How To Brew an American Barleywine (3 Recipes & Complete Style Guide!)

Once you’ve got a few brews under your belt you’re ready to try a more complicated style. One of the greats is an American Barleywine. This strong (in all senses of the word) beer will test your brewing skills and patience – let’s check out some American Barleywine recipes and learn how to brew one!

Brew a bracing American Barleywine by using US Pale 2-row with small quantities of specialty hops. Use a water profile favorable to hop flavors that includes more sulfates than chlorides. A good yeast that can handle high alcohol levels is the best choice. Finally, use American hops and quality bittering hops.

Any Barleywine, American or English, will be a challenge for a beginner brewer. With the advice and tips below, you will have a great foundation to get started. Discover great recipe choices and steps to pay extra attention.

What is an American Barleywine?

An American Barleywine is a high ABV, hop-forward, malty beer with complex flavors. This beer is typically clear and lightly colored. It is usually between amber and light brown. American Barleywines also have a full body with an apparent alcoholic taste.

Unlike strong IPAs, the American Barleywine (ABW) is not just a hoppy monster. While hop characteristics are a large part of this style there is also a strong malt profile. Hop and malt flavors battle for dominance along with more subtle esters.

Another important factor of Barleywines is aging. The strong malt and hop flavors that might be overpowering at first become interwoven over time. This results in a complex mix of bready malt flavors and citrus or fruity hop flavors.

  • Color – 9 – 18 SRM
  • Common flavor – Toast, citrus, fruit, malt sweetness, hop bitterness
  • Aroma – Grainy, citrus, light caramel
  • Mouthfeel – Full body, mild carbonation
  • IBUs (Bitterness) – 50 – 100
  • ABV – 8 – 12%
American Barleywine recipes and brewing guide

History of the American Barleywine

Like most American styles, the American Barleywine is a fresh take on an old British style. High-ABV beers would be brewed in the fall months and aged until the winter months. However, they weren’t exclusively called Barleywine. Before they were called Barleywines, British beers in this style were called various names such as “old” or “stock”.

The label “barleywine” is much older than the British style. Ancient Greeks used the term to describe strong wine-like beers they encountered in surrounding regions.

This style wasn’t firmly labeled Barleywine until roughly 1870 when Bass Brewery marketed their Bass’ No. 1 Ale as a Barleywine. At this point, the English Barleywine was born. It remained an English style until 1975 when Anchor Brewing released its Old Foghorn Barleywine.

This marked a divergence in the style–American Barleywines were born. Although they share a common ancestor, the English and American Barleywines are quite different.

Popular commercial American Barleywines

For the beer enthusiasts and the beer curious here’s a quick list of American Barleywines you should try.

  • Anchor Brewing Old Foghorn Ale – The beer that started it all. This pioneer of American Barleywine is full of malty sweetness, plenty of hops, and a touch of fruitiness.
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale – Another great example of the style. Bigfoot ale is brewed with Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial hops. It is an elusive marriage between intense hop flavor and sweet malts.
  • Bell’s Brewery Third Coast Old Ale – This Barleywine has a burnt caramel malt side complicated by high hop bitterness. Age or drink fresh as your palate demands.
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Olde School – A slight variation on the style, the Olde School Barleywine is brewed with figs and dates. This gives the beer a fruity character that balances with its 85 IBUs.

Popular American Barleywine recipe kits (all-grain or extract)

Barley Wine - All-Grain or Extract Beer Brewing Kit (5 Gallons)

Our Barleywine has a beautiful copper color, a voluptuous body, and inviting smells of malt and hops. But don't let the good looks catch you off guard. This is a powerful beer with a bitter yet balanced bite.

The recipe includes 12 lbs of malt extract with Caravienne and Caramunich malts for steeping. Huge flavor with a good balance between malt and hops.

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How to brew an American Barleywine

Once you’ve tried a few great examples of American Barleywine you may be thinking of how yours will taste. In order to brew the best beer you need to know the style forward and backward. To that end, I will break down everything you need to know.

Let’s start with great choices for the recipe and ingredients. Then, we can look at brew day, fermentation, and bottling.

Recipe and ingredients

While you can’t have beer without fermentation, you can’t get anywhere without quality ingredients. There are of course no wrong ingredients, but some will go together much better than others.

As always, start with your water. Since beer is nearly 90% water, good water makes good beer. Then consider your grain bill, hops, and finally yeast. Each one can have a significant impact on your final product. 

Water profile

An American Barleywine has both a strong malt profile and a strong hop profile. With that in mind, which way do you tailor your water profile?

Tailor your American Barleywine water profile to favor hop flavors. Do this by putting more sulfates than chlorides in your water. By having a higher sulfate to chloride ratio your water will enhance hop flavors.

Your hop flavors will mellow out as you age this beer, but the sulfates fulfill another purpose. Sulfates can also help dry out the beer’s finish. With a big beer like an American Barleywine this can help prevent it from becoming overwhelming.

Alternatively, you can use a more balanced water profile for good results.

