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Brewing A Braggot - Meads Combined with Malted Barley

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Some of you, when you saw this article knew exactly what you were going to see. Others of you, probably saw the word braggot and wondered, “The heck’s a braggot?” I admit, less than a year ago, I fell squarely into the second camp. Before I started home brewing and reading books about the process, I had never heard of this wonderful hybrid of beer and mead. I simply have never seen a commercially produced one and, looking it up right now, I just am not seeing too many.
It’s lousy because there just isn’t much else like a nice braggot on the shelf. However, that's the benefit of being a homebrewer, we get to make whatever we want. So if you like beer and mead, we’re going to be making a modern version of mankind’s oldest drinks.
The best way to think of the flavor is the maltiness of beer with the essence of honey, without the pure sweetness that comes with it. With this kind of base, the sky's the limit as to potential flavor combinations you can do. Let’s start considering with considering the malt.

Braggot Grain Bill


Any beer could theoretically become a braggot, but not all of them are advisable. The goal of this entire adventure is to make sure that we blend the flavor of honey and malt together. Brown ales are the natural and most obvious match for this one. Scottish ales could pull it off well as well. Certain types of beer aren’t as advisable. IPA’s and stouts seem to come to mind as the bitterness of hops tends to overtake the flavor of the honey while the coffee or chocolate flavors don’t blend with it. However, it’s up to you! If you want to try it to see how it turns out, let me know!
Whatever style you decide to try, just keep the fact you’re adding honey to it in mind. The honey itself is going to impart an essentially honey flavor to the beer and add a lot of sugar.


The Honey


When it comes to honey, for the best results, support the little guy. Get your honey from a local beekeeper. The hobby is becoming more popular and many communities have at least one person doing it. You can use the honey from the grocery store, but there is something special about making it with local honey that gives an even more complex flavor. Most stuff you get in the store is clover, where the local wildflower honeys will have other flavors that come from all the different plants the bees have found. Besides, I’m sure plenty of the beekeepers would gladly trade honey for beer, that’s how I get mine. If you can’t find some locally, the internet can be your best friend when it comes to finding high quality varietal honeys.
Depending on where you are, you may have access to honey that was made by bees on particular fruits and other plants. If you are lucky to have that around you, enjoy playing with all the flavors that can be in that honey.

Braggots and Hops


When it comes to hop selection for a braggot, there is a bit of flexibility, but here are some guidelines you’ll want to follow. Aim to keep your alpha acids lower as the bitter hops can easily overpower the batch. Since honey ferments completely, it will create a dryer finished product than a typical beer, increasing the perceived bitterness. Some of the hops that go well with this are floral and earthy hops that accent the honey you're using. However, fruity hops can also be used with honeys like Orange Blossom.

Other Spices


Not every braggot recipe calls for hops. There are many recipes that focused on the spices used for the beer instead of throwing hops into it. When considering spices to add to a braggot, think of what is going to go well with the honey. Think cinnamon, clove, anise, ginger, or nutmeg. Let the creativity flow, just remember, a little goes a long way

Yeast


Again, whatever kind of beer you’re using to make your beer can decide your type of yeast to use. Just make sure you consider the fact this could be a high gravity because of the extra sugars. You’ll want to make a starter for this beer. Between the high gravity and the nutrient deficient nature of honey, you’ll want to give your yeast the best chance it has. A lot of modern yeasts can handle this, but it’s just best to give it a good head start. There are plenty of guides on how to do this on this website. Add about 5 tablespoons of the honey to the starter when you do it as well.

Extra Malty Braggot

FermentablesHop ScheduleYeast

  • 5 lbs Wildflower Honey
  • 2.5 lbs Victory Malt
  • 1.5 lbs Crystal 80 Malt
  • 6 lbs Maris Otter Malt

  • 1oz US Fuggle @60
  • 1oz US Fuggle @10
  • 1oz US Fuggle @0

  • High Tolerance English Yeast
Notes: Use hop bags so they can be removed prior to whirlpooling.
OG: 1.092 FG: 1.012 ABV: 10.5%
As far as brew day goes, outside of making sure you got the starter, most of the day is the same as usual. The biggest question that arises is, “When do I add the honey?” I’ve seen differing opinions on this one. I’ve seen some people state that one should add the honey prior to the boil to give time for everything to meld. Unfortunately, this ends up being the same process that boils some of the other flavor out of honey bought in stores. Talking to some seasoned brewers and beekeepers, the best time to do it is at flame out, or slightly afterward. This gives the chance for you to stir the honey in while warm, but you won’t boil all the aromas and other flavors out of the beer. Consider that undiluted honey has been in history as a topical antibiotic, the chances of any kind of infection are low, so you can add it as late as a few days into fermentation.
Afterward, cool the beer and ferment the beer as normal. Another thing to note if you decide to make a braggot, they age very well. I know my buddy who owns a brew supply shop commented that, “When you finish your last bottle of mead, that’s probably when you should have bottled it.” A similar idea can hold true to braggots. This gives time for all the flavors to continue to meld and the alcohol flavor to blend in with everything. Best way to find the age you like is to try some when it’s done and set some aside to age as well.



Want to Read More About Braggots? Check Out This Article »


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...

 
Andrew D

Comments

Perfect time to be reading this, going to be bottling my first braggot (espresso stout) next weekend and starting my second (Scottish ale) just after that.
Would definitely have to second the roast and chocolate malts overpowering the flavours (my first wasn't planned on being an espresso stout but that is what it definitely became)
 
I made a Braggot in the Fall that turned out great. It was a pale/wheat ale, and I added a Blackberry juice reduction from 6 lbs of berries to the secondary. I would like to do it again, but play with the recipe. I used Wyeast American Ale, and Centennial hops for bittering; Fuggles the rest of the way.
Personally, I would take out the Centennial, and use a European style yeast. 6 lbs of wildflower honey was good, final ABV was 11.5%. I also like the idea of using spices in place of hops. Definitely something to consider for the future.
 
I wonder if the reason why it is difficult to find commercial braggots is because mead makers cannot get authorization to use grains and still retain their license to make mead or even call their braggot a mead while brewers may need to pay additional taxation if they up their ABVs to wine-like numbers. This may be a field left wide open to the home brewer/mead maker..
 
Frankly speaking, I would take out the Centennial, and use a European style yeast. 6 lbs of wildflower honey was good, final ABV was 11.5%. I also like the idea of using spices in place of hops. Definitely something to consider for the future.
 
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