It was Herb Caen who popularized the “Don’t call it Frisco” meme, though the sentiment dates to at least 1918. Well, it’s ok if you call it Frisco. In fact, a few San Francisco hipsters call it Frisco just to tick off the posers.
I call my barley wine Frisco. My first encounter with barley wine was Anchor Brewing’s Old Foghorn. In 1975 that brew was a ton of flavor in a land of expansive blandness. Frisco Barley Wine is my tribute to that revelation.
My second barley wine experience was with Thomas Hardy’s Ale, the brewers of which managed to cram an entire six-pack of beer into a 180 ml bottle. Frisco Barley Wine attempts to create the cellaring potential of the Hardy ale.
Frisco splits the difference in ABV between Old Foghorn and Hardy, coming in at about 9.5% ABV. The color is a very dark gold/amber with hints of red in it; less brown than Old Foghorn, less copper than Hardy. It was important to make the hop addition “exquisite,” as the Old Foghorn label copy specified! So I chose the Nugget/Willamette blend I’d grown that season. These provided a nice bitterness and flavor with no aroma, as I wanted the nose to be very malty. For this reason I skipped dry hopping too.
Speaking of malty, Frisco is mashed from predominantly Maris Otter malt, with Gambrinus Vienna, and Breiss Extra Special Roast adding significant malty depth. The grain bill is rounded out with eight other specialty malts that contribute breadiness, toastyness, caramel, ruby color, and atringency.
I wanted the beer to ferment out quickly from its 20 Plato start, and so I chose the workhorse Safale S-04 English ale yeast. This knocked the gravity down to about 4 Plato in less than three weeks, leaving a moderately fruity finish with no residual sugar. The caramelly sweetness still comes through however, but with significant bitter end notes. This one is going to age well, but with only 16 bombers in the batch, I hope it can last through next Christmas!