Base grains

The majority of the grains in an American Barleywine should be pale 2-row malts. US Pale 2-row is a fine choice. Another possible choice is Maris Otter. 

Realistically you can use any pale malt or other lightly kilned malt. Choose your favorite malt. You will be using a lot of your base malts to achieve the strong malt profile of this style. 

Specialty grains or other additions

Despite having a large malt profile, American Barleywines don’t need a lot of specialty grains. Use crystal malts sparingly and stick to lower lovibond malts. Do not use roasted malts.

Since this style calls for a lot of malt the color of your beer will darken during the mash simply due to your base grains. Too much of a roasted grain and you will miss the color mark. 

You may want to add sugar to increase your Original Gravity (OG). If this is the case, corn sugar or table sugar will do the trick. 


American Barleywine can be brewed with American or English grains, but when it comes to hops you want to use American hops 90% of the time. You will want hops with high alpha acid concentrations and desirable flavors.

The character of the hops and the final bitterness are two big differentiating aspects of an American Barleywine versus an English Barleywine. With the ABW you want a lot of bitterness and obvious hop flavors.

That said, as long as the bitterness is still in the American range you can exchange the hops with varieties from other regions. Keep in mind that you’ll need more hops than with other beers as this is a high OG beer.


Bittering hops added early in the boil will go through a process called isomerization. This is what gives a beer its bitterness. An American Barleywine calls for at least one, if not more, early hop additions.

Here are some good choices for bittering hops.

NamePurposeAlpha Acid %
CascadeBittering + Aroma4.5-7%
ChinookBittering + Aroma12-14%
CentennialBittering + Aroma 7-12%
Best bittering hops for American Barleywines
Aroma and Flavor

Aroma and flavor hops added towards the end of the boil don’t add much bitterness. Instead, they add oils that provide flavor and aroma. Though hop flavors fade with age, a good American Barleywine needs quality hop flavors.

Here are a few good choices to get you started.

NameFlavor/AromaAlpha Acid %
CascadeCitrus, floral4.5-7%
CentennialFloral, citrus, woody7-12%
AmarilloCitrus, fruit, floral9-11%
CitraCitrus, fruity, floral11-13%
Best aroma and flavor hops for American Barleywines


As this is a strong beer you’ll need a yeast strain that can tackle the desired ABV range.

An American Barleywine needs yeast that has medium to high attenuation, high flocculation, little to no ester production, and high alcohol tolerance. The yeast strain should be able to handle at least 8% ABV. 


Below are some good dry yeast options for an American Barleywine.

NameAttenuationFlocculationTemp RangeAlcohol Tolerance
Safale US-0578-82%Medium64.4-78.8°F9-11%
Safale S-3368-72%Low – medium59°F-68°F9-11%
Best dry yeast for American Barleywines

Below are some good liquid yeast options for an American Barleywine.

NameAttenuationFlocculationTemp RangeAlcohol Tolerance
WLP00173-85%Medium68°-73° F10-15%
Wyeast 105673-77%Low – medium60°-72° F11%
WLP09076-83%Medium – high65°-68° F10-15%
Best liquid yeast for American Barleywines

Brewing process for American Barleywines

After acquiring all of your ingredients you can move on to brew day. What you do on brew day can have just as much impact on your results as your choices of ingredients. An American Barleywine is a little more difficult than most but not extremely so. 

All grain, partial, and extract brewing each have important considerations for you to make. When doing all-grain or partial brewing you need to consider mashing and sparging. From there the other considerations are similar. The boil step and on is the same for all three.

Let’s break down each step with the American Barleywine in mind.


This step can be one of the most important for a successful ABW. 

The mash for an American Barleywine should be on the lower end around 150° F. A good temperature range is between 148° F and 152° F. Mash for at least one hour. You can mash for longer to ensure you get all of the sugars possible.

Do not mash for less than one hour. Additionally, when mashing at 148° F be sure to not let it get any cooler. It is better to have the temp get a little higher than 148° F than lower.

You shouldn’t need to mash for longer than 90 minutes but may if you so choose.


 The boil stage for an ABW should be 90 minutes long when all-grain brewing. Extract brewing can shorten the boil to an hour. Since this style calls for high IBUs, you’ll have several hop additions between 60 and 45 minutes left. All other hop additions will be between 15 minutes left and flameout.

If you want an extremely bitter ABW you can certainly add your bittering hops earlier if doing a 90 minute boil. 

Don’t forget to use some Irish Moss towards the end of the boil to ensure a brilliantly clear beer.

Whirlpool or flameout

Instead of adding your hops at the end of the boil (or in addition) you can add your hops during flameout. This can be benefited by performing a whirlpool at the same time. This isn’t strictly necessary for an American Barleywine but can be beneficial.

The hops added during flameout will only add flavor and aroma with little to no bitterness contributed. If you whirlpool it can also help you separate the trub before transferring to your fermentor. 

Fermenting American Barleywine

Next is the big waiting game. This is mostly a test of your yeast and patience.

With an American Barleywine, in particular, you need to control the temperature. A beer with this high OG will want to increase its heat in primary fermentation. Watch the temperature over the first two days specifically. 

Temperature control will be easier or harder depending on what space you have and the season.


For an American Barleywine try to keep the temps between 67° F and 70° F. This is of course yeast dependent. If your chosen yeast doesn’t prefer this range try to get as close as you can.

If fermentation slows or seems to stop after a few days you can let the temperature rise a bit. If this doesn’t help your fermentation may be dead.

Bottling or Kegging American Barleywines

The debate between bottling and kegging will go on for as long as brewers have a choice. It is truly up to personal preference and setup.

There is little preference between bottling and kegging for American Barleywines. Kegging will allow you to bulk condition while bottles can make it easier to sample the beer as it ages. Choose the method that is easiest for you.

American Barleywine Recipes

If you aren’t one to create your own recipes, here are a few that you can follow for great results. Be sure to sanitize properly as always. These recipes are from various brewers as credited below.

  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Clone (All Grain)
  • Barleywine with Maple Syrup
  • The Manhattan Project (All Grain)

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Clone (All Grain)

This recipe comes from user Jason L on Brewer’s Friend


  • US Pale 2-row – 15.5 lbs.
  • UK Crystal 70° L – 1 lb.
  • UK Extra Dark Crystal 120° L – 1 lb.
  • US Carapils – 1 lb.
  • Chinook hops – 2.5 oz
  • Centennial hops – 2.25 oz
  • Cascade hops – 1.5 oz
  • Yeast nutrient – 0.5 tsp
  • Safale US-05


  1. Heat 6.15 gallons to 154° F
  2. Add grain bill and mash for 1 hour.
  3. Mashout.
  4. Collect 6.12 gallons of wort.
  5. Boil for 60 minutes. Add 1 oz of Chinook at the beginning.
  6. At 45 minutes left add 0.5 oz of the Chinook.
  7. At 30 minutes left add 0.75 oz of the Centennial.
  8. At 15 minutes left add 0.5 oz each of the Cascade and Centennial.
  9. At 5 minutes left add the yeast nutrient.
  10. Flameout and transfer to the fermentor.
  11. Cool and pitch yeast.
  12. Maintain 68° F during fermentation.
  13. After a week in fermentation, transfer to secondary and add the rest of the hops. Dry hop for 2 weeks.
  14. Rack to keg or bottles. Age as desired.

Barleywine with Maple syrup (All Grain)

This recipe comes from user BrewingBaar on Brewer’s Friend.


  • US Pale 2-row – 13.5 lbs.
  • US Caramel/Crystal 15° L – 0.5 lbs.
  • US Munich Light 10° L – 1.5 lbs.
  • US Victory – 1 lb.
  • Maple Syrup – 3.5 lbs.
  • Warrior hops – 2 oz
  • Cascade hops – 2 oz
  • Yeastex – 0.5 tsp
  • Irish Moss – 0.5 tsp
  • Oak Chips – 4 oz
  • Safale US-05
  • Champagne yeast


  1. Heat 6 gallons to 152° F.
  2. Add grain bill and mash for 1 hour.
  3. Mashout.
  4. Collect 6 gallons of wort.
  5. Boil for 60 minutes. Add 1 oz of Warrior at the beginning.
  6. At 30 minutes left add the rest of the Warrior.
  7. At 15 minutes left add 1 oz of the Cascade.
  8. At 5 minutes left add the rest of the Cascade, the maple syrup, yeastex, and Irish moss.
  9. Flameout and transfer to the fermentor.
  10. Cool and pitch yeast.
  11. Maintain 65° F during fermentation.
  12. After a week in fermentation, transfer to secondary and add the oak chips. Keep it in secondary for 3 weeks.
  13. Rack to keg or bottles. Age as desired.

The Manhattan Project (All Grain)

This recipe comes from user illbill1008 on Brewer’s Friend.


  • US Pale 2-row – 30 lbs.
  • US Rye – 4.5 lbs
  • US Munich Light 10° L – 6 lbs
  • US Caramel/Crystal 60° L – 3.5 lbs
  • Cherries – 3 lbs
  • Apollo hops – 2 oz
  • Chinook hops – 8 oz
  • Oak chips – 6 oz
  • WLP013


  1. Heat 16 gallons to 152° F.
  2. Add grain bill and mash for 1 hour.
  3. Mashout.
  4. Collect 13 gallons of wort.
  5. Boil for 60 minutes. Add the Apollo at the beginning.
  6. At 5 minutes left add the cherries.
  7. Flameout and whirlpool at 200° F. Add the 2 oz of the Chinook to the whirlpool.
  8. Transfer to the fermentor.
  9. Cool and pitch yeast.
  10. Maintain 68° F during fermentation.
  11. After a week in fermentation, transfer to secondary and add the rest of the Chinook and the oak chips. Keep it in secondary for 7 weeks. Remove the hops after 2 days.
  12. Rack to keg or bottles. Age as desired.

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