Checking in: Thomas Brady’s Ale (Specialty Wood-Aged Beer)

Thomas Brady’s Ale is a barleywine inspired by the original barrel-aged beer Thomas Hardy’s Ale. In the five weeks since I brewed the beer, Tom Brady only added to his legacy by leading the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. If nothing else, my choice in name has been vindicated. .

After brew day I moved the fermenter to the coolest place in my apartment and let my re-pitched 1187 Ringwood Ale yeast go to town. After ten days activity in the airlock slowed down, and I moved the fermenter to a warmer spot to give the yeast a little nudge to keep going and gobble up any diacetyl. Wyeast recommends a diacetyl rest when using Ringwood. 
Four days later I pitched a vile of WLP099 Super High Gravity yeast. When I pitched the vial my fermenter was at 68F. There was also still some krausen on top, but it had greatly receded. Within 12 hours the airlock was bubbling away again as the temperature crept up to 72F. The temperature eventually dropped back down to 68F. From the time I pitched my second yeast, I gave the beer three weeks to sit on the yeast cake to make sure the yeast had more than enough time to clean up chemical byproducts from fermentation. 
As this was an extract brew I did not take a starting gravity reading. Firstly it would not have been accurate because my partial boil was not fully dissolved with the top off water. Secondly without actually mashing grain, there is no reason my beer should have been below the 1.113 SG BeerSmith calculated.
Before I racked the beer to a carboy, I took a gravity reading:
Adjusting for temperature the gravity was down to 1.008! That means the alcohol by volume is over 14%!! Wowza!!
On White Labs’ website attenuation for Super High Gravity yeast is listed at 80-100%. Somehow I achieved 92% attenuation. 
With my gravity that low my immediate concern would be that the beer would be thin. When I tasted a sample it actually wasn’t. It was quite alcoholic, and had enough body that it tasted a bit like lacquer. In a beer this big, that is to be expected.The only cure is time.
I did decide to age the beer on wood. I went back to the notes and BJCP judges’ feedback from the last wood-aged beer I made Pyrite Pistol. The judges liked the beer, but wanted more wood and more spirit character. For that batch I used 24 wood cubes soaked in Islay scotch, and aged the beer on the wood for eight weeks. 
This time around I used 30 cubes, 25% more than I used in Pyrite Pistol. Piggybacking on the caramel rye malt in the beer, I soaked the cubes in George Dickel Rye whisky. When I tasted some of the whisky on the rocks I was taken aback by how smooth it was. Compared to bourbon, the rye had more body and sweetness along with a low spice character I’d expect in a rye beer. It was love at first sip. I rye whisky will be a new fixture in my home. 
Right now Thomas Brady’s ale is back on the landing. The chips and leftover rye whisky have been blended in. Now the plan is to forget about it for awhile. I am going to give it at least three months to age, and maybe longer. Even if I bottle it in three months, it will need more time to age. Unlike some other batches I have forgotten about, this one could use some alone time. 

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