My barleywine in secondary

My barleywine in secondary

Amidst tracking my fantasy football progress throughout the day and massive amounts of clean-up from a dinner party we hosted last night, I got a couple homebrewing items checked off my list, including racking my barleywine to secondary. Even though my homebrewing skills have improved dramatically over the years, I always feel that little rush of nervous anticipation before I crack the lid on the primary. The moment of truth…it could be a wonderfully aromatic brew, or an infected ropey mess. Luckily, a bad batch hasn’t happened to me in a long time. And today was no different, as the barleywine looked and smelled fantastic. The finished gravity reading was about 1.012, which means that this guy is somewhere in the 11-12% ABV range. I’ll try to forget about it for a few weeks then bottle into bombers. Maybe I’ll even make a label for it, too.

My other activity for the day was settling on a recipe for my ExperiMint Stout. As I discussed on a recent post, I’ve been pondering the idea of brewing a nice stout with just a hint of subtle mint. My initial thought was that I wanted it to have a cooling, menthol type of characteristic in the background. And the only way I could think to get that effect would be to use some kind of spearmint extract. But I’ve decided that would probably be pretty disgusting. Like a liquid Kools or something. Extracts also tend to be tough to deal with, because you can never really guage the right amount to use without totally destroying your batch. Lots of trial and error, and I’m not interested in making four or five versions of this to get it right.

So intead, I’m going to brew the stout as normal, and then use at least an ounce or two of fresh, crushed mint in the secondary…I guess you’d call it “dry minting.” I think if I added the mint to the boil, or even at flame-out, it would do the opposite of what I intended and turn the delicate mint into a bitter mess. Additionally, to just add one extra safeguard into the mix, I’m going to turn this into an Imperial stout, in the spirit of Surly Darkness or North Coast Old Rasputin. The extra malt should help ensure the mint isn’t going to take over, but hopefully blend into the scenery without hogging the spotlight.

Here’s the full recipe I’m planning to go with for the 5 gallon batch:

6.5 lbs 2-row pale malt
2.5 lbs brown malt
2.5 lbs Light LME
1.5 lbs Crystal 105Lovibond
1.25 lbs chocolate
1 lb roasted barley
0.75 lb Victory
0.5 lb black patent
1 0z. Cluster (60 min.)
1 oz. Centennial (60 min.)
2 oz. Liberty (30 min.)
1 oz. Liberty (dry hop)
2 oz. fresh, crushed mint (dry mint)
Wyeast 1272 American Ale II

Now, the only question is when to brew. The weather around here is stereotypically Minnesota cold, hovering around zero degrees at the moment. I might have to check the forecast and see what the weekend looks like. If it’s mid 20’s or higher I can make it work, since the heat from the propane burner obviously helps to take the edge off if I keep the garage door closed. Now if that’s not brewing dedication, I don’t know what is. And I’m definitely using a healthy yeast starter for this one. No screwing around with stuck fermentations.