I have my first barley wine fermenting right now, I'll describe the recipe/process so far, then ask my questions:
16 lbs pale LME
1 lb pale DME
2 oz columbus (~15% aa)
2 oz bravo (~10% aa)
2 oz willamette (5.6% aa)
Yeast (all liquid vials):
White Labs WLP007 (High Gravity English Ale),
White Labs WLP099 (Super High Gravity Ale),
White Labs WLP 013 (London Ale),
White Labs champagne yeast
total boil time: 60minutes
-> Add 5gal of water to your pot and heat fast to a boil
-> As it nears the boiling point, add 8lbs of the LME while stirring to prevent burning (yes, this brings the volume over 5 gallons, so have a big pot, but note that you will lose volume as it boils, I ended up with a final volume of about 5.5 gallons)
-> Once at a full boil, add 1 oz each of Columbus and Bravo, add in huge bag to allow loose exposure
-> at 30 minutes, add another ounce of Columbus and Bravo
-> at 15 minutes, add the remaining LME and the DME while stirring to prevent burning, return to boil as fast as possible
-> at 5 minutes, add 1 oz of Willamette
-> chill immediately at flameout, aerate as much as possible (I use one of these
-> I had to run out before I could get the yeast pitched and everything situated, so this sat in the carboy with the stopper and 3-piece airlock (but no liquid in the airlock) for a few hours.
-> I then pitched the first three yeasts (excluding the Champagne Yeast) and fit a blowoff tube instead of the airlock
It started bubbling like crazy, then had mostly slowed down by the end of day 7 (Saturday-Friday), that is when I pitched the champagne yeast. It literally started bubbling again right away, with a more than a bubble every second as soon as I got the stopper back on.
I plan to leave it for about 15 days in the primary with the blowoff tube, then rack to secondary.
After another 2-3 weeks, when the fermentation as stopped, I want to move it to a colder room and leave it to age in secondary for about 10-11 months. The last ounce of hops (Willamette) will be added at this time.
Here's the questions:
1. I am thinking that I will put a plug of some sort (wax?) over the stopper at this point, hoping to leave it ignored for the whole time. i could leave it with an airlock, but don't want to worry about the water evaporating as I will almost certainly forget to check on this thing over the 11 months of aging. I'm also considering trying to put a Co2 blanket over the beer when I rack it, but not sure if it will matter in a 5gal carboy. Note that I don't have any kegging/CO2 gear, so I'm not sure how I'd go about this.
2. Finally, I'm planning to bottle this in October or November next year, probably a variety of sizes like 11-12oz, 500mL, 22oz, etc so it's drinkable in December, then probably celler some of these for the future.
I plan to pitch another yeast the day of bottling, along with priming sugar. I'm thinking another vial of WLP champagne. Should I use a little extra fermentable for priming since it's such high gravity? I'm thinking about using 1/2cup of maple syrup or molasses to add a little complexity and a little more fermentable than the usual 1/2cup of corn sugar.