Splitting Homebrew Batches Part 1 – Bourbon Oak Barleywine

My latest homebrewing MO is to split and play around WITHIN batches as much as possible. 

The latest one is my American barleywine that just turned 7 months old.  It dropped from a 1.110 down to a 1.023 and finished at an 11.6 ABV.  I bottled ~4 gallons of that batch with oxygen absorbing caps, and then waxed the tops to let them age gracefully.

 Wax Top

The last gallon I racked onto a ½ ounce of American oak cubes that I steamed and then marinated in Blanton’s bourbon for almost 12 months.  (I can’t say that leaving them on the bourbon that long actually does anything extra special.  It just sounds cool.)  I’m going to age that for a few weeks and then bottle that last gallon.

bourbon barley

I imagine that it will taste nothing like it, but this is somewhat inspired by Lost Abbey’s Angel Share.  What I tasted of the flat barleywine that I bottled, it was slightly sweet with lots of dark fruit flavor and only a slight alcohol warming.  The hoppiness is fading quickly, and the bitterness is softening.  I’m curious to see what the oak and the residual bourbon does to this brew.

I still have some blue wax that can use to bottle the last gallon, as well, but I’ll have to drop a yellow crayon or something into the wax to make those look a little different.

At the end of the year, I can try one of each and compare and contrast. 

Looking to the future, I’m planning to brew my yearly saison this weekend, but I will split that one at least two ways.  The control part will be a standard dry and spicy saison.  Into the remaining beer I will pitch brettanomyces after primary fermentation.  For that I have a tube of White Labs WLP650 brettanomyces bruxellensis, but I might try to also culture up another strain of “wild” yeast from a commercial bottle for a third segment.

After that, I’ve got 10 pounds of cherries that might go into some big, Belgian ales.

Those will all be future posts.


2 Responses to “Splitting Homebrew Batches Part 1 – Bourbon Oak Barleywine”

  • Soured Saison Split Batch Experiment | Barlow Brewing Says:

    […] This update is more thinking (or is it typing?) out loud about split batches.  In an effort to get a lot of brewing experimentation and testing done in a short amount of time, I’m splitting batches and that began not long ago with the splitting of my barleywine.  Part of that beer was bottled according to plan and a portion of the barleywine is being aged a little longer on bourbon oak cubes. […]

  • Jeff Says:

    I also have enjoyed brewing for some time now. My first brew was in 1993… and I enjoyed your engineer/artist discussion in the website. I am an enginerd and write down everything about my brews. Up to brew number batch number 254 as of a barley wine cooked last week. Neobritannica yeast is bubbling away right now (love the English ale yeasts).

    As for oak aged big beers. I’ve made three 8.0+/-% IPAs with charred oak chips soaked in good bourbon. I love Innis & Gunn and their liquor oak aged barrel beers (rum, whisky, etc.) and was trying to mirror that flavor profile. So this ideas has morphed into bigger beers.

    This barley wine should be about 10.5%. I tweaked an older recipe. The oak chips are fresh cut oak, charred on the grill, then shoved in good bourbon for two weeks or so before use. I drop them into the secondary carboy for three to four weeks to get the right oak-bourbon flavor. I’ve aged the oak chips in bourbon longer with no apparent flavor improvement. I’ve also reused the oak chips after a bourbon re-soak and the oak flavor fades. When I transfer to the keg, I taste, and often add an ounce of bourbon and a little (1 tsp.) vanilla extract. I like to let a big beer like these sit for 6 months or so in the keg before starting the “steal a taste” sipping. Then I ration it because it goes fast. This is a personal use mostly since the time and effort is rather long. Those who have tried the oak aged bourbon-vanilla Imperial IPA batches said good things so the barley wine should be that much more fun.

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