Brew Day: Dreadnought English Barleywine

Dreadnought English Barleywine

So I like to brew beers based on concepts or themes. Purple Drank (purple, glitter, malt liquor), Aiming Fluid (ESB, think pubs and darts), and Summer Sass Cream Ale (hot cinnamon and orange tea). One that’s been cruising around in the back of my head for a while is the Dreadnought Series.

Dreadnoughts are large and imposing battleships that fueled a floating arms race for nearly 100 years. The biggest and best known dreadnoughts were birthed by the UK and the US. Hmmm, what kind of beer style would match this description?


Dreadnoughts were massive masters of the sea. Similar to what barleywines are to flavor and ABV. But dreadnoughts also presented and image of safety and comfort, keeping the shores safe from invaders. A nice, room-temp barleywine in front of a fireplace with a good book can impart a similar feeling of safety and comfort (at least to me).

My plan is to brew an annual barleywine, alternating between English and American styles. I’ll be packaging each batch in a mix of 12 oz. and 24 oz. bottles and let them rest in my cellar. I am dedicating the first one to the original Dreadnought, a 41 gun galleon laid in 1573. Small by today’s standards, a revolution in fighting ships of the time. My version was intended to be much larger but I ended up with a much lower OG than expected so this one, stylistically, is closer to the original ship than the modern behemoths.

Here’s my recipe and process:

Brewed in the garage using 15 gallon kettle and BiaB. Temp was a chilly 8ºF.

21 lbs. Maris Otter
1.5 lbs. Simpsons Crystal Medium

1 oz. Fuggles @60 min
1 oz. Magnum @60 min
1 oz. Fuggles @5 min
1 oz. Styrian Goldings @5 min

3 pkgs. White Labs WL013 London Ale Yeast

1 tsp. Irish Moss

11 gallons of strike water
60 min mash @150º-152º

Post-mash volume: 10 gallons (I squeeze a lot and lose very little volume)
110 minute boil

Preboil Vol: 10 gal.
Preboil Gravity: 1.058 (Beersmith estimated 1.050)

Post boil Vol: 6.5 gal. (Beersmith estimated 6.25)
Post boil Gravity: 1.084 (Beersmith estimated 1.116)

After flameout, dropped temp to 75ºF in 30 minutes using immersion chiller.

Pitched 3 pkgs. London Ale Yeast at 75º and put into fermentation chamber (fridge) set to 66ºF.

Note and observations on brew day.

It was very cold and dry which created a lot of dense steam (see photos) that made it very hard to read the volume markings in the kettle. I did shave off 10 minutes of boil time thinking I might be losing too much volume. Looking at the numbers when done, I don’t think another 10 minutes would have boiled off 1/2 gallon to match Beersmith’s estimate.

That said, I have no idea what happened to my gravity. I actually started 8 points higher than estimated and finished 30+ points lower than expected. Event the extra 10 minutes wouldn’t have reduced the water volume, hence upped the gravity, enough to make as huge a difference than this. I will have to research what can cause this. At this point, the beer should finish around 8.5% if the yeast do their magic correctly.

It also helps to have a fan moving air around when steaming in a garage at 25º below freezing 😉