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A Marriage Of Beer And Mead: Braggots

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A Marriage of Beer and Mead: Braggots
Crisp, malty, and maybe hoppy beer; combined with aromatic, bright floral honey. Add a bit of carbonation (or maybe not) and what do you get? A braggot. A braggot is a type of mead that also uses brewing ingredients like hops, malt, or both. They are typically carbonated similar to beer and finish dryer due to the fermentability of honey.
When does a honey ale become a braggot? The Rule of thumb for most meads is having 50% of fermentable sugars coming from honey. You can also work in terms of pounds of honey, and not worry as much about sugar percentage. Once you're adding 3 or more pounds of honey to a fermentation of 5 gallons, you are really changing your flavor and aroma profiles, regardless of the other numbers. I would safely consider that a braggot as well.

Brewing With Honey
In braggots, you can swing closer to beer or closer to mead depending on your recipe and that is part of the fun. They are such a wide style.
Working with Honey
Once you break out of your grocery store as a supplier of honey, a whole world of flavors and aromas open up to you. It's not all clover anymore. Honey that comes primarily from one flower is called a varietal honey. One of the most popular among mead makers is Orange Blossom. It has bright citrus aromas with an underlying slightly orangey taste. But there are many more, and they don't always taste like the fruit or plant they came from. Look around for new types of honey, or try a varietal sampler pack if you can find one.
Honey does not need to be sanitized. Its very high gravity, lack of nutrients, and other antibiotic properties make it a desolate wasteland for wild yeast or mold growth.
It also functions similar to hops in the respect that, as it boils, it loses its aroma. This is why it is not added in the boil. Even adding the honey at flameout, you'll cook off some aromas. Don't be afraid to add it late, like before yeast pitch or after fermentation has begun.
Honey is nearly 100% fermentable and your yeast will happily devour it. This will make your final product dryer, and less sweet than what you think of honey as being (Just like vanilla beans vs. vanilla ice cream loaded with sugar).
It doesn't always dissolve the way you want it to. Feel free to stir it up with water in a sanitized pot and add it that way, just remember to add that volume into your calculations.
Yeast Selection
Depending on the amount of sugars you have coming from grain, you can go with a beer yeast or wine yeast. A wine yeast will produce a more winey and cidery profile (and may also struggle in high maltose environments). Beer yeast will produce more esters and characteristics closer to beer. Beer yeast will also convert simple sugar environments as well as maltose heavy ones.
Now I'll go over a hoppy all grain braggot as well as a honey forward one using extract and steeping grains.

Extract Honey Ale
Extract Honey Ale - 5 Gallons
3 Lbs of Extra Light DME
.5 Lb Crystal 40 Steeped
3.5 Lbs Orange Blossom Honey
1.25oz Hallertau @ 60
.75oz Hallertau @ 10
US-05, or equivalent high attenuating neutral ale yeast. This is a dry, refreshing beer, great for the Summer. It also ages moderately well, up to 4 months. Typically the higher percentage of honey you use, the longer it can age for.
All Grain Honey Pale Ale - 5 Gallons (65% Efficiency)
8 Lbs of US Pale Ale Malt
3 Lbs Wildflower Honey
1 oz Chinook @ 60
.5 oz Northern Brewer @ 10
2 oz Falconers Flight @ 0
US-04 or equivalent lower attenuating ale yeast with High flocculation. This braggot should be enjoyed fairly quickly due to the addition of those aroma hops, which play a greater role in this recipe.

All Grain Honey Ale
Both of these recipes will get you a nice braggot, but don't limit yourself to what's on the internet. I'm sure you have some favorite hops, grains, and yeast that you can make your own spin at a braggot.
*If you only add a couple pounds of grain (or 1 lb of DME etc), you should add some nutrients to your batch to ensure healthy fermentation (higher amounts of grain typically provide the nutrient yeast need), and always aerate well before you pitch your yeast.
 

Comments

I am just about to bottle my braggot. Its base was a triple decoction dopelbock with blueberry honey, and aged it on french oak. It's going into the keg probably tomorrow, and getting bottled shortly thereafter.
 
Nice article. Never knew there was such a thing. I have stayed away from Meads, as I like the taste, but it's like a very rich desert...small quantities at long intervals. This sounds like something I might be able to play with in the future tho.
Thanks for the write up!
 
@Arrheinous Absolutely. If you add honey, it's like adding sugar, so your ferment will start up again.
If you add mead, it's just like blending 2 beers together.
 
And any word on specialty malts? It might be easy to overpower the honey aroma/flavor contributions with something like roasted barley. Then again, there could be a synergy.
 
Re: Speciality malts. There's a lot of scope. I did a bragawd with special b and it worked great. I prefer IBU fairly low for most bragawds (1/3 or 1/2oz EKG at 60).
 
Came across a 5 gal bucket of honey from a buddy, have done mead and getting ready to do a braggot, trying to figure out the role of specialty grains as I don't want it too thin and astringint, but don't want to overpower the subtlety of the honey, planning on adding that later, desert for the yeast after they eat their maltose
 
I've been wanting to try one of these for a while. This article was very helpful! Does anyone know of anyone commercially making Braggots? It would be great to try some before making my own.
 
@drainbamage It really depends on your recipe as you'll want hops that work with your honey and malt character. Honey can be anything form fruity to floral and spicy, just like hops.
@NedStackey There are a few. Depends on your distribution, but beer advocate has a list under the braggot style. I think a lot of them are small releases.
 
This sounds delicious.
A few questions.
1. What would the OG/FG be for the AG recipe above?
2. Should/could a secondary be used? and about how long should fermentation take?
3. I'm assuming that the mash is the same, then add the honey after the boil? So the volume of honey would be added to the post boil volume?
4. Are there any temperature differences or just ferment in the recommended range of the yeast?
5. Any recommendations for a Liquid yeast?
Thanks,
Steve
 
@hartlesj
1. 1.064 / 1.011 S04 attenuates lower, but honey will ferment completely.
2. Since there's a good burst of aroma hops, I make this with a beer-like schedule.
3. Correct, mash all the grain, do the boil, and add the honey post boil.
4. Use the lower-middle level of the yeast's Range
5. Wyeast 1332 - Northwest Ale
 
For the extract version: do you boil the DME in a couple gallons of water and top up to 5 gal in the primary? I can't manage a full volume boil yet and this sounds like an awesome recipe.
 
I'm in the process of making a blonde ale with 6 lbs of honey and cascade hops. I added both the ale yeast and the 71B-1122 white wine yeast after cooling the wort. smells good but does anyone have any advice for future reference? Day 7 of fermentation.
 
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