 Summer Solstice Blonde Barleywine
3 Gallon Batch, all-grain
Stats: OG 1.095 FG 1.021 ABV: 9.7% IBU: 70, 85% mash efficiency

Grist
8 lbs Maris Otter
0.5 lbs Sugar
Single-infusion mash at 147 F 60 min, mashout at 170 F 10 min

Hops
Magnum and EKGs to get to 70 IBU

Yeast
Wyeast 1098 (re-pitched) and fermented at 68 F

Water
Added 1/2 tsp gypsum to nice clean soft-ish water

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