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Features for Distinguished Handcrafters

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Finely Handcrafted
since 1996

Volume 1, Issue 8
December 2006

In this Month's Issue:
(Quick click each link)

What the Heck is a Barley Wine? Recipe for Holiday Ale Monthly Food Recipe


What the Heck is a Barley Wine?

by Richard T. Curtin

Article courtesy of
If you've been to my Welcome Page lately, you may have noticed the bulletin about a Barley Wine Festival. The question I'm receiving from a lot of people is "What the heck is Barley Wine?"

Barley Wines are basically very potent English Ales, they are made from grain like beers and not grapes. However they do have a high alcohol content, generally ranging from 6 to 12 percent by volume.These beers are usually winter seasonal brews or winter warmers and are very alcoholic and full bodied. Barley Wines are brewed with much larger amounts of grain than other beers. This makes for a sweeter beer that is usually balanced out by the brewer with an increased hop bitterness. The colors generally range from golden to deep copper. The high level of hops and alcohol enable them to be aged like fine wines. Some Barley Wines are aged over twenty years!

These are not beers to be chugged in pint glasses. They often come in 7 ounce bottles. Many brewpubs serve them in smaller glasses to be sipped and savored.( Also probably for liability purposes! )These are potent beverages meant to be slowly enjoyed. Some of the commercial names like Blithering Idiot, Old Horizontal, I'll Have What the Gentleman on the Floor is Having, will reinforce this lesson. I highly recommend a designated driver if your stepping out to enjoy these beers.

Some excellent commercial examples of Barley Wines are:

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale
Rogue Ales Old Crustacean
Victory Brewing Company Old Horizontal
Thomas Hardy's Ale

As an after dinner drink, I think Barley Wines are best paired with a quality cigar, but in a pinch a rich chocolate cake will suffice.


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Recipe for Holiday Ale   
by Frank Holes, Sr.

This spiced light ale has the aroma of peppermint and spices .  
Recipe for Holiday Ale

2 gallons of good water

6 lbs of Light Malt Syrup

4 lbs Dried Malt Extract (DME), light

2 lbs Orange Blossom Honey

1 oz Northern Brewer Hops

1 oz Irish Moss

1 Cinnamon stick

1 tbsp Peppermint extract

1 vanilla bean, split

1 oz Hallertauer Hops

1 package of liquid American Ale yeast (or a packet of dry yeast if it's all you have)

Holiday Ale Recipe Directions:

In your large brew kettle, bring 2 gallons of water to a boil. The more water available to boil at the beginning will provide you with a much lighter colored finished product.

If you're using liquid malt, place the malt syrup (still in its container) in a large bowl of warm water to make it easier to work with. 

Once the kettle comes to a boil, slowly add the malt stirring constantly. When we use dry malt extract, we like to pour off a bit of the wort and whisk in the DME in a large bowl, then pour everything back in to the kettle.

Once all the malt is stirred in, add the Northern Brewer hops. Start your timer for a 60 minute boil. Stir often. 

With 15 minutes left in the boil, add the Irish Moss, the cinnamon stick, peppermint extract, and the vanilla bean. At 2 minutes left, add the Hallertauer hops.

Once the boil time is over, remove the kettle from heat (I like to pour the wort off into another large pot I can cool in the sink - or use a wort chiller if you have one). Reduce the temperature to around 75 degrees F. 

Add the wort carefully into your primary fermentor, being sure to leave the bottom dregs in the pot. Fill up to the 5 gallon line with room temperature water, being careful to stay between 68 and 76 degrees F (don't kill the yeast). 

Stir in the yeast (pop your liquid yeast several hours or even a day earlier if necessary) well, and seal the fermentor with an airlock. Store in a room temperature place out of the way for 7-14 days. You can re-rack into a secondary fermentor after 7 days if you wish. 

Bottle and store for three more weeks (taste and carbonation both improve in my opinion).  This beer will keep in bottles for up to 8 months (but they probably will disappear well before then). This makes 5 gallons. 

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Frank Holes, Sr. is the Vice President of Griswold Mountain Brewing Company and a distinguished crafter of homemade champagne and cordials. 


Recipe of the Month:

Holiday Beer Dip for Pretzels, Crackers, or Crusty Bread



Holiday Beer Dip
Yield: 4 cups

This is a great, easy to prepare dip for your next holiday party.      

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (1 ounce) package ranch dressing mix
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup beer
Cooking Directions:
1.  In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and dressing mix. 

2.  Stir in Cheddar cheese, and then beer. The mixture will appear mushy. 

3.  Cover bowl, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, overnight if possible.

4.  Serve cool with pretzels, crackers, or crusty bread.  

Additional stir-in ideas to try:
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper or hot sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup frozen (thawed) spinach
1/4 cup artichoke hearts, minced


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