Going Big in the New Year By: Ben Bakelaar

I was poking around trying to figure out what to write this week, so I decided to review the BJCP style guidelinesfor some inspiration! As I started clicking through each of the categories, I found myself looking for the heavier, darker beers that I love so much during winter. It turns out you have to click through quite a few categories until you hit the first one!


9E. Strong Scotch Ale, OG: 1.070 – 1.130


This got me wondering - “What’s the strongest beer style on the list?”. Below, the rest of the results.


12C. Baltic Porter, OG: 1.060 – 1.090

13F. Russian Imperial Stout, OG: 1.075 – 1.115

18E. Belgian Dark Strong Ale, OG: 1.075 – 1.110

19A. Old Ale, OG: 1.060 – 1.090

19B. English Barleywine, OG: 1.080 – 1.120

19C. American Barleywine, OG: 1.080 – 1.120


I was surprised to see the Strong Scotch Ale edging out Barleywines with an original gravity range topping out at 1.130. I remember when I first started all-grain brewing, I thought I couldn’t brew the biggest beer styles because there wasn’t enough space in a 5 gallon mash tun for all that grain. For some reason, it had never occurred to me to do a big beer style via partial mash brew, using DME or LME for a significant percent of the grain bill. Or, alternatively, just brew a smaller batch size. So in honor of going big for the new year, I have prepared a recipe which I think will deliver a malt bomb of tastiness that even a partial mash brewer can handle!


The recipe is designed with the assumption that all you will need is a 5 gallon pot to boil in. You can certainly use a mash tun if you have one, but I am suggesting the Brew-In-A-Bag method for convenience and simplicity. You can get a nice reusable grain bag that will hold all of your grains here[Editor’s Note:  This bag can hold up to 5 lbs of Grain; for larger bags for a BIAB method you should deck with your local hardware supply store (or a Home Depot)]  Although the BIAB method does normally yield a lower efficiency, because the gravity is going to be so high anyway, an efficiency of 65% vs. 75-80% doesn’t really matter. In order to give this brew as much flavor as possible, I’ve split the base malt into roughly half DME and half grains. As I mentioned in a previous article, you might be surprised how little specialty malts there are, even in a giant Scottish Wee Heavy. This one has only 1 lb in total, with 2/3 of that being Crystal 120 and 1/3 being Roasted Barley.


To make sure this would work in a small stove-top setup, I used a mash volume calculator. It says that 6 lbs of grain with a mash thickness of 1.25 qt/lb only takes up 2.36 gallons of space. That leaves plenty of room for the 6 lbs of DME that will be added to the pot.


So with that, here’s the recipe. Note that this is intended to yield 3 gallons, not 5!


3 gallon batch size  [Editor’s Note:  Recipe available for purchase this weekend]

6 lbs Marris Otter Pale malt

2/3 lb Crystal 120L malt

1/3 lb Roasted Barley

5 lbs Light Dry Extract (DME)

1 oz Fuggles @ 60 min

1 vial Wyeast Labs #3787 Trappist High Gravity

Mash temperature: 158f


BeerSmith shows the following characteristics for this recipe compared to the Strong Scotch Ale style definition.


Beer Smith  | love2brew.com 

We are maxing out the style at 1.129 original gravity, and going extra light on the hops at 15 IBUs. The color is a little dark at 27 SRM, but we aren’t trying to win any competitions here. And at 13.5% ABV, I think this might qualify as one of the biggest beers you can brew in a 5 gallon pot! Before you brew this one, just remember to do a little reading on the style, and I would also recommend Googling around for other brewers experiences with similar recipes. A high-gravity beer is something that needs a lot more TLC and time to reach its full potential than a typical brew. Also note the following recommendations for fermentation:


Fermentation temperature: 64f-68f

Primary fermentation: 2-3 weeks

Secondary fermentation: 2-3 months

Aging: 12 months


I will be conducting a trial run of this batch at Love2Brew before the end of the month – so keep your eyes out on the Facebook page for photos